Exercise 1

Searching for serendipity

Are you making the most of life’s opportunities?


I had my own business, but needed a website. My friend Wendy gave me the email address of a designer called Mark. Unfortunately, Wendy’s handwriting is awful, so I sent the email to the wrong person. Someone called Matt replied. Obviously, there had been a mistake. He said he wasn’t actually a designer – he was a primary school teacher – but he could help me if I wanted!

Matt seemed nice. And anyway, I didn’t have anyone else to help me, so I decided to write back to him. In the end, Matt worked on my website for free. He did a great job and my business started to go really well. Meanwhile, we got to know each other via email. And ten months later, we met. We fell in love immediately, and a year later, we got married. If Wendy had had better handwriting, my business wouldn’t have been such a success, and I certainly wouldn’t have met Matt!

Two years ago, Anna Frances had some very good luck when her colleague gave her some wrong information.

So was Anna just lucky? Or did she make her own luck? Why do these lucky accidents seem to happen to some people and not to others? And is there any way to make yourself more lucky? Well, it seems that the secret of happiness is to make the most of the opportunities that life gives us. We need to be open to serendipity – the random events that lead to happy, sometimes life-changing, results.

Dr Stephann Makri is working on a project about serendipity at University College, London. He thinks that serendipity is more than an accident and that we can all have more ‘luck’ if we learn to pay attention to life’s opportunities. He has noticed that many people’s good-luck stories share the same basic pattern. First, people notice that there is an opportunity. Then, they take action to make the most of it. For example, if you imagine meeting an old friend in the street who will later introduce you to the love of your life, several things have to happen. First, you have to notice the friend. Then you have to stop and talk to them, even though you might be busy. Finally, you need to be ready to follow up on whatever comes out of the conversation. So, it might be luck that leads you to walk past the friend on the street – but the rest is up to you!

More serendipity stories …


After university, I didn’t have a job. I subscribed to a job website and got lots of emails from them every day. I usually deleted them. One day, I was feeling particularly annoyed by all the emails, so I opened one of them to click on the ‘unsubscribe’ link. But I spotted an interesting job. It was in the USA and I didn’t really have the experience they wanted, but I decided to try. I didn’t get the job, but they emailed me two weeks later to say they had another job I could apply for. I got it, and I ended up working in New York City, where I met my girlfriend Paula. None of it would have happened if I had deleted the email.


My mum Betty is 71. There’s a café in town that I like and I persuaded my mum to come with me, just to get out of the house. She didn’t want to come at first, but when we got there she really liked the café. While we were there, she started chatting to some bikers. My mum said she had always wanted to ride a motorbike! I was shocked! Kenny, one of the bikers, offered to take us both out with the rest of the group. To my amazement, my mother said ‘yes’! I was really worried, but actually, my mum loved the experience!

A. Complete the sentences with the names in the box.

Anna  –  Betty  –  Carla  –  Kenny  –  Matt  –  Tom

 ………… failed at first, but was right to take a chance.

 ………… did an activity she’d always wanted to do.

 ………… was surprised by someone else’s behaviour.

 ………… did some work for someone, even though it wasn’t his job.

 ………… made contact with the wrong person.

 ………… did something kind for someone the first time he met her.


1 Tom   2 Betty   3 Carla   4 Matt   5 Anna   6 Kenny

Exercise 2

Hi everyone!

I’ve been thinking about what to do next year, and I thought I’d take a year out and do some voluntary work. It could be my only chance and it would look good on my CV!

There’s a site called NowVolunteer and they’ve got some amazing things you can do, like looking after elephants in Thailand or teaching English in China. The only problem is you have to raise about $500 for them first, but then they give you training and they pay for your accommodation.

What do you all think? Am I on to a brilliant idea here or should I just forget it and start looking round for jobs?

Replies please 😉


A. Vicky is in her last year at university, studying marketing. She emailed her friends asking for advice. Read her email, and answer the questions.

 What two programmes is Vicky interested in?

 What might be a problem for her?


 looking after elephants in Thailand, teaching English in China

 raising the money for NowVolunteer

Exercise 3

Hi Luis!

How are things in Madrid these days? How are Pilar and the kids?

Thanks for your last email and for your excellent advice about goalkeepers. Your knowledge of football is just fantastic. Speaking of which, I need to ask your advice about something. So now that the team is taking a break from football for a couple of months, I thought that this would be a good time to think about next year.

Generally, I was quite proud of the players but I think we were beaten too many times. I’m convinced that we would have won more games if we had attacked better. The defence is strong but our attacking is just not so good. Although it’s the summer holidays, I’ve already told the team that they cannot take it easy.

First of all, they’re just not fit enough so they’re all going to be doing more training. As I explained to them, ‘If you’re going to take part in this beautiful game, then you are going to have to work much harder. I don’t want you to do your best – I want you to win, win, and then win again.’ So from now on, they are going to do a good workout three times a week. Micky and Stevo (do you remember those guys?) are helping me do the training so I know that they’ll have to work really hard.

I also want to have a go at changing the team. I don’t think Alex or Robin should be in defence any more. I think both of them will be right for playing up front. I think they’d be good because they are the only two who aren’t scared of the ball (you should see the rest of them!).

Anyway, that’s what I thought after watching the videos of this year’s games. For instance, that game we played against the All Stars in March. I think if we’d had those two at the front, then we would have won easily. Can I ask you to take a look at the video (the link’s below)? Tell me what you think. That reminds me – I saw the video of your team’s last game and I think you were right. If the referee had seen what number 7 had done to your goalkeeper, there would have been a penalty for sure.

Well, I won’t write any more. As you know, there’s no time to relax when you’re the manager of the local primary school’s seven-year-old girls’ football team!

Best, Dean

… so the local primary school is looking for a new manager for their girls’ football team. The kids are seven years old, so they’re quite little. I’ve been thinking about doing it.

I’m quite fit and I love football. Plus, I still haven’t decided what to do after I finish university next year. Maybe if I do this, it will be good experience if I want to become a teacher later. It’s voluntary, of course, and it’s about 10 or 12 hours of my time every week.

What do you think? Does it sound worth going?


A. Read the email. Complete the sentences with the names in the box. You need to use some names more than once.

Alex  –  Dean  –  Luis  –  Micky  –  Pilar  –  Robin  –  Stevo

1   ……Dean…… wrote the email.

2   ………………… received the email.

3   ………………… and ………………… are managers of local football teams.

4   ………………… and ………………… are football trainers.

5   ………………… is the wife of one of the people in the email.

B. Read the email again. Are the sentences true or false?

 Dean respects Luis’s knowledge of football.

 Dean was mostly disappointed in the results of his team.

 Dean thinks his team was most successful when they were attacking.

 Dean has told his players that they are not allowed to have a rest.

 Dean wants to reorganise his team.

 Dean believes that most of his players try to avoid the ball during a game.

 Dean agrees with Luis that the referee missed an important part of a recent game.

 In general, Dean’s email has been written in a formal style of English.

C. Read the end of an email from your English friend, Emily. Write a positive and enthusiastic reply to Emily’s email. Think about the following:

•   how to begin your email

•   how to advise her on the best course of action

•   ways of encouraging Emily to become the manager



2 Luis   3 Dean, Luis   4 Stevo, Micky   5 Pilar


True: 1, 4, 5, 6, 7; False: 2, 3, 8

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