I love stories of coincidence — particularly the ones that make you shake your head in disbelief, and say, “No way. What are the chances?”
You probably fall into one of two camps of people. If you’re in the first, you attribute the coincidence to statistical probability and math. If you’re in the second, you credit a greater power and call it serendipity.
Coincidences break the monotony of everyday life, and because they’re typically unusual, they stand out in our minds. And then, we assign meaning to them and boom, we’ve got a fascinating story to tell generations to come.
Over the weekend, I listened to an awesome This American Life podcast episode called, “No Coincidence, No Story,” on exactly this phenomenon. The show asked listeners to send their best coincidence stories, and they received more than 1,300 submissions. From a chance encounter at a bus station to a romantic dollar bill, host Sarah Koenig speaks with people about their mind-boggling coincidences.
Check out this crazy story:
A few years ago, after Stephen Lee proposed to his girlfriend Helen, they brought their families together for the first time to celebrate the engagement.
Stephen Lee: My mom and my stepdad came to New York to meet with Helen's parents. And basically, over the course of dinner and coffee afterwards, we discovered that my father had dated my wife's mother back in Korea in the 1960s and he had proposed to her--
Sarah Koenig: I'm going to slow this down a sec, just to let it sink in. Helen's mother had almost married Stephen's father — his late father, actually. He died when Stephen was 17. And how this all came out was that after they had dinner, they went back to Stephen's apartment and they were looking at Stephen's family photographs.
Stephen Lee: So my future mother-in-law's flipping through the album and she sees my dad. And so she asks, oh, oh, what was his name? And my mom tells the name. And my future mother-in-law just nods and moves on and keeps on flipping through the book — doesn't even say anything.
So Helen's mother says nothing, goes home. But later that night, she tells her daughter, this was the one. This was the man who might have been. She explained that the reason they hadn't married was because her father — Helen's grandfather — had chosen a different husband for her — the man who became Helen's father. All of them ended up living in the US, but they quickly lost touch. And Stephen didn't find out about any of this until a couple of days later.
I’m sure you can mathematically figure out the odds of this happening, but Stephen chose to assign meaning to it: “My dad is somehow behind all this — that somehow he's helped make all this happen.”
And it makes for an insane, amazing story right? As Sarah Koeing says near the end, “A good coincidence is like a good magic trick. When you see one, a struggle ensues instantaneously between the thrill of the apparent miracle and the urge to debunk it.”
👉 Reply to this email with your best coincidence stories, and if I get enough, I’ll share a compilation in a future newsletter. 🙏
On to this week’s stories:
— The world’s greatest adventurer
— The founders building the Silicon Valley of the South
— The money managers on the autism spectrum
— The most miserable company in tech [**HIGHLY RECOMMEND**]
— America’s ghost restaurants
— The billion-dollar horse gambler
👉 If you enjoy reading profiles of the most successful people and companies, click here to tweet so others can enjoy it too.
PEOPLE TO KNOW.
The world’s greatest adventurer: Explorers Colin O’Brady and Louis Rudd spent almost two months racing across Antarctica, a journey that killed an adventurer who attempted it in 2016. O’Brady stunned the world after successfully finishing the treacherous expedition. Now, he’s on tour with a message he wants to share with the world: We all have a reservoir of untapped potential within us, and only our own minds can prevent us from accessing it. (Outside Magazine)
“What’s your Everest? Not what’s hers or your mom’s or what the school thinks or the guidance counselor, but what is your answer to that question?”
The founders building the Silicon Valley of the South: The Atlanta metro area has the second-fastest-growing economy in the country (behind San Francisco), spurred by its tech industry. Now, Tristan Walker, Jewel Burks Solomon, Paul Judge, and other founders are part of a startup revolution that’s bringing tech talent, venture capital money, and serious change to the black mecca of Atlanta. Can they avoid Silicon Valley’s mistakes? (Fast Company)
“I moved here 14 days ago, because I believe in us—and by us, I mean black folks. Our ability to influence culture, our buying power, our influence on the world, is palpable and important.”
The money managers on the autism spectrum: People with Asperger’s syndrome, the term still commonly used for one of the most well-known forms of autism spectrum disorder, bring serious advantages to the financial markets: extreme focus, a facility with numbers, a willingness to consider unpopular opinions, a strong sense of logic, and an intense belief in fairness and justice. But, like other autistic employees, they often feel alienated from their managers, colleagues, and clients. Sometimes they simply get fired. This is a really well-done story. (Institutional Investor)
“The world has enough smart and pedigreed people, but what it lacks is courage to act on your beliefs when different. I truly do think my autism is a superpower in many ways.”
COMPANIES TO WATCH.
The most miserable company in tech: Google used to be the happiest company in tech. Not anymore. In recent years, Google has found itself in the same position over and over again: a nearly $800 billion planetary force seemingly powerless against groups of employees—on the left and the right alike—who are holding the company hostage to its own public image. Take a look inside Google’s internal strife. (Wired)
“I went from ‘Oh my god, who leaked that?’ to ‘Oh my god, management did what?!’”
America’s ghost kitchens: Imagine a restaurant with no physical storefront, no dining room, no waiters, no tables, and no chairs. Dubbed “virtual restaurants,” these establishments exist only within the UberEats delivery app. These days, all restaurants need is a kitchen — or even just part of one. Then they can market their food to the app’s customers, without the hassle and expense of hiring waiters or paying for furniture. Diners who order from the apps may have no idea that the restaurant doesn’t physically exist. Welcome to 2019. (The New York Times)
“If you don’t use delivery apps, you don’t exist.”
The billion-dollar horse gambler: Veteran gamblers know you can’t beat the horses. Play for long enough, and failure is inevitable. Bill Benter took that challenge — and won. He wrote an algorithm that couldn’t lose at the horse track. A billion dollars later, Benter tells his story for the first time. (Bloomberg)
“Gambling has always been the domain of wise guys from the wrong side of the track.”