Trusting Your Life’s Journey

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Chance EncountersPost written by Faisal Hoque

“Chance encounters are what keep us going.” — Haruki Murakami

In life’s journey there are many encounters. Some are planned, some are by accident, and some by divine intervention.

I believe chance encounters happen to those who remain optimistic, no matter what. Dr. Daniel Tomasulo writes:

In the May 2010 issue of the Journal of Positive Psychology researchers Peters, Flink, Boersma and Linton demonstrated that subjects who imagined a “best possible self” for one minute and wrote down their thoughts generated a significant increase in positive affect. The researchers also concluded “…that imaging a positive future can indeed increase expectancies for a positive future.”

In other words, the researchers demonstrated it was possible to induce optimism. And from my own personal experiences, I couldn’t agree more. Let me share an old story from many years ago.

I left home when I was 17 years old on March 16th in the mid 1980s. It was a day I vividly remember. Sometime after midnight, leaving my worried parents and a few close family members behind, I boarded a British Airways flight to London and then to St. Louis, Missouri. I never imagined how simultaneously frightening and exciting moments can be until the plane started to take off. Although I had confidence, I had no idea what I had just signed up for.

I was on my way to Carbondale, Illinois — a place I had no real idea of, no friends, no family members, and absolutely no certainty, financially or emotionally! But I was determined to get an education and make something of my life.

A Chance Encounter

On the plane to St. Louis, I sat next to an Indian woman in her 60s who was visiting her family. We had no more than 10 to 15 words of general pleasantries. When we landed at the St. Louis airport, the reality of my situation hit me hard. Here I was in a foreign country, barely able to speak the language, with no prior travel experience to speak of. I didn’t even know how to use a coin-operated Coke machine!

As I was waiting for my luggage in the baggage area, a young woman in her mid twenties approached me to ask what flight I was on. She was waiting for her aunt. Little did I know that her aunt was the same woman who sat next to me. I picked up my luggage and in utter fear realized that I had no idea how to go to Carbondale or what to do next! It was already 7:00 at night. Standing there, in the middle of all the hustle and bustle, my entire life flashed before my eyes.

The young woman and her aunt found each other and then approached me asking if I was alright and where I was headed. I must have looked dazed and confused! I told them my destination. The aunt said she was touched by my kindness on the plane. To this day, I don’t know what kindness she was speaking of! They insisted I had no choice but to go with them and spend the night at their home before figuring out my next move.

They not only opened up their home and heart to me, but the next morning they took me to a family who was originally from Bangladesh. Both husband and wife happened to be doctors at local hospitals in St. Louis. By complete coincidence, they knew of my family back home. The husband and wife set me up with the Southern Illinois University foreign students association, and the rest of my life’s journey began.

Another Coincidence

A couple of years later, I transferred to the University of Minnesota, Duluth on a full scholarship. I made several close friends from many parts of the world in Duluth. One of them was a young Indian man who was going to business school. One night, he declared that he was headed to St. Louis to visit his close relatives. Almost a year after his visit to St. Louis, we were sitting in my apartment near Lake Superior, and through conversation we discovered that his close relatives happened to be the same Indian family who picked me up from the airport! Needless to say, my jaw dropped! It was a coincidence that awed me at that time and still does.

Since then, I have had many of these types of amazing chance encounters. These encounters seem as if the universe rallied to come to my aid when I needed help the most.

They have occurred when least expected — and many of the people I’ve encountered have become friends and family. And whenever those encounters initially left me with a negative experience, they turned out to be much needed lessons. I can name at least four instances in the last 90 days alone, but those are stories for another time.

An entrepreneur at the age of 14, Faisal Hoque left his birth-land Bangladesh at the age of 17. Since then, he has called America his home. He is a devoted student of life, entrepreneurship, and humanity and is the founder of SHADOKA  and other companies. Shadoka’s portfolio of companies (R&D driven products, services, and thought leadership) accelerates individual and organizational sustainable growth. He has written several books on innovation, leadership, and management. His newest book is “Everything Connects” (McGraw Hill, Spring 2014). He worked for GE and other global brands. He regularly contribute to Fast Company and the Huffington Post. He’s also written for the Wall Street Journal, Business Week, Forbes, and Leadership Excellence, among other publications. For more information, please visit or follow @faisal_hoque.

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