From the June 2005 issue of Entrepreneur

According to an ancient Persian legend, the three princes of Serendip (from whom we get the term "serendipity") were on a quest for knowledge and had an apparent aptitude for accidentally making fortunate discoveries. Obviously, we can't predict what is going to come to us by accident, but we can be prepared--by working hard and putting in extra effort--to take advantage of whatever comes our way.

Here are four ways you can prepare for accidental sales opportunities:

1. Network outside your circle. After a while, we get so used to dealing with our limited circle of customers, peers, contacts and even mentors that we settle for what makes us comfortable. The longer you settle, the harder it is to get out of the rut. When you move out of your comfort zone, you never know what new relationships you might be able to form and how they might lead you to new business opportunities.

2. Expand your intellectual horizons. Whenever I feel frustrated or overwhelmed by what's going on around me, I turn to a resource that has proved valuable to me in the past, whether it comes from business, the sciences or even martial arts. Everything you learn gives you new ideas and fresh perspectives, and you never know just how or when the knowledge and expertise you have in one area will come in handy in another.

3. Do the grunt work that keeps your business running. I know you've heard this before: Successful people do the things that unsuccessful people don't like to do. It doesn't matter how much you love the business you're in--there are always going to be parts of it that just aren't much fun. But those parts are the glue that holds the business together--the phone calls, the mailings, the packing and shipping--the "behind the scenes" aspects that are often tedious and tiresome. Grunt work is the foundation of any business; it not only builds your business, but also your character.

4. Don't let your expectations rule your actions. About a year ago, I had an unsuccessful sales meeting about a product I was marketing. Recently, I set up another meeting with the same people to show them some new developments and new products. It was hard to get excited about the meeting, but I went anyway. As soon as I got there, I realized I had almost made a huge mistake. My product had changed and so had their business. They were now in a better position to receive what I had to offer, and the meeting went exceptionally well. If I had let my expectations rule my actions, I never would have gone to the meeting!

Look at misfortune as a chance to discover something new. Break out of your comfort zone, expand and increase your knowledge base, and do the little things that you don't like doing. Most important of all: No matter what you think the outcome might be, just show up. You never know what kind of fortunate accident may be just around the corner.