Chance Favors the Prepared Mind

Chance favors the prepared mind

Over the summer, I had the privilege of serving as a reviewer for the Ocean Exchange. The Ocean Exchange is a nonprofit organization awarding grants to innovative ideas for improving our environment. They give two main grants, the Gulfstream Navigator Award and Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics Orcelle Award. Each is worth $100,000. It’s a very generous foundation with a great cause.

The conference for Ocean Exchange began on Sunday. The final winners will be decided later today. Starting the conference, the emcee Dain Dunston made an immediate impact. He opened with Louis Pasteur’s quote, “chance favors the prepared mind.” He followed with statements like, “prepare to see opportunity” and “observation predicts outcomes.” All these are profound and true.

What we expect to see largely determines what we actually see. Studies have shown that in situations with expectations, our first inclination is to think our expectations are being met. Take for instance, if I were sitting at a café table along the sidewalk waiting for a friend. Sitting at that table, I’m expecting to see the person I’m waiting for at any moment. Therefore, as each person walking toward me comes into view, I see my friend in them until otherwise proven wrong. First, it may be hair color that differentiates them as not being my friend. Or, it could be body shape.

This kind of expectation can also lead to what’s call change-blindness and innatentional blindness. These are forms of selectively seeing what we want to see. So if you want to see opportunity, prepare to see opportunity. If we try to see more opportunities, we will in fact do so.

One way to see more of what’s actually happening around us is to be more empathetic. That might seem odd, being empathetic to see better. But if we don’t understand someone else’s situation, it’s hard to see why they do things. Reality is very interpretive with many possible solutions for the same problem. Learning to see can help us be prepared for unexpected moments of insight.

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