The Lessons Of ‘Loving Your Work’ From ‘The Walk’ Movie-Part 01

“The Walk” movie is based on the story of a 24-year-old high-wire artist Philippe Petit’s walk on a tightrope attached to the north and south towers(twin towers) of the World Trade Center, New York in 1974.

Note: The below content is part of the following book

Business and Life Lessons From The Movies by Shah Mohammed M on Amazon.

PLEASURABLE EXPERIENCE OR ENJOYABLE EXPERIENCE

Everybody takes pleasure in eating the food, but few enjoy it. Everybody takes pleasure in hearing the music, but few could enjoy listening to it. So, what’s the difference between pleasure and enjoyment? Are you finding your work pleasurable or enjoyable?

Pleasure is defined as a feeling of contentment or satisfaction in meeting the expectations we have in our mind. Enjoyment comes only when you go beyond set expectations.

Philippe Petit always kept stretching his expectations every day so that he could sustain his enjoyment in the work. This foundational attitude made him learn the backward somersault, the front somersault, the unicycle, the bicycle, the chair on the wire, jumping through hoops, juggling and finally wire-walking. He kept on re-inventing his art by adding some novelties and challenges.

“In 1971, Philippe walked on a wire tied between two towers of Notre Dame De Paris. He “juggled balls” and “pranced back and forth” as the crowd below applauded. In 1974, he walked on a wire tied between twin towers of New York. He relentlessly continued to walk back and forth for 45 minutes, making Eight passes along the wire, during which he walked, danced, lay down on the wire, and saluted watchers from a kneeling position. Office workers, construction crews and public cheered him on”.

The expectations you exceed today becomes the new opportunity for tomorrow. As Philippe shows, we need to be proactive and pursue ‘Exceeding Expectations” every day.

On the edge, Petit places one foot on the wire

We could sense the tension on Philippe’s face. He could no longer see anyone, towers or new york people. All he could see was the wire which appeared like a floating line to infinity. He no longer heard the sound of New York.

Philippe “And the outside world starts to disappear. Jeff no longer existed. My tower was deserted. I no longer heard the sounds of, New York. Everything fell silent. All I could see was the wire, floating out in a straight line to infinity”.

Philippe felt calm, serene and a sense of harmony while performing. He felt a sense of exhilaration after achieving his goal.

When you start enjoying your work, you would no longer be distracted by the people around you, your sense of duration of time would change, you would be oblivious to the environment and you would be intensely focussed on the activity at hand. You would feel a sense of exhilaration when you achieve the goal. Later, you would feel more peaceful. Does your existing work provide this experience?

Petit Keeps the other foot too on the wire

“As soon as my entire weight is on the cable, I feel immediately a feeling I know by heart. I feel the wire supporting me. I feel the towers supporting the wire”.

Philippe starts walking fluidly on the wire with an intense concentration. The tension in the wire, the grip on the pole, the balancing of the pole provides him feedback about his performance and bestow him with further confidence. He has developed a sense of kinship between toes and the rope, hands and the balancing pole.

“The moment I’m hitting the on-drive correctly, the moment I hear the ‘thud’ sound of the bat, I know I’m in form,” Indian cricketer Rahul Dravid once said.

Without a feedback mechanism inbuilt into your work, you cease to experience the inherent details of your work.

“I remember every moment of that long quest and every moment of the walk. Even 41 years later I have this strange ability to relive it almost instantly” — Philippe Petit.

Philippe loves to recollect his New York Twin Towers wire walk many times — A dialogue in the movie about his subsequent visits to twin towers

And I went there many times alone.
I would find myself there,
looking at the void
to see how the thought comes back,
how the feeling returns.
Because it was...
It was a beautiful day.

Pleasure experiences may provide short-lived pleasant memories, but enjoyable experiences provide long-term rewarding memories. The rewarding memories that go beyond expectations — The memories that could be cherished for a long time — The memories that could become a landmark in our memory.

Our work should also have opportunities to provide peak enjoyable experiences at certain times. A feeling of self-fulfilment should fill our mind. When we look back, the experience should blow our mind how Philippe feels at when he looks back at his experience, we should feel that wish we could do it again.

Philippe’s experiences in practise sessions were not pleasant -Uncomfortable at times — Constant pain on legs, hands, shoulders — Often, dizziness with fatigue — He had to endure everything. Yet, the best enjoyable experiencing moments occur only when a person’s body and mind are stretched to its limits. Every day, Philippe kept on stretching himself in small ways and he got a good understanding of how much he could strain his body and mind. He kept on increasing the challenges and the corresponding skill levels. Are you stretching yourself a bit every day?

Philippe Petit did not keep any expectations of future reward for his dangerous high-wire walk between the Twin Towers. Everyone has got limited attention capacity. Thinking about rewards or consequences would take away attention away from the activity itself.

Regarding Twin Towers Wire-walk — Philippe didn’t think about the walk itself in the initial planning period — His priority was on rigging the wire, learning it, installing the wire without permission. He was focussed on the immediate action, not on the consequences.

The closer Philippe got to the day of the event, he wisely chose to spend his limited attention on wire-walking on the ropes. He did not focus on the consequences or rewards of the success of achieving the goal. For him doing the walk itself is a reward.

Are you focusing your attention on consequences or on your work itself?

You perform leisurely without tension and to your ability if you perform your work for the sake of action itself rather than for any external rewards.

Our society has made everyone to react, behave, work according to the established social rewards and punishments. Be it an employee or be an entrepreneur, we just perform activities to gain approval or appraisal or any other social reward from other society members. The problem is that this attitude places enormous pressure on our body and mind, blocking our performance, which further intensifies the social pressure.

Philippe Petit shows that instead of working or adapting ourselves towards social rewards, we can learn to provide rewards for ourselves(Internal Rewards) — He developed the ability to find enjoyment regardless of the external environment(Police could imprison him for a longer term — Has he worried? What would happen if he fails in his act? What would happen if it rains and there would be a storm? What if a guard caught him? What if the lifts did not work?) — The rewards are in his mind. Nobody controlled his rewards, except himself. His ability to feel happy or enjoy or feel content was in his hands.

Are you working on external rewards? Yes, then we need to learn to substitute them with our own rewards that are under our own control.

Nobody forced Philippe Petit to take wire-walking. Nobody forced his mind and body to undergo tremendous stress — He chose his field, he chose what he would love to do — It is voluntary. The foremost thing in enjoying your work is it should be a voluntary effort and you choose it without compulsion of any external forces.

In our life, many things are beyond our control and it would be time-consuming to understand forces behind unexpected events. If you lost business from a client, you could regain it from another client or from the same client at a later time. If you are fired from your company, if you lost a cricket match, there would be always another opportunity. But Philippe’s work was a potentially dangerous one with serious risks and without another opportunity(He refused to wear any safety gear — He considered that as cheating), but he showed us that we can be in control of our actions and we can master our fate. It may not happen every day, but when it happens, you could feel a sense of exhilaration, enjoyment.

Note: The above content is part of the following book

Business and Life Lessons From The Movies by Shah Mohammed M on Amazon.

References: Flow, The Psychology of Happiness by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi(The main contents are taken from this book), The Walk Movie script by Ladesto, ‘The Walk’ movie, Article on Philippe Petit by Erica Buist, Wikipedia.

Secular Humanist, Business Growth Consultant, Design Thinker, India. Reach me at mmshah8@gmail.com. or https://www.shahmohammed.com

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store