Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Tightrope



Being on the tightrope is living. Everything else is waiting.
-Karl Wallenda

I have a picture in my bathroom of acrobats delicately balancing on a ledge high above NYC. The men in the photo are the “Flying Wallenda” brothers, a legendary circus family. I didn’t know when I bought it why I had to have it or why I wanted it in my bathroom where I would see it everyday.  But I do now. It was something Karl Wallenda’s great -grandson Nic said this week while walking 200 feet above Sarasota, Florida without a safety harness. Video of Sarasota Stunt

“Fear is a choice.”

Okay, he also said that driving a car is more dangerous than tight rope walking because at least he is in control on the rope as opposed to the road, which I question. But I agree with his take on fear. It is a choice. Our choices are often based on inherited beliefs than unconsciously passed down through the generations. The Wallendas have carried on their gravity defying skills since great grandpa Karl first answered an ad for a hand balancer with courage almost 100 years ago. Whether Karl knew it at the time or not, he taught his offspring more than just the circus life. He made friends with fear. Maybe even waved hello to vulnerability staring up at him from the hard concrete below.

Fear of: spiders, abandonment, failure, success, clowns, the dark, the dentist, mediocrity, the limelight, fear of being misunderstood or not being heard or not mattering in the grand scheme. Pick your poison. Before you can make a conscious choice to step out in faith, you have to identify what exactly your afraid of. For me, it also helps to know where the fear originated.

Here is a nifty technique I picked up in one of the many workshops attended this year. Write down something that you really always wanted. Something as bold as a 500 foot trek from towering condo roof to condo roof on a thin wire. Now think about what awaits you at the other end. Fame? Riches? Validation? Write it down in detail. Now write down what is the worst that can happen. If you fall 200 feet to the road below, will you die? Is it worse than not trying? What is the likelihood of the worst happening? Who told you that would be the outcome? What makes them the expert?

Have you thought about what fears you may have inherited? Are they saving you from falling to your death? Are they worth passing on?

For today’s “Sky’s the Limit” on what you can learn: The Flying Wallendas. Karl Wallenda was born into a German circus family in 1905. He began performing at the age of 6 and turned it into a family affair with his brothers and later his wife and kids. He was discovered by the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus while performing in Cuba and brought to the U.S. where he made the seven person chair pyramid famous. 73- year old Karl Wallenda died in 1978 when he fell from a wire 10 stories above Puerto Rico. Nik has since completed the same feat that killed his great grandfather as well as achieved fame in his own right. In 2012, Nik became the first person to walk a tight rope from the U.S. to Canada above Niagara Falls.

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