The Happy Accident

happy accident

  • Ability: the capacity to do or act physically, mentally, legally, morally, financially, etc. You have the ability to do amazing things. Go do them.
  • Goal: a statement of a desired result. My goals are lofty because I like a challenge and I’m ambitious.
  • Ambition: A desire or hunger for activity or exertion.  I lack the ambition to complete that asinine task. So I’ll do this one instead!
  • Hard work: There was no definition easily located (wikipedia, you disappoint me) but the thesaurus lists the term “hard work” alongside the following: abuse, beating, discipling, slave labor… and so on. Hard work and no play makes Johnny unhappy.
  • Happy accident: a statement proclaimed by some people when one achieves goals without perceived exertion and/or hard work. Oh, that amazing thing that you just noticed? It was nothing. Simply a happy accident.

Even as stand-alone definitions I find these terms to be interesting, but when you consider them side-by-side? Please tell me – when did hard work become synonymous with slave labor and abuse? I worry about the world sometimes. This? One of those times…

Ok. Sorry about that. Total digression.

Happy accidents. I use this term a lot and if we work together, you’ve likely heard it more than a few times. I use it when talking about something great the has occurred, a goal has been met, without anyone really knowing how much work was being poured into it’s accomplishing that goal. Because no one saw the work taking place, this wonderful, needed, really awesome thing that has occurred? It’s a happy accident.

Happy accidents aren’t a negative things. [1] On the contrary, they’re a positive thing when done strategically [2]. There are times when something needs to happen, but for whatever reason it can’t if everyone insists on adhering to the status quo. You’ll here comments such as, “that’s not how we do it here.” in this situation.

At this point, someone may decide to architect a solution whereby they are able to work towards that goal, possibly even with the help of others, without upsetting those who would ardently oppose such a thing. So they work. And work and work. At some point, a happy accident occurs. Only a small number of people, maybe even just the one, know what really happened. But everyone loves it, and it makes them happy and hopeful. They may even celebrate. It’s a happy accident because everyone is left to wonder: “how did it happen!?”

Which brings me to the next term: ability. When you have the ability to do something amazing, that’s powerful. Some people can’t do what you can do. They can’t solve the problem, rise to the challenge, run the race, whatever. They simply do not possess the ability to achieve the goal, regardless of the amount of hard work apply or ambition they muster up. They can not architect a happy accident. But you? You can.

A happy accident requires goals, ambitions, and hard work. And, very likely, no glory or credit.

How do you feel about that? Would you be willing to help make a happy accident happen? [3]


[1] Upon further consideration – they can sometimes be bad. I guess it depends on a lot of factors. In my experience they’ve been rather good (thankfully).

[2] As in, properly planned and executed. Adherence to the “Thou shall not be an asshole” principle is a good indicator.

[3] Be honest. No credit. No glory. Lots of work.