By Michael Lisovetsky, co-founder of JUICE.
As founders and entrepreneurs, we often get locked into the mindset of constantly analyzing the opportunity cost of everything. When burning the candle at both ends, every decision comes at a sacrifice. Grabbing a drink with an old friend could cost you two hours of sleep, which could cost you your focus at your next meeting, which could prevent you from landing that client you've been pitching for months.
The consequences of a single decision may ripple through every part of your business and daily life, so you're forced to be careful. Opportunity-cost decision making rapidly becomes habitual, a routine that over-optimizes your approach to life. Useful at times, yes, but at what cost? What about those chance encounters that benefited you more than you could have ever expected?
Serendipity is intangible. There's no way to automate a chance encounter, but you certainly can manufacture the mindset and conditions that increase the chance for a mutually beneficial situation to occur. While the quantities of the ingredients may vary for each individual, creating environments that promote otherwise chance encounters for the modern entrepreneur involves a mixture of welcoming flexibility into your life, a strict adherence to a schedule for optimal productivity, an in-depth understanding of yourself and your response to stress.
However, for entrepreneurs, there is a delicate balance between beckoning to the whim of every calling in the hopes of a positive outcome or relationship and becoming a machine analyzing the opportunity costs of every situation. There's no certain one-size-fits-all formula for your day-to-day approach, but here are a few strategies that have helped me along the way:
Committing to a Schedule That Makes Sense for You
The assumption that we, a bunch of imperfect humans inherently locked into our own realities, can dictate real opportunity costs effectively 100 percent of the time might be giving ourselves too much credit. The world will constantly throw challenges and opportunities at you.
As with many things in life, there is a need for balance. Being overly flexible can also detract from your short-term plans. For example, if you find yourself in the middle of a project that relies on the experience that only you can provide, you need to tend to your call of duty rather than diffusing your attention.
Balance the art of being too flexible and too rigid by adhering to a schedule to optimize the time you commit to focused work while also building in some wiggle room for networking and going to events you enjoy. When you can't grab a cup of coffee with someone, you have to postpone a dinner date or you have to push a phone call back, take it for what it is. People generally understand when you need to flip the switch into productivity mode.
However, keeping this focus-mode switch on all the time will manifest in your character and mindset. It's beneficial to be able to shift gears and nurture conversations with friends or go to events, even if they only have a loose relevancy to your ultimate goal in life.
Determining the "right" time for these things can be tricky and there is no single one-size-fits-all prescription. It's all a matter of knowing yourself, how you respond to stress and gauging your threshold for going out of your comfort zone. A single event may seem trivial, but it could lead to you meeting a new friend, your next co-founder or finally getting in front of a future client you've always wanted to work with.
Looking back, so much of my network has been built by chance encounters and events I almost didn't go to, ranging from raising money to my last company being acquired. This serendipity all stemmed from attending random events for me -- and it can for you as well. You don't need to turn into an event yes-man/woman per se, but always leave a little bit of mental wiggle room for "why not" and "what if."
Michael Lisovetsky is the co-founder of JUICE.