Derek Sivers

What are the odds of that?

Three true stories:


In 1992, in Tokyo, Japan, I dated a girl named Masako. After our month together, she moved to London. We lost touch.

In 2008, I’m in London for a few days. I wonder if Masako still lives here, 16 years later.

A minute later, she walks by.

“Masako!”

“Derek?!”


In 1993, I had a pen-pal from Argentina, named Lucia. She was studying Norwegian, and planned to move to Oslo, Norway, some day. We lost touch.

In 2007, my band is on tour in Oslo for a few days. I’m sitting in a park, wondering if Lucia ever moved here.

A minute later, she walks by.

“Lucia!”

“Derek?!”


Today I’m in Singapore. I go to the library, to write. It’s very busy, with nowhere to sit, so I walk from room to room, before I finally find the last free seat.

I notice the guy next to me is reading a book I recommend often: “Ego is the Enemy”.

I say, “Great book!”

He says, “I got it because of you. You’re Derek, right?”

His name is Thomas. We had emailed a few days ago.


Some people like to think that there are no coincidences. They say, “What are the odds of that?”, as if to mean that it can’t be chance. Life feels more amazing to them if it all has meaning. (This is called “apophenia”.)

I like to think that everything is a coincidence. Life feels more amazing to me if it has no meaning. No secret agenda. Beautifully random.

What are the odds of winning the big lottery? Fifty million to one? Ah, but that’s if you’re being ego-centric, and only thinking of yourself! Someone always wins it. So what if you look past yourself, and ask, “What are the odds that this rare thing happened to someone?” Almost 100%.

That’s a nice reminder when the odds seem impossible. Amazingly rare things happen to people every day.

(Thomas Diong and I, today, at the Singapore library.)