By walking a 2 inch thick cable 1,500 feet across the Grand Canyon, Nik Wallenda not only set a new world record, but also gave the world insight into reaching what he called the “peace that surpasses all understanding”.
While performing his feat, Nik Wallenda wore a microphone: viewers could hear his every word as walked the wire. Some of his words were a dialogue with his father, who offered professional feedback and encouragement. The rest were the verbalization of his thoughts.
My mind is always on the lookout for patterns, and as he crossed the Grand Canyon Nik’s words began to fall into a pattern. Every statement he said fell into one of 6 areas.
How do you cross the Grand Canyon on a tightrope? One step at a time – just put one foot in front of the other until you get to the other side.
Until difficulties arise. As Nik approached the one-quarter mark, the winds picked up worse than he expected. Obviously, at this point, there was no way out. He had to accept it and keep putting one foot in front of the other.
How many times in my daily work do I find myself in a situation that is not what I expected – and some times not even what I wanted? How many times have I grumbled, complained, and wished things were different? Did I waste time looking for a way out?
How different would I feel about if, instead of trying to find a way to “jump off the wire”, I focused my energy on simply putting one foot in front of the other until I got through the difficult situation?
The winds over the canyon were worse than Nik anticipated. Several times, his father informed him that a gust was coming; each time, Nik thanked Jesus for calming the winds — before they were actually calmed.
Nik believed it would be, and it was.
I’m not saying that Nik – or Jesus – actually stopped the wind. Maybe they did, I just don’t know. And not knowing is the reason that faith comes hard to me.
There are 2 things that I have faith in – 2 things that I believe without question will happen:
1) The Washington Capitals will someday win the Stanley Cup, and
2) The sun will rise tomorrow.
The first is not yet proven, but the second is proven every single day. Am I making the sun rise? No. Is Jesus making the sun rise? I haven’t got a clue what Jesus does or doesn’t do.
But I believe, without question, that the sun will rise tomorrow; lo and behold, it does.
Where else in my life can I exhibit that kind of faith?
At one point, Nik asked his father not to tell him how many minutes he had been “on the wire”. The tone of Nik’s voice – very matter of fact, very direct, and very simple – was exactly the same as his request to Jesus for “the peace that passes all understanding”.
I like Jesus, and find great comfort and example in his words; but I am no way a religious man. I do, however, pray. Not Our Fathers and Hail Mary’s and Glory Be’s. No rosary and prayer beads (I can’t even keep track of my car keys). Heck, I don’t even go to church.
My prayer is positive thought: calling on the universe to bring forth an outcome for a friend or family member in need. Oddly, I never pray for myself. At some point, it just became something I don’t do.
What if I did, though?
What if I asked the universe (or any higher power – whether it be God, Jesus, Allah, or Meg Ryan before her plastic surgery) for just what I need in a particular moment? What if my request was, like Nik’s, as simple and direct as I might ask the barista at Starbucks for a cup of coffee?
Maybe it’s not the request, but the way we make it. Think about it.
With nearly every step he planted firmly on the wire, Wallenda said “Thank you”. He thanked Jesus for the beauty of this creation. He thanked God for the opportunity. He thanked God for the creation, and the view.
With every step, Nik voiced gratitude.
I have this kind of gratitude in the “special moments” – seeing new and powerful places, amazing and life-changing experiences, etc. I rarely, if ever, have it in the hum-drum events of daily life.
Today, I started taking mental note of the situations when I do not express gratitude. I’m starting to see a certain irony. In the daily events that make me who I am, I rarely express or vocalize gratitude.
– Rising early to enjoy the peace & quiet of the morning before the circus awakes? Didn’t express gratitude.
– Snuggles from Little Bird as he quietly woke up – the second greatest feeling in the world? No gratitude there, either.
– The smell and taste of that first sip of coffee – the moment I live for each morning? Nope. Nada. Zilch.
What great things could I accomplish if I was grateful for every moment, not just the grand and overpowering moments?
The tone of Nik’s voice as he walked across the chasm never strayed from optimism.
After first stepping on the wire, he observed that there was dust on the cable, making his footing less certain. I got the sense that Nik might be questioning whether or not he should be doing this. From that point on, though, he never expressed a single doubt or fear. It’s as if he discarded every doubt and every fear on the side of the mountain he was leaving.
Self-help books, articles and speeches all tell us it is appropriate to have doubts and fears – they are natural and part of being human. Indeed. There is a time to doubt whether I am doing the right thing; there is a time to fear failure or death.
Watching Nik walk the tightrope across the Grand Canyon, I realized for the first time in my life that there is one moment when it is time to discard all doubt and all fear and do what is in front of me to be done.
Once I step “on the wire” – whether my wire is a tightrope, a speech I have to give, a day in a doctor’s office with the baby – do I completely discard doubt and fear?
#6: Enjoy the Moment.
“I’m only one to ever stand in that spot, you bet I’m going to stop and enjoy it.”
Nik said that in an interview just before he walked the skywire; he did what he said in the middle of his walk.
Whenever I heard even a slight quiver in his voice betray a bit of nervousness about the path ahead, he came immediately back to the Majesty of what he saw around him.
When the wind gusted strong enough for him to “take a knee” on the wire, he used that occasion to look down and enjoy the Majesty of a view that no other man has seen.
Even in the most frightening or uncomfortable moments, there is Majesty in our surroundings.
Next time I’m in a frightening or even just an uncomfortable situation, I will take a moment to look around and soak up the Majesty of what is around me.
As you read through the 6 areas, you’ll likely agree that any one is a powerful tool in our daily life. You’ve also likely heard each one before.
The recognition of these 6 areas is not that spectacular: each is a universal truth which, when applied in our daily life, does yield happiness and acceptance.
But the real “Aha!” moment came when I realized that, by disciplining his mind to stay focused on only these 6 areas, Nik was able to accomplish something so grand and so amazing that many of us are lucky to experience even once in a lifetime.
He experienced the “Peace that Surpasses all Understanding”. Perhaps we can all learn to walk Nik’s skywire.
Here are some other links you might enjoy:
A different approach: Physical Methods to Improve Concentration.by