On Sunday, June 23rd, 2013 Nik Wallenda of the famous flying Wallendas did the unthinkable. He walked on a tight rope, 2 inches thick, the equivalent of 4 football fields or a quarter mile across the Grand Canyon. To put things in perspective as to how high he was, he was walking at an altitude higher than the Empire State building. Oh did I mention that he was not tethered, there were no safety harnesses or nets to catch him if he fell.
Does he possess any superhuman traits?
Leading up to the event they did a bunch of tests that concluded that Nik had a great ability to calm himself under stressful situations, like walking suspended over great heights. They also concluded that he had great balance (I know shocking, huh?). The conclusion of these tests showed him to be superhuman compared to the average person.
Walking on a wire makes you superhuman.
Using the same logic the media used I can make anyone superhuman given enough training. That is just it, normal is the equivalent to a C, which means average. It is what everyone else can do or better yet is willing to do. Here is what they failed to share with the public. Nik has been walking on the high wire since he was 2 years old. Everyone in his family did it. This is what he saw 365 days a year. They never mentioned the countless hours of focused practice Nik puts in on a daily basis to make him the best tight rope walker of our day.
As a physical therapist and movement connoisseur I know that everything Nik did can be trained. You can train your balance to be better. You can train your body to relax under extreme conditions, you can train to walk on a high wire, and you can train your mindset to focus on success. That being said, I am not saying that anyone can walk across the Grand Canyon. There is a reason why he is the first. He is the best. I can guarantee you no one has put in as many hours as he has.
Nik is 34 years old. He started when he was 2, so if you gave a really conservative guess of 1 hour a day every year for 32 years that is a total of 11,680 hours of practice. (By the way, I’m sure he has logged in way more hours than that.)
I know you may be saying to yourself, “There is no way I can do that, my balance is horrible, and I am afraid of heights.”
My question to you is, Do you think this would be and feel different if you started when you were 2 years old?
Let’s say nothing changes as we don’t have the luxury of time travel, yet.
Let’s assume that you are a 43 year old mother of 2 wonderful kids. You have poor flexibility and strength. You are afraid of heights and you’d probably fail the walking the line drunk test absolutely sober because your balance is that bad. (Know anyone like that?)
You could walk across a tight rope.
I know you still think I am crazy.
Let’s put things into perspective. If I worked with you 7 days a week, for 1 month for one hour on your flexibility and balance do you think you’d improve on those two things?
What if you did it for 3 months, do you think you’d improve more?
What if we did this for 1 year and added the techniques of walking on a tight rope that was only 3″ off the ground – do you think you’d get better than you are today at walking on a tight rope?
The answers to all these questions are a resounding, YES!
Why? because you’d work on the skills and habits necessary to improve. While you won’t be traversing the Grand Canyon on the high wire I can bet you’d be better than you are today. Probably walking a good 10 meters or more.
Do I want you to be a tight rope walker?
No. (Unless you want to be.)
My point with this post is 2 fold.
First – I want you to take responsibility for your potential.
I’m tired of hearing people just assume that someone is more talented than they are. Most people don’t think about how much these great performers work. I am not saying that you’d want to walk on a high wire but what do you want to be great at? Are you putting in the time daily to get a little bit better? One of my mentors, Pat Rigsby once told me to focus on being only 1% better each day than the day before. At the end of the year you will have improved 365%. That seems like a lot but if you have the commitment, the dedication, and patience to focus on improving only 1% it will add up.
Second – With enough time and dedication you can accomplish miracles. The question really isn’t can you do it but really it is, are you willing to put in the work necessary to achieve it?
That is why I find it interesting when someone comes to me wanting to lose weight that has gained 50+ pounds over several years and expects it should be off in 1-3 months. Weight loss, like life, is not about a diet or a magic pill that makes everything better. No, it is about developing the healthy habits necessary to enrich your life and do them daily no matter what.
I can guarantee that Nik Wallenda has had many days that he doesn’t feel like training. But I am sure that he does something daily to help him get 1 step closer to his goals. For Nik his decision to skip training literally could mean immediate life and death. What if your decision hinged on life and death, would you change anything?
Tight Rope Walking = Your Life
Tight rope walking is a great metaphor for life. If you look to the right, if you look to the left, if you look down, it can be scary. Too many people get distracted when shooting for their goals. The point of tight rope walking is to safely get to the other side. So look forward, focus on what you want. Be patient and most importantly take 1 step at a time.
PS – Watching Nik Wallenda cross the Grand Canyon was one of the most inspiring things I have ever seen. He is amazing at his art. I want to congratulate him for his success and for helping me see that it is possible to push past our self imposed limits. Like I mentioned above, greatness is not something you achieve from one day to the next. It is only achieved by taking it one step at a time and performing the habits every single day.
PPS – I leave you with this brilliant quote by the great Aristotle:
“Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.”
PPPS – If you haven’t watched the video here is a short clip of the death defying spectacle.