Expose Yourself to Bulk, Positive Randomness

One of my life principles is to expose myself to as much randomness as possible.

I firmly believe that if we keep our mind open and explore the unknown, good things will (eventually) happen. If I reflect on some of the best things in my life they are more a result of random events (which I took advantage of) than a concerted effort towards any single outcome.

An ultra-precise friend recently sharpened this philosophy: Expose yourself to bulk, positive randomness and be ready to take advantage of it.

Let’s parse it.

Expose yourself: Read books, travel, talk to people. Take in information and new experiences. Be in a mindset that allows your deepest assumptions to be challenged.

Bulk: This is the theory behind conferences. It’s more efficient when people and ideas are concentrated in one physical location. Another example of bulk randomness is a web site like Political Theory Daily Review which each day presents interesting (and intellectual) links in high quantity. Finally, any college or university serves up randomness on a silver platter: thousands of smart strangers concentrated in a small physical area for a long period of time.

Positive: There needs to be no significant downside. In other words, wandering around Darfur in the pursuit of random interactions is a bad idea.

Take Advantage of It: You need to seize the moment. If you randomly meet someone interesting, follow up. If you discover a wonderful nook in Barcelona and want to postpone your trek to Madrid, do it, and explore. If someone invites you to attend a speech by a hero but it conflicts with something already on your calendar (but less interesting), skip your existing appointment and go for it.

Do you seek out randomness? What’s the most random thing that’s happened to you that’s changed your life for the better because you took advantage of it?

20 Responses to Expose Yourself to Bulk, Positive Randomness

  1. Gregory says:

    I believe this is a great, lucid, and easily communicated concept, especially the first and last point (expose yourself & take the opportunity).

    For the sake of simplicity it is perfect.

    I’d just like to add, however, that I believe you can over insulate yourself from negative things. (But at the same time I also agree that people could surround themselves with more positive things)

    It’s my belief that to remain a balanced person that you cannot cut yourself off from negative things. It results in naivity and insensitivy if you are completely unaware of them.

    Case in point, I believe that many people could benefit from wandering through Dafur. For many people such an experince would make people appreciate what they have a whole lot more, and put their own problems in perspective.

    That being said, such experiences are quite potent, and can become soul crushing if you dont balance that out with quite a lot of positive experiences.

    The problem I find with many business focused, or economically progressive individuals is their lack of understanding of such things. But in all fairness the opposite can said of opposite on the other half of the political spectrum.

  2. Kandel Schwartz says:

    The most significant happening for me was when I signed up for a Korean language course during my freshman year of college. I ended up taking a nice slate of Korean and Chinese language and literature and history courses alongside my more traditional math and biochem schedule. Combined with the time I spend wandering around Seoul two years later, I think my experience studying the humanities made me a more well-rounded person. When doing my grad school apps, I didn’t have to portray myself as one-dimensional. It helps that I always score well on writing exams because I spent much of my free time in college writing, though I’m sure that does not show up in my blog postings.

    • assas says:

      . I was actually excited enough to post a comment I actually do have a few questions for you if you do not mind. Is it just me or does it look as if like some of these comments look like they are left by brain dead folks? And, if you are writing at additional places, I would like to follow everything new you have to post. Would you make a list every one of all your communal pages like your linkedin profile, Facebook page or twitter feed?
      Marvel contest of champions hack

  3. Cat H says:

    One of the more random things that I have done is offering to help teach new hire training in my company. Through this I met one of the C-level executives and within a month I was working for him.

  4. I am the “friend” of whom Ben speaks (he didn’t know if he had permission to attribute or not.)

  5. It feels to me as if most of the events of my life are random, but I don’t think they really are.

    It’s those times when you seem to be in sync with your environment that events flow naturally into a meaningful order.

    ‘The Way’ describes this order very well.

  6. Mark says:

    After failing to be admitted into a highly regarded business program because of a small discrepancy, I was wallowing in self pity and anger when I happened to mope past the study abroad office.

    And now I’m in Hong Kong, finishing a semester I’ll not soon forget.

  7. Minimum Wage says:

    It can be very worthwhile to keep an open mind (and eye) for business opportunities when you travel.

    A few years ago I was in San Jose for a weekend and came away with two new business ideas for my hometown. I wasn’t able to exploit either on my minimum wage income, but a lot of you would be able to do it where you live.

