May 01

This post is part of an ongoing series entitled “a post a day for the month of may.” It’s an unfolding exploration of the concepts from the book “Get Lucky.”

“Get Lucky” proposes a framework of skills that when practiced work in concert to amplify the level of serendipity in one’s life. The eight skills are:

  1. Motion
  2. Preparation
  3. Divergence
  4. Commitment
  5. Activation
  6. Connection
  7. Permeability
  8. Attraction

There’s thirty-one days in the month of May which translates to roughly four days devoted to each skill. Let’s look at Motion first.

Motion in the context of this book refers to the practice of deliberately placing yourself in new situations and unfamiliar environments. It’s not the same as randomly throwing a dart at a map and traveling there, that’s just random movement. Motion is consciously mixing up your routine and the circles of people you associate with. The result of motion is what they call “creative collisions.” The book uses the architecture of the Pixar office as one example of to bake the principle of motion into a company’s fabric. Core services like food, recreation and restrooms were placed centrally in an atrium that by design caused people from disparate departments to have more chance encounters than they would if each wing of the campus was self-contained.


A byproduct of motion is parallax, or the apparent shift of objects relative to a backdrop when you change viewing angle. Astronomers use relative motions of planets and stars against the backdrop of far away galaxies to calculate distances. If you’ve ever dropped a small object on an obnoxious carpet, odds are you used the phenomenon of parallax to find it by shifting your viewing angle until the object stood out against the background. The authors don’t explicitly name this effect in their book but I would say from personal experience it’s every bit as relevant as “creative collisions” in terms of value for unearthing unseen opportunities.

There are immediate opportunities hiding in plain sight now that we never see because they get lost against the noisy wallpaper of daily life. Whether through lethargy or the intentional pursuit of a routine we fall into ruts of routine movement that make us become accustomed to the viewing angles and we lose ability to identify these parallax shifts. Deviating from routine restores some of the parallax shift that allows us to notice things that we never even thought to question.

My biggest parallax experience was the six months I lived in Quito, Ecuador back in ’95. At my age then I just assumed that continuous electrical power was something everyone in 1995 had. Not so. During that time they were conducting power rationing across the city such that throughout the week there would be eight hour blocks where the power just shut off. I thought I knew what a family was and understood how it operates only to learn they do it very differently down there (children stay in the house much longer, many times to the age at which they end up taking care of their folks and never leave). Drinking water out of the tap? Yep, learned that one the hard way. I assumed the worst case scenario of government corruption was palm greasing with a shady lobbyist. Not so. The second day I was there the vice president of the country fled with six million dollars. I knew America’s entertainment industry had worldwide fans but never would I have expected how thoroughly star-crazed a 2-million-person city could be over Bon Jovi. I learned that there’s a whole population of people who eat KFC with plastic gloves and do 1000 other little idiosyncratic things differently than us. But most importantly for the first time I vividly saw class distinctions and what it means to be extraordinarily wealthy and unimaginably poor. Before that class distinctions were an academic concepts in school and occasionally images on a TV but now they were the people sitting next to me on the bus.

My point of parallax is that independent of the value motion provides in creating “chance collisions” it has other added benefits that enable people to see the world differently and therefore gain unique invaluable perspective. This leads to another byproduct of motion which is revealing occluded objects. I’ll discuss that one tomorrow. For now change your tune: The Lumineers – Ho Hey

One Response to “A byproduct of motion = parallax”

  1. Gordon says:

    Finally, a meaning of parallax beyond the latest design fad. Nice perspective Sean.

Leave a Reply

preload preload preload