The Lessons Of ‘Loving Your Work’ From ‘The Walk’ Movie-Part 02

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“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.

Link to Part 01

09. SELF-IDENTITY

Our field of work provides self-identity. What would help you select a relevant field or work that interests you? Your observational skills -Your attention capacity would help you identify your interests and cultivate passion.

Your life’s happiness depends on how you use your limited attention capabilities to observe things in the environment.

The first lesson is to observe things as it is without any intention to judge. Need to have a beginner’s mind. Understand the reality and then reflect on them later. A person becomes a Gourmet when he starts paying attention to the taste, texture, aroma, appearance, and temperature of the different foods. By focusing on the sensual qualities of food, he starts enjoying the food, develops a deep interest, which further grows into a passion.

Philippe’s father was not a wire-walker. How did he then become a wire-walker? Philippe had no idea what he wants to be in the future — He had no goals that were different from other kids. How did he develop this self-identity?

One day, Philippe’s father took him to a circus. There, he witnessed a wire-walker performing the tight-rope walk. Philippe was mesmerised, became attentive and got fascinated by the mysterious, dangerous act. He was more attentive to the details and felt that the act was so enchanting and beautiful.

Petit taught himself to walk on a rope by stretching a bunch of wires between two trees in his home backyard and removing them one at a time. As he gained more skill, he increased the height of the rope from the ground. He practised, practised, learnt and developed new skills, his attention to details grew further — it led to new challenges — it led to more practice — his interest deepened — he found a new purpose — he became passionate — it led him to a new self-identity.

This accidental witnessing of wire-walking event imposed on Petit’s consciousness. It was not a planned one. His goals didn’t direct his attention to wire-walking. He just kept his mind open for observation and understanding. Are we keeping ourselves open enough to explore, attentive enough to note things below the visible surface?

When Philippe practised wire-walking, he felt that the experience resonated with previous things which he had enjoyed doing. He believed that wire-walking action itself was worth seeking out again and not on the rewards. Did you choose your work for the joy of sheer sake of doing it or for the rewards?

10. ATTENTION TO DETAILS

Petit crosses the first Cavaletti plate — He notes that the plate was upside down, but appears fine.

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I approach the first cavaletti,
and it's upside down.
But I look closer and it seems okay.
Thank you, Papa Rudy,
for suggesting the three bolts.
Read more: https://www.springfieldspringfield.co.uk/movie_script.php?movie=the-walk

Philippe owes his success to “Attention to detail” — He did extensive research on the required hardness of the wire, atmospheric conditions, prevailing wind patterns at the top of twin towers. He spent money and time to learn the construction of rigging the wires to the buildings. He extensively practised rigging along with the teammates.

Philippe made so many trips in different disguises to the towers and observed as much as possible. He practised passing the rope from one tower to another with this teammates. He was particular about the costume which he has to wear while walking on the wire. He even worked on the padding thickness of shoe such that he could sense the wire surface and tension without difficulty. He went over the plan so many times. He never wanted to let anything for chance.

Philippe’s attention to details reduced the margin of error as close to zero and minimized the danger involved in wire-walking. One’s work quality depends on attention to details — It reduces the margin of errors, improves our performance, reduces our effort in the long-term and enhances our enjoyable experiences.

11. CONTROL YOUR EXPERIENCE OF EXTERNAL CONDITIONS

In one of the scenes, Philippe got his first opportunity for a public walk over a small lake in a little village. While walking on the wire, Philippe saw below a group of drunken people in a boat, making fun of him. He got distracted, footing became unstable, frustration mounted, slipped and fell into the water. Petit was heartbroken. Drunken fisherman mockingly gave a rousing ovation, Petit felt humiliated. What did he do then?

Philippe attempted to walk on the wire tied between towers of Notre Dame Cathedral and he succeeded. He redeemed himself.

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For the New York Twin Towers Coup, Philippe planned well, took precautions and fully prepared for the conditions which he could control. In spite of his preparation, he knew that some external conditions would be beyond his control but he was determined to overcome those obstacles.

