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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