Monday, September 17, 2012

The Power Of The Unintentional

It's amazing how so many of the important elements of our lives are completely unintentional.

As my family and I grieve for Kobe, most of the sharpest pangs seem to be hitting us when we least expect it.

For example, I know that I'll be thinking of Kobe during the time that I would take her for walks. But because these times are predictable, I can prepare myself for them.

On the other hand, I felt a sharp grief yesterday when I was eating, and I accidentally dropped a piece of food on the floor. When we had Kobe, any time she hear someone say "Oops" at the dinner table, her claws would be scrabbling on the floor as she trotted over to claim her due. Yesterday, I had to pick up the food and toss it in the garbage, missing Kobe all the while.

The same principle was reinforced for me by the events of this weekend.

On Friday, as word of Kobe's passing spread, I received many condolences, via email, Facebook, and Twitter. But my old Stanford friend Dave Sapoznikow called me up from Oregon. He had spent a lot of time with Kobe when he was still in the Bay Area (he's Jason's godfather) and we spent a good half an hour on the phone weeping and mourning, then another half an hour cheering ourselves up.

Then on Saturday, my old Stanford friend Rock Khanna came to town for visit. His wife surprised him for his 40th birthday by arranging a family trip, a surprise party, and tickets to the Stanford-USC football game. We all had a great time (including all the kids who were in attendance) and being in Stanford Stadium for the historic upset of USC will doubtless be a highlight in all our lives for decades to come. (We debated whether this was the favorite game we'd attended, versus Stanford's last-second victory over Cal in 1990, or Stanford men's basketball's upset of #1 Duke in 2000)

The funny thing is that these lifelong friendships are essentially a matter of accident; we all just happened to be assigned to the same freshman dormitory back in 1990. I'm the only member of our group who went into the startup industry, so we don't even have much in common professionally. Yet these are the bonds that last, and it's largely a product of all the unintentional experiences we share.

Sure, there are highlights like the special games we attended, but as with most old friends, we mostly talk about random events that only turned out to be special after the fact, like a particularly eventful night in San Francisco, or the time we set up a betting pool on who'd be the last to get married.

In our busy lives, it's tempting to focus on the intentional--to work on our "personal brand" or to attend the "right" events. But given how important the unintentional tends to be, I think it's wise to leave enough room in your schedule for the unplanned and unexpected, which often turn out to be the most meaningful and impactful.

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