Don’t Forget to Smile

Recently I watched the fascinating and inspiring documentary Man on Wire, the story of Philippe Petit, a tightrope walker, and his amazing high-wire routine performed in 1974 between the World Trade Center’s twin towers.

The story of Petit and his colleagues pulling off the ambitious routine is almost too good to be true and keeps you on the edge of your seat despite the fact that you know what happens. This is no doubt in large part why it was awarded the Oscar for Best Documentary in 2009.

There is a particular scene that I think is a beautiful metaphor for goals and visioning. Petit set out from a young age to dazzle the world with his high-wire routines and scaled monuments such as Notre Dame and the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Petit was however unsettled with theses accomplishments. When word came of the building of the twin towers in New York City, Petit set the ambitious and elevating goal to walk between them before ground had ever been broken on the buildings. Director James Marsh delightfully chronicles Petit and his friends’ journey to secretly plan and scale the two towers.

When Petit finally gets up there in spite of all the obstacles, he does something truly remarkable that is worthy of our attention: he smiles. There are police on either side of him waiting to arrest him, throngs of onlookers witnessing from down below, a stiff wind that could easily knock Petit one or two inches off; and yet despite all of this, Petit knows that he is accomplishing a major life goal. He even takes his time and makes eight crossings between the towers that lasted nearly an hour!

It’s a beautiful reminder for us all to literally stop and smell the roses; to enjoy ourselves when we follow through on the intentions we set for ourselves. As someone who constantly aims to grow and learn, it’s a good reminder for me to mark occasions when I complete a goal or task and pause before I continue setting more goals and outcomes. This can have the positive effect of building up a well of positive emotions and memories, which can provide more inspiration for scaling taller towers and more ambitious visions in the future.

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