How to get what you want, without even planning it ~

24 de junio de 2019

How to get what you want, without even planning it

(Puedes leer este artículo en español aquí)

I'm going to confess to a very silly, zen game I like a lot.

Sometimes, if I think it's about to rain, I sit by the window, with a cup of coffee warming my hands. I close my eyes and, breathing in the aroma that comes from the cup, I wait for the raindrops to start hitting the glass.

Tap ... tap ... tap ... tap … tap ...

I open my eyes and gaze loosely at the drops. They don’t usually hit the same place. One falls here, another there, up, down… Until, suddenly, a new drop falls too close to another one and drags it down the window, creating a mini avalanche; a small vertical stream. 

That’s my zen game: I try to guess where those little streams will appear and which path they will take to the edge of the window. 

Sounds relaxing, right? 

The fact is that, in addition to being a very meditative way of drinking coffee, this game is a great metaphor of how things work in life. 

When you feel stuck, one way to improve your luck is to start trying more things. Doing more, without worrying too much about the potential outcome -just following your curiosity- means that more raindrops will sprinkle your window. Sooner or later, these droplets will create little rivulets of awesomeness, unexpected flows of opportunity that people tend to attribute to your good fortune.

Let me tell you an example.


One day, back in February 2016, I was messing around on Twitter and I found this curious photo…


The first droplet on my window :)

When I clicked on the link, I read that Matt Wilkins was sharing curious and super funny anecdotes about his work as a biologist and scientist. Matt was trying to collect more stories of pre-doctoral suffering in the name of science. 

Ha! Of those, I have a few! 

So, I decided to send to him the story of how I crossed Barcelona skidding around roundabouts, with a hundred little birds hanging in socks from the ceiling of my old Renault Clio.

Matt and I stayed in touch after that.

At the time, I was a postdoc in Austin, Texas. That summer, ‘Evolution 2016’, one of the most important congresses in our field, would be held in my city.

Matt, of course, attended, coming over from Nebraska. During the congress, in addition to interesting talks and poster sessions, there was a fun contest of popular science videos, which Matt and his colleague Tyler won, with this cool video about amblypygids.

We had fun also outside the congress venue: We went climbing, river floating, and, in the evenings, we enjoyed the Live Music Capital of the World. Matt and I became friends :)

A couple of months later, he invited me to a science communication conference he had organised in Nebraska: Scicomm 2016. 

Nebraska, here I come!

There, I gave a lightning talk of 5 minutes about my experience helping young biologists through my blog.

And this talk, as you will see, became another droplet on my window…tap.

Fast forward: Summer 2017

It’s an early afternoon in August and I’ve just arrived with a group of British kids to the village of Salvacion, in the Madre de Dios region, Peru, after several weeks camping in the Amazon rainforest. 

Finally, civilisation! 

There, two members from the CREES foundation welcome us and give us an introduction to the area. They speak about the environmental situation and how we are going to collaborate on some of their conservation and sustainability projects over the next two weeks. 

Cristina Faura was one of those two persons. She is from Valencia, Spain and we talked non stop (finally, another Spanish person!). During those two weeks, she was my guide and accomplice. Together, we tried to coordinate enormous amounts of teenage hormones under the tropical heat and, somehow, we managed to build several bio-gardens without it ending up like a scene from Lord of the Flies.

We even organised a beautiful event and the whole village came!
Tap ... tap ... tap ... 

Cristina spoke so well about me to her colleagues at CREES that I almost ended up moving there to work in the jungle. 

That little stream, however, will have to be followed another time. Instead, I decided to work in the Czech Republic as a conservation biologist. Whilst it was difficult to decline such a cool opportunity, I always remember what a friend of mine says:
"The important thing is that we can choose"
Let’s go back to that day I arrived in Salvacion, though. Remember there were two members of CREES. I spoke very little to that second person. It was enough, however, for me to discover that she is also one of a kind. 

Her name is Kristi Foster and she is an adventurous Canadian who has done a thousand things everywhere: Africa, Australia, Europe, Latin America… and there, in Salvacion, she had spent three years directing a sustainability project that kept her very busy; so much so, that I left Peru without talking to her again. 

Until, years later ... tap ... another drop on my window. I see Kristi on LinkedIn, we connect and catch up. As always, she’s doing a thousand things. One of them was this guide to help young biologists to successfully apply for jobs in conservation. She was writing it in collaboration with Dr. Nick Askew, from Conservation Careers, a reference website for biologists, a site which I am an absolute fan of. 

Kristi tells me: “I love how you have your LinkedIn profile, do you think we could use part of it as an example for the guide?”


”Of course, Kristi! By the way, I also have a website to help young conservationists. I’ve been running it for 15 years, but in my free time, so it is just like a little sister of Conservation Careers 😅” 
“You can look at this video of a talk I gave at a Science Communication conference, there I describe my site,, in five minutes"

Tap ... tap ... tap …

Kristi watches the video…
Snoops on…
Then decides that Dr. Askew and Dr. Nando have to meet each other!

She introduced us both in a very elegant email… (Pro tip: Always do it that way when introducing two professional contacts, don't just tell one person to write an email to another!)

And, excitingly, Nick responded immediately with an invitation to collaborate!

Tap ...
Tap ...  
Tap ...

Nice, isn’t it? Drop by drop, without an actual plan...

Starting from that random tweet that Matt sent from Nebraska (a tweet I could have very easily let go with a simple "how curious, I could send something …” then scrolled on), several small drops of action fell close enough to create a new, beautiful and unexpected rivulet went down my window today. 

And now let me tell you why this little stream, in particular, makes me feel so excited. 

As I told Kristi, for 15 years (!) I've been trying to help people overcome the same obstacles that I encountered during my career as a biologist. It is VERY gratifying to see that, sometimes, my work with helps someone (you cannot imagine how happy I am when I get a thankful email!). 

Sometimes, however, I find it very difficult to continue. I do this on my own, in the little free time I have. Often I’m in the field, or on an expedition, out of reach. After all, I have a full-time job as a conservation biologist! 

These last years, as I gained more experience, I started to play with the idea of creating a course to help people get the environmental job of their dreams. The problem was that it requires a lot of work, too much for my little free time. And if I wasn’t going to give it my 100%, then I shouldn’t do it just yet. So I've been putting it off, year after year ... 

Until ... tap ... tap ...

Until Nick offered a collaboration, to join the forces and experience of Conservation Careers and

Nick has already created THE PERFECT COURSE to help people who want to work in conservation. He spent 6 years studying the working market, spoke with around 400 conservation professionals and analysed around 15,000 job offers! And he offered me a challenge: Could I help to make the course even better?

Well, of course, I had to try! And you are very welcome to enjoy the result of our efforts: 

Join our Kick-starter for Early Career Conservationists.

I am very excited to help you change your luck. To create new rivulets of opportunity, leading to your first job in conservation.

It’s starting to rain, can you hear the first drops? 😊

Tap ... tap ... tap ...

Find your job here