Imagine taking a trip to Niagara Falls, New York, observing the beauty and power of the rushing water, as you peer through the mist to see across the international border. You could be surrounded by other tourists, wearing rain ponchos as protection from the water spray, and taking pictures of the rock formations surrounding it. But what if you instead, stepped onto a wire two inches in diameter, strung 1500 feet from one side to the other, and step by step crossed onto the other side?
The first image leaves me in wonder, the second leaves me in fear. But that’s exactly what Nik Wallenda did in 2012. He was the first person to cross Niagara Falls walking on a tightrope wire. It required a change of laws in two countries to pave the way for this to happen. But more than that, it took bravery. Why did he do it? The short answer is, to get to the other side.
To understand the longer answer, you must understand Nik. His last name may be familiar to you. He comes from seven generations of tightrope walkers, dating back to the 1780s. He has been walking on wires all his life. He successfully crossed Times Square in NYC, an active volcano, the Grand Canyon and completed other amazing feats.
In 2017, while practicing for a performance, Nik was one of a pyramid of eight people that collapsed. Five of his colleagues, including his sister, fell 25 feet and were severely injured. Nick was fortunate enough to be able to grab the wire and hold on. And while he wasn’t physically injured, he later realized that he was emotionally injured, because he began to feel fearful and tremble when he approached the wire. He discussed this with his wife, who also came from generations of circus performers on both sides of her parents, and told her he wanted to quit. She wisely reminded him that he signs autographs with the slogan “never give up.” Nik had to decide at that point to put fear behind him if he was to move forward.
Choosing Bravery Instead of Fear
Most of us would become fearful and anxious at the thought of walking a wire even 12 feet off the ground. When Nik gets ready to do a “walk” his heart races until he steps up to the wire. Then his heart rate slows, and he becomes calm. Why? Let’s examine that. Nick was recently interviewed by pastor and author Joel Osteen and shared some key pieces of advice on how he performs.
- For months leading up to a “walk” Nick spends time in that location visualizing the crossing. So, when the actual event arrives, he has successfully “seen” it in his mind so many times that he is at peace.
- He has never watched the video of the 2017 accident, even to the point that when someone interviews him about it and shows a video clip, he turns away. He doesn’t want to have an image in his mind of failure.
- Because Nick has a deep faith in God, during his walk he plays music and audibly speaks God’s promises to keep his mind focused.
- He focuses on just a few feet in front of him. During his famous walk across Niagara Falls he could only see a short distance ahead due to the fog and spray of water. But he trusted that the wire was still in place, the Canadian side was not far away, and that he would safely make the crossing.
Nik also wisely takes precautions to perform safely. His tightrope is securely anchored on each side. He uses a pole for balance as he walks. He practices at lower heights before he gets to the “sky-high” levels. He sometimes wears a safety harness in case he falls. He also has a whole team of people supporting him providing structural engineering services and more. Bravery doesn’t mean carelessness. Bravery means looking into the face of danger, correctly assessing and addressing the risks, developing your capabilities, then moving forward.
What is Your Brave?
Nik believes that the high wire is his calling in life. He could no more stop doing it than he could stop breathing. He exhibits bravery by following his purpose and has a mental focus that blocks out distractions. It’s also his way of encouraging others to pursue their dreams.
What does bravery look like to you? How are you walking in your calling….that “thing” that you must do? You might be terrified as you approach it, but when you’re doing it, there’s a peace, a thrill, a sense of joy, of being in your “zone” that pulls you back to it again and again.
How will you step out on your wire?