Blogpost, self-reliance

We’re Going Streaking!

Putting in a lot of hours on the stationary bike has necessitated the watching of some older movies. The most recent watch was the classic comedy Old School. A band of past their prime men unite with some college students in order to form a fraternity and craziness ensues. Like most of the silly comedies of the genre, the heroes rally a form of victory despite their lazy and generally idiotic ways. Although there is plenty to focus on from this film, the one scene that I want to revisit is Frank “The Tank” doing a lone streaking run.

With a microphone in hand and no inhibitions to be found, Will Ferrell’s character screams at the top of his lungs, “We’re going streaking!” He attempts to lead a group of naked followers through the quad and into the gymnasium. The problem is that no one follows. So he is a solo nudist running down the middle of the street to be found by his wife and her friends. It’s the beginning of the end of Frank’s marriage as he tumbles out of the trust tree and fully into his alter ego of Frank the Tank. Of course in this movie, idiocy is celebrated but how about real life?

Derek Sivers has a great Ted Talk about “starting a movement”. The key difference between an idiot and a movement is often numbers. The right ideas are not always the ones that win. Galileo was excommunicated even though he was right. It’s the lone idiot who can get people to follow them that wins the day. Since the best ideas don’t always win and traction often matters more than objective truth, what causes should we look to champion? This is where the Frank the Tank example truly matters.

The causes that are truly worth it are the ones where you’re not afraid to be the lone idiot streaking. Frank’s cause may not have been intelligent or popular but he went at it with full force. Our passion and not our popularity should decide the direction that we run. And the other uncomfortable but necessary part to any passion project is that there are times where forward motion is going to require us to be naked and unafraid. It won’t always be pretty but it will be genuine.

You’re my boy Blue!



The Thirteen Year Safety Net

HighWireWalkerIn the 1970’s Philippe Petit walked a high wire strung between the Twin Towers in New York City.  It was an amazing feat that was a result of a slow but steady progression of skill and daring over years.  The film “Man On Wire” is a great documentary about the planning and execution of his walk.  A slight warning that if you are afraid of heights, you may feel uneasy.  Even though you are safe from any imminent danger, you may feel dizzy or tingly based on the images.  I cannot imagine how Philippe Petit felt during the walk, over one thousand feet in the air without a net!  Sure, he had years of experience and successful walks but the scale of this endeavor dwarfed everything else.  It is easy to look at Philippe and say that he is special, talented or even crazy.  Closer to the truth is probably that he was passionate about pursuing something to an extreme level.  The use of a net negates the entire reason that he was walking in the first place.  Under no circumstances and am I suggesting that a tight rope walk from dizzying height should be be in anyone’s future (I’m one of those people who tingles just seeing the photos).  I am suggesting that the intersection of passion and stakes is a place of power.  It’s someplace that we need to become more comfortable going to.

Unfortunately at the moment, we seem to be faced in the opposite direction.  The formative years of youth and adolescence are spent with nothing but safety nets around.  Whether it is literal foam padding to avoid injury or systems that are meant to insulate young people from failure, responsibility or any other stakes that could injure physically or emotionally.  The dichotomy of these systems are interesting because they protect in the short term and potentially injure in the long term.  Finding the balance of those two extremes is the name of the game.  Philippe did not start out on the roof of the World Trade Center.  Those stakes would have been overwhelming.  His passion for walking the tight rope also would not have grown if he never went higher than six inches off the ground.

For each one of us, we have things that could grow into passions but we are afraid to raise the stakes.  Failing, looking foolish and uncertainty are being trained out of our young people.  We have given many young people a “safe space” but the counterweight needs to be put into place as well otherwise we do not have a creative space.  All creation is messy, uncertain and possibly even dangerous.  We are born from a series of chances taken with an element of risk.  So to protect our future generations from that risk is robbing them of what is to be human.

As I often say to my players, “to be a leader, you need to go first”.  So if you have young people in your life, be a model of a balance in both passion and risk.  Perhaps you also need to break out of the foam rubber because comfort and security are things that many of us desire.  Unfortunately they also allow for little emotional intensity which is what passion is all about.  Go!  Take a chance!  Maybe even a small one and be an example for those onlookers who need someone to show them what is possible!

Philippe didn’t leap but he had to take a step off the edge and you can too!


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