Engineering Serendipity with Kris Krug

Kris Krug is a photographer extraordinaire, social media documentarian, and global nomad who splits time between Vancouver, nearby Galiano Island, and the rest of the world. He was most recently in the South Pacific, documenting videographer Chris Jordan’s film on plastic pollution in the oceans, Midway. We met up on one of the rare days when KK is actually in Vancouver, and had a conversation about life on the web and life on the road, and how he connects with interesting people and projects wherever he goes.

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I was interested in his perspective as input to my projects RedRovr — a site for fans to request artists, speakers, and performers to come to their city — and 99speakers, a site for finding and booking long tail speakers. But the more we spoke, the more universal his advice seemed.

I’ve condensed our conversation into four principles from Kris Krug for “engineering serendipity” in your life and work — a guide to stacking the odds of good luck in your favor.

1. Send out a signal

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KK makes a living documenting others with his photography, but he is also a pro at documenting his own life, activities, and work. He attributes this near-constant stream of tweets, location updates, blog posts, and photos with landing photography gigs, meeting up with friends old and new, receiving referrals from friends orienting him to opportunities or people in the area. KK lives more online than most people, but the principle remains — you need to communicate about what you are up to and interested in in order to be found.

2. Scan the horizon

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KK doesn’t just send out his own signal, but makes sure to maintain an awareness of what people in his orbit are up to — “persistent scanning of infinite noise.” This scanning is an opportunity for pattern recognition — whether that is seeing an emergent idea, person, or thing, or noticing that different people are looking for or talking about complementary things.

3. Reach out to people

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The flip side of scanning is actually acting on the patterns you see — reaching out to people you know as well as people you don’t — someone who is visiting your city, connecting people who don’t know each other, amplifying someone’s call for assistance, etc. KK is nonstop with this, which is a key ingredient to his success.

4. Give more than you take

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This principle underlies all the others — giving more than you take from any given situation. KK talks about going camping as a kid, where his dad would advise them to leave the campsite better than they had found it, whether tidying up a tent site or replacing a rock in a fire ring. KK extends this idea to relationships and projects, and tries to use any media attention or time he has in the spotlight to shine light on other folks doing great work. Beyond specific actions, it’s an attitude he tries to bring into all his interactions.

Despite all this advice, serendipity remains largely resistant to our efforts to engineer it — this is one of the qualities of serendipity. However, some have said good luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity — and Kris Krug’s four principles are an excellent way of making sure you are prepared.

Thanks KK for a great conversation.

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