Lagniappe Brings Serendipity 

Lagniappe (lan-yap) is a word I heard frequently when I was a resident of New Orleans while attending graduate school. Some people claim the word originated with the Louisiana Cajuns and derived from the Spanish phrase, la napa, which means “the gift.” The word is commonly used to refer to a bonus or extra-added value a person may receive. 
Serendipity (ser-en-dip-i-ty-) is a word that ties in well with lagniappe. Dictionaries commonly refer to serendipity as experiencing positive, unexpected discoveries. English novelist Horace Walpole is said to have coined the word in 1754. He based it on the good fortune enjoyed by the heroes of a Persian fairy tale, The Three Princes of Serendip. I believe the tie-in comes because serendipity is often a by-product of lagniappe. It especially occurs when we do the right thing or do something good for someone without expecting anything in return. Let me give you an example. 
I had presented a keynote address to a large group in California. Now I was at the desk in my hotel room preparing for a smaller session for the group’s upper management. A housekeeper was in the room, working around me. In the middle of her cleaning, she paused and said with a Hispanic accent, “Anatomy Of A Leader.” I turned and saw she had stopped to read the title of my book lying on a table. “Yes,” I responded, “it’s a book about leadership qualities.“ She said, “My daughter’s company is sending her to classes to learn how to be a leader.”  
The housekeeper told of the good job her daughter had obtained after being the first in her family to attend college. She went on to tell me how well her daughter was doing in her career. Great pride was evident. So I decided it would be appropriate to give her a copy of Anatomy Of A Leader for her daughter, along with a printed outline I had distributed at my talk earlier that day. The woman was overwhelmed.
I then said, “If you will tell me your daughter’s name, I will personalize the book and sign it for her.” This caused more excitement and the woman responded, “You mean you’re Carl Mays – the name on the book?” I answered in the affirmative. “You wrote it?” I assured her that I did. The housekeeper was bubbling when she departed the room, saying she could not wait to give the book and material to her daughter.
The thankful mother left some extra chocolate squares on my pillow. But that’s not the serendipity resulting from lagniappe to which I refer. That came later. Three years later.
A woman from a California-based company phoned my office, said she was a training manager, and wanted to order 132 copies of Anatomy Of A Leader. As an extra-added value, my office placed in the book package a four-page outline of my presentation of A Strategy For Winning, based on my book of that title. Less than a month later, the woman phoned again. This time she ordered copies of A Strategy For Winning. About a year later, she phoned to inquire about the possibility of my coming to California to speak to her company. We booked the engagement, which led to others. 
Yep. You guessed it. This training manager’s mother was the hotel housekeeper.
Sometimes you may do something extra for someone, thinking it will pay dividends in the long run. That’s what companies do when they go the extra mile to assure customer satisfaction, loyalty, and long-term retention. This is good business sense. However, the purest form of lagniappe is when you give something extra because it just feels right and it’s what you want to do, expecting nothing in return. The purest form of serendipity is when the surprise that comes proves to be a special extra-added value because you’ve already been rewarded once for the good feeling you received when you did the right thing in the first place.
Carl Mays, author of 13 books and speaker at over 3,000 events, can be contacted at or 865-436-7478. His books, including A Strategy For Winning, People of Passion, Anatomy Of A Leader, Are We Communicating Yet? and Winning Thoughts, are available in stores, on,, and other Internet locations.


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