Vail Daily column: Embrace serendipity, yet be wary |

Vail Daily column: Embrace serendipity, yet be wary

The window of time during which it was possible for me to have met my wife was approximately three minutes. I was traveling one proverbial path, she another, and our journeys overlapped for a brief and unexpected moment. We have been walking side by side ever since. Viewing one’s life as an unspooling ball of yarn, it is fascinating to trace the thread as it pushes forward, gets tangled, loops for a bit, doubles back on itself and then jumps forward again, relentlessly in motion. Our individual threads join with the human collective to weave intricate patterns reflecting our existence. We cannot predict the way in which our narratives play out or intersect with others. Thus, we must embrace the beauty of serendipity: those chance encounters or staccato bursts of inspiration that define the long arc of our lives. Serendipity being so fickle but so influential, I am often stymied by people’s choice to press their luck with lawsuits. Sometimes the loom of the law churns out an exquisite rug, but often it jams.

Gift of Free Will

There is a difference between being open to opportunities and simply lazy. I do not see my life as preordained. I do not cast myself to the winds of fate and let myself be carried along, but I do have my sail ready. I do not believe that if I hope hard enough or wait long enough that a track will take me to a place that I am supposed to be. The concept of who I am supposed to be is fluid and dependent on factors internal and external, eternal and temporal. Free will is a gift that we all possess, although it is markedly easier for some to exercise than others: The difference between a Western billionaire and an oppressed minority. Depending on the level of ambition, we push to create the best life possible for ourselves and our families. But while being endearingly stubborn in the face of hardship is admirable, attempting to push a round peg into a square hole is not. Lawsuits are frequently the embodiment of this latter endeavor.

When Serendipity Goes South

Litigation strives to determine who is at fault, but that presupposes that someone can be held accountable for something that was an inevitable consequence of being. The root of a dispute may be grounded in an unfortunate species of serendipity. Perhaps an itch caused one to look away from the wheel for a brief second, just as someone appeared out of the blind spot. Or, a business deal went south because the market for the company’s product dried up without warning. Sometimes things just happen.

Arising out of simple bad luck, the equivalent stroke of good fortune must present itself in order to vindicate one’s legal position. The litigant needs to be lucky enough to be pointed toward an attorney who will look out for the client’s best interests. That attorney-client relationship must blossom in a meaningful way. The right documents must be reviewed, the right questions asked, the right strategy pursued. Of course, the efficacy of one side’s efforts is dependent upon and balanced by those of the other side. That dance can be complex. If the case is decided on briefs prior to trial, then one must hope that the judge reads the arguments through the correct lens while being in the right mood. If the case proceeds to trial, then one must pray that fate bestows an intelligent and sympathetic jury who pays attention at the right moments. Unfortunately, one cannot conjure serendipity and thus cannot control the outcome of these factors.

To have a hand in shaping one’s destiny is the highest form of power to which we humans can aspire. That is why I favor the process of mediation over subjecting clients to the whims of litigation. In mediation, the parties do not just hope for the best; they put themselves in the position to be struck by serendipity. They may stumble across an unexpected point of agreement, unearth an unknown connection, or be awed by the sheer power of working through thorny problems in a cooperative fashion. Rather than drifting in the sea of life, hoping for a miracle, they can create their own. There is nothing more miraculous than watching two parties who absolutely hate each other walk out of a mediation room mere hours later after having shaken hands or (gasp!) hugging.

If our minds are closed, then so too are our eyes. We will not see the new trail that serendipitously crosses our path. Aren’t you curious to see what is ahead?

T.J. Voboril is a partner at Reynolds, Kalamaya & Voboril LLC, a local law firm, and the owner and mediator at Voice Of Reason Dispute Resolution. For more information, contact Voboril at 970-306-6456, or visit

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