Seventh-generation wire walker Nik Wallenda says, “I was taught when you walk on a wire that’s two feet off the ground, it’s no different than walking on a wire a thousand feet off the ground. It really is about the power of the mind.”
Wallenda’s walks over Niagara Falls, the Grand Canyon, Times Square, and active volcanoes are nothing short of gut-wrenching and mind-blowing. When I consider Wallenda’s profession, it epitomizes the application of mental strength. Wallenda believes that fear and focus go hand in hand. He explains that his mind wants to go to a place of fear when he gets hit with 48-mile-an-hour winds while on a high wire, but the reality is that he’s trained for this in 90-mile-an-hour winds.
For Wallenda, overcoming his fear and staying mentally strong mean respecting the conditions while reminding himself he’s trained for these moments. “If I get to the point where I’m walking a wire, and that fear goes away, the respect goes away, it becomes very dangerous because now I’m complacent,” he says.
Much like I’ve explained that you have to work at getting beyond your fears and let down your proverbial mask, Wallenda says we all have our own high wires we have to face. No matter the metaphor, everyone experiences personal battles they must overcome. Resilience is a life skill that everyone should cultivate, and like a muscle, resilience requires exercise. The more you test this muscle, the better prepared you’ll be for increasing challenges in your life.
Wallenda dealt with the test of a lifetime when he was training with his family to break another world record. They were practicing a four-layer, eight-person pyramid on a wire. On the second day of high-wire training, five family members and friends fell to the ground while attempting the pyramid. After they had assurances that everyone was okay, their group faced the reality that they were scheduled to perform on tour for the next thirty days.
They had no choice but to get back up and perform as if their fall hadn’t happened that day. Wallenda says his extensive training enabled him to get back on the wire. His resiliency was built up over time, having completed thousands of successful high-wire walks—some blindfolded!
Though I was never a thousand feet above the ground like Wallenda, I’ve been exercising my capacity for resiliency over and over again to the point that it’s given me a great sense of peace. I want the same for you. I promise; you don’t have to walk through fire or on a wire. Start with small steps toward the change you want to see in yourself. You don’t have to look long for ways you can test yourself. We all have our own challenges, fears, or perceived risks we may encounter. Let’s learn from Wallenda’s experience: each incremental step is its own reward, builds confidence, and strengthens your mental muscle.
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