  8. Great article. In my personal mission statement that I read every morning at night. I have a weekly checklist that I go over and one of the checks is to diversify a life experience whether that means hanging out with a different social group, checking out a new club, reading some articles from new blogs, calling up old friends, etc. I find it is incredibly easy to get bored in life when there is such a push to put a routine to everything. My “routine” comes to me in my goals and my passions. When you’re so-called “on-purpose” the everday experiences tend to figure themselves out, and you are allowed to enjoy the little details of all kinds of experiences without being bogged down by the expectations and lifestyles of others.

  9. Pete says:

    This happened in January of 2008.

    My daughter came home from school with a story about an exchange student, Anja, that went to her high school.

    Anja was having trouble with her host “parents”. They wouldn’t allow her to have friends over or her to go out and do much of anything. They had no other children so Anja was stuck in their house, bored and lonely. She had had enough of it and was ready to return to Germany six months ahead of schedule.

    My daughter Sara came home with this story and a brilliant idea, “Why doesn’t Anja come live with us?”

    We thought about it for about 5 seconds and said “Ok, what do we have to do to make it happen?”

    Long story short, we got through all of the required meetings and background checks in record time and about a week later we had a fourth daughter.

    We learned and shared many things over those six months. I wish we would have had her longer so we could have done more.

    Sara and I were even lucky enough to be able to travel to Germany shortly after Anja returned home and stay with her family for a few while. They were so grateful that we were willing and able to take her in and do so many things with her.

    New friends, new experiences, great food and bier. All because we said yes instead of no.

    Keep an open mind kids and wonderful things can happen.

  10. Ochuko says:

    I’m highly motivated.. We as humans are ‘Random beings’.. so we should be able to open our minds and do things.. Nice piece!
    Am off to some random topic on this blog.. LOL :-)

  11. Chris Fritz says:

    I’m an educator who’s been inspired by your idea of “bulk, positive randomness.” I’m definitely a practitioner! Although others have generally just referred to it as “too much free time,” I’ve always believed it’s essential to any balanced, intelligent individual. Although I know there’s more to the philosophy, I’m adding resources for positive randomness to a wiki now, such as TED Talks and NPR radio shows.

    I’d love for you (or any other readers) to contribute if you have some resources to share. You can find the wiki at:

    link to positiverandomness.wikispaces.com

  12. Ben Casnocha says:

    Thanks for doing this Chris! I just added a couple bullet points under
    practices.

  13. Nicutza says:

    I seek randomness everywhere…maybe sometimes too much! ))
    *Well, my searching on the web made me go to cosmetic science and developing my own home-made cream (3 almost eatable ingredients), and maybe I’ll make it my major (I’m 17).
    *Made me go to what became a year later our top lyceum (Lyceum of Academy of Science of Moldova)
    *I’ve made a few great friends after conferences or contests.
    *I’ve met my boyfriend after sending more then 100 messages of “Hi!” to random interesting boys (in two or three hours) through 3 different social websites.
    *Also, stylish people that I find on the streets and interview for my blog (it’s not so well-developed yet, but I’m looking forward to it) are chosen only by intuition.
    *And, not in the last place, I “bumped” into a few great authors and bloggers that helped me to change, bit by bit, my entire way of thinking, including YOU! And I hope it will change my life also))
    People out there who don’t believe in the philosophy of pursuing randomness, remember that:
    ## You’ve tried everything for the first time!
    How do you imagine your life without trying for the first time to walk, to eat smth that now you really like, to get to meet people that eventually became your friends, or to make a hobby that you really love, thinking about the fact that you could have chosen out of 1000000 of other activities.
    Let Randomness take part of your life and let it make you succesful!

  14. Tony Berkman says:

    This post is dead on when it comes to creativity. It reminds me of diving head first into “the pool of life.” Take it all in. Everything. Forget what you were told as a child that you “couldn’t do or be.” Live life fully present in everything you do and do more than what your subconscious mind “tries” to convince you that you can’t do. Somewhere, somehow magic happens out of this practice.

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  17. ramsssws says:

    . I was actually excited enough to post a thought I actually do have 2 questions for you if you tend not to mind. Is it simply me or do some of these remarks appear like they are left by brain dead visitors? And, if you are posting at other sites, I would like to keep up with you. Could you list all of all your social pages like your linkedin profile, Facebook page or twitter feed?
    Marvel contest of champions hack

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