On the eve of eventful day, Petit had to face multiple challenges — an unexpected security measure delayed the schedule by three hours — There was continuous movement of guards on the premises — Wheels of trolley broke while carrying the heavy equipment to the roof — a couple of his teammates got frightened and deserted him — While rigging, the heavy cable slipped, sank too fast from the roof and had to be pulled up manually for hours. Philippe did not worry about those unexpected external conditions or those temporary frustrations. He forced himself and his teammates to find a way to overcome the obstacles.

Philippe felt that exercising control in those unfavourable conditions were the reasons why he could enjoy the performance and why he considered wire-walking as an art.

It is in our mind how we experience and react to these unfavourable conditions. If those unfavourable external conditions affect our mind, it would provoke negative thoughts. To have an enjoyable experience, we need to learn to change our experience of external conditions(If we cannot alter) in our mind to match our goals.

12. YOU ARE UNIQUE, YET YOU ARE ONE OF THEM

When Philippe overcame a challenge of walking on the wire between the twin towers, he felt a sense of mastery, more capable and highly skilled person. He perceived himself as a unique person with a rarer skill, different from masses — A person of specialisation. Yet, Philippe felt he was part of others — He was one among them.

In the movie, Philippe, after walking over the wire and reaching North Tower, rests his hand on one of his companion Jean-Louis’ shoulder and with a smile, thanks to him.

My friend, thank you.
I had finished my crossing,
the coup was over.
We did it.
Read more: https://www.springfieldspringfield.co.uk/movie_script.php?movie=the-walk

He mentions “We did it”. No Ego there.

Again Petit walks over the wire. As he continued to walk, he felt emotional and thanked towers, rope, New York people and his accomplices. In one of the earlier scenes in the movie, Petit refused to salute the audience during a practice session. But once on the wire between twin towers, he truly felt saluting them. He knelt and saluted the New York people.

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Philippe, after the show was over, to his accomplices

I would like to make a toast now.
To all of you, my accomplices.
I know I can be, uh...
A bit difficult.
But, but you never gave up on me.
And because of this,
I was able to walk on that wire.
So for allowing me this honor, thank you
Read more: https://www.springfieldspringfield.co.uk/movie_script.php?movie=the-walk

Philippe was not just unique but had respect for other people and to the world in general. He felt integrated into the environment.

One of the common factors for everyone’s success is “Presence of Other People”.

You may be unique, but need to respect people and the environment for sustainable enjoyable experiences. Let your ego go away.

13. REFRAME

Philippe did not see ‘walking on the wire’ as a danger but as a life. His enjoyment did not come from overcoming the fear of heights or overcoming some other deep-seated fear, but from the art of performing the “Wire-walk” and control of the environment.

Philippe tried to develop his skills, not thinking from the perspective of minimizing the danger, but from the perspective of beautifying his ‘wire-walking’ performance. He did not use safety gears as he felt he could not possibly experience joy in performance. He saw those unpredictable physical external conditions as opportunities that could help him to enjoy the ‘Wire-walking”, that could lead him to a sense of mastery. Reframe your fears, challenges.

14. WORRIES

While walking on the wire, Philippe would not survive if his mind starts worrying. What if the wire snaps? What if the rigging bends? What if the Cavaletti clamp creaks? What if the cable stretched around tower grid tear? What if the wood at the cable anchor point splits apart? He never thought about other personal worries while being on the wire. He knew he could not do anything unless he gets down on the wire. So worrying while on the wire would not help.

None can perform to the fullest of his ability under doubts or worries. We cannot divert the limited attention capacity to other things. We need to be totally absorbed in the activity. It would happen only when our skills match the challenges. If we are less skilled for the challenge, the task would be daunting(We would feel anxious), we would fail and get discouraged. If we are highly skilled for the challenge, we would be bored. You need to build the right balance.

CONCLUSION

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.

Written by

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

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