I'm a frequent listener to NPR's Saturday evening "All Things Considered". I was a pretty big Guy Raz fan (very fond of his conversations with Jim Fallows, among other things), but Arun Rath is growing on me.
Anyway, one of the neat/hokey things they're doing is interviewing various celebrities about their big break, i.e. something lucky/coincidental that helped them get where they are today. Here's Leland Martin, NASA astronaut (and chemistry degree holder) talking about a training accident that stopped him from being an astronaut for a period of time:
"There was blood coming out of my ear and they rushed me to the emergency room," he says. "They did surgery, they looked around, they couldn't find anything and being an astronaut, you need your hearing. If something happens and they can't explain why it happened, they won't let you fly in space."
Melvin's hearing slowly came back but he was still medically disqualified. So he traveled to Washington, D.C., to work in one of NASA's education programs instead....
...As he flew across the country attending memorial services [CJ's note: after the 2003 Columbia tragedy], Melvin says the chief flight surgeon was watching him closely, assessing his ear injury.
"He's watching me clear my ears and go up and down in the airplane and he calls me in his office and says, 'Leland, I'm going to sign a waiver for you to fly in space,' " he says. "That was one of my big breaks."I don't think I have any fantastic stories like that, but I can talk about my first ever campus interview. After failing to get into medical school (yes, I'm one of those), I put my resume in for an on-campus interview with a relatively unknown drug delivery company. I walked into the interview wearing (I think - it's been 10+ years) a clip-on tie and the only button-down shirt that I had. After a nice conversation with the two gentlemen sent from Company T to interview me, they asked me what I was working on for my undergraduate research project. I ended up drawing the structure of the compound that I was trying to synthesize on one of the interviewer's notebooks.
They looked at me in some odd wonder and they said "You're the first undergrad we've talked to that can explain their project to us." I ended up getting the job.
Honestly, I don't think that I was particularly smart -- I think it was just a coincidence that they went out recruiting that day and I was coincidentally the most prepared for a job.
So that was one of my big breaks. Readers, what's yours? Stories of coincidences or dumb, weird luck desired.