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Serendipity and the Rewards of Being Positive and Patient

Fifty years ago, when I was about ten years old, I received a large, comprehensively written book published by LIFE Magazine. Full of photographs, maps and drawings, it was titled THE WONDERS OF THE WORLD. On its cover was a photograph of a giant Galapagos tortoise.

This book told the story of Charles Darwin’s 5 year around-the-world sailing adventure from Plymouth, England on Dec 27, 1831. Only 22 years old and a student at University of Cambridge, Darwin was offered the opportunity to travel aboard as a naturalist with the mission of collecting and reporting on the flora and fauna he’d encounter on this trip. His trip on Her Majesty’s Ship (H.M.S.) Beagle, a 90 foot long wooden sailing vessel, would take him down the Atlantic and up the Pacific coastlines of South America. The H.M.S. Beagle then did a 90 degree left turn off the coast of Ecuador and sailed 600 miles out to the Galapagos - which means “tortoise” in Spanish - a remote archipelago of 20 islands sitting directly on the equator.

While hiking across several of the Galapagos Islands, young Darwin noted the significant physical differences and characteristics between the various giant tortoise and finch populations as he traveled from island to island. What he noticed most from island to island was that the tortoises and finches were both SIMILAR – and DIFFERENT - than from what he’d observed just a few days before on a previous island. For instance, all the islands’ finches might have similar plumage and coloration, but each specific island’s finch population would have a longer or shorter or heavier or lighter beak size than the next island, depending on the types of seeds or insects that the finches were surviving on - given the specific island they lived upon.

Years later, Charles Darwin would put many of these observations down on paper and finally into print with his scientific masterpiece on the theory of evolution and natural selection titled THE ORIGIN OF THE SPECIES published in 1859. It shook the scientific and religious communities to their core with its premise that all living things – all plants and all animals - including humans - evolved over millions and millions of years from simpler forms of life. Back then, an accusation of heresy could get you burned at the stake.

Reading THE WONDERS OF THE WORLD, as a young boy, and then later - Darwin’s VOYAGE OF THE BEAGLE - changed my life. Already enthralled with nature and especially wild animals, now I had a far greater understanding of how life here on Planet Earth began and continues on, using science, logic, and the gift of observation.

So why is this blog titled: Serendipity and the Rewards of Being Positive and Patient?

Because a big part of human life and human endeavors comes about through both positive and negative thoughts. I have typically chosen to think positively about my life and the lives of those closest to me. And over the course of my sometimes lucky - sometimes unlucky - life this has definitely proven to be a good life’s strategy.

But with positive thinking - and a long life - comes patience - and then more positive thinking – which, for many people, ultimately leads to SERENDIPITY.

What is serendipity? I define it this way: Luck taking form in the development of events “by chance” (this is debatable) resulting in a fortuitous or positive outcome for the people involved.

So still you might wonder, what is the point of this blog? Well, I am here to report to you that for the past fifty plus years, I’ve wanted to travel with a naturalist and with family and friends to the Galapagos Islands to turn into reality the words I first read as a young boy.

Bill Goss age 10 and already a fan of Charles Darwin

Words I’d read from the first “adult” book I’d ever received - as a Christmas gift from a wonderful aunt who’d worked for LIFE many years ago. An aunt who knew a little boy who she was certain would love to see the photo of the giant Galapagos tortoise on the book’s front cover. A little boy, who became a Navy pilot - and later an author - who once a week - as a herpetology volunteer at the Jacksonville Zoo – assists in caring for 440 pound giant tortoise named “Goober”.

And so, through a remarkable series of coincidences and serendipitous events, next month I am off to explore the Galapagos Islands in almost exactly the manner in which I had hoped (only better) over the past 5 decades.

My final points are these: sometimes you don’t have to only think positive. Sometimes you have to think positive for a long time.

And sometimes in life there are little serendipitous events. And sometimes in life there are monster-sized, super cool serendipitous events.

And I am urging you – if you want to have an incredible life – be open to every potentially serendipitous event coming your way.

If you’re not open to serendipity, you’ll be very unlikely to see it coming.

And you’ll be even less likely to react fast enough to jump aboard an express ride to the time of your life.

Don’t be that person.

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