Saturday, May 23, 2009


Image copyright Alan Welner/AP Images.

Does this photo scare the crap out of you or what? Imagine yourself up there on that wire, stretched between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, over 1300 feet high. Higher than the Empire State Building in the background. No net. Unbelievable winds. Quite the act of daring.

But Philippe Petit was not a man who simply woke up one day and said to himself, "I am going to be very daring and walk a tightrope between the Twin Towers today." That sort of daring is more colloquially referred to as "a death wish." Petit prepared for his walk for over six years, starting long before the buildings were completed. He spent years sneaking into the buildings, sometimes disguised as a construction worker, to gain information on security, the layout of the roof and various other design and safety details. Meanwhile, he was becoming well-known for his other high-wire stunts, including crossing the towers of Notre Dame Cathedral in France and the towers of Sydney Harbour Bridge in Australia.

His daring took years of preparation.

In the end, Petit (along with a team of secret helpers) shot his wire across the chasm with a bow and arrow and danced upon it for nearly 45 minutes, at one point laying on the wire and having a conversation with a bird above him. He only came down when it began to rain.

Although he was arrested, all charges were dropped when it became obvious his stunt was bringing good publicity to the once-maligned towers.

When asked why he did something so wildly dangerous, Petit said, "When I see three oranges, I juggle; when I see two towers, I walk."

Every day we hear people -- including ourselves -- say they wish they could do something, but it's too much of a risk. Quitting your job and starting your own business, auditioning for that perfect role but for the rejection, running that marathon, submitting that book proposal, kissing him. Too risky, we say.

Next time you catch yourself thinking "Too risky," remember Philippe Petit. Prepare, then dare.

(If you'd like to learn more about Philippe Petit, check out the Academy Award-winning documentary "Man on Wire.")


Namaste said...

yes, he is wonderful!