Why are Some People Who Live on the Edge Surprised When They Fall?

Why are Some People Who Live on the Edge Surprised When They Fall?I admit it. I have a fear of heights. It began many years when I almost fell from a precipice on the grounds of the United States Military Academy at West Point. I had been running as best one can through some dense underbrush when I saw what appeared to be an opening ahead. As I broke through, I realized that it wasn’t just an opening – it was drop of more than 50 feet. I managed to grab a hold of limbs reaching out to me on both sides, limbs that saved me, perhaps from death.

It was in those eternal seconds when I was leaning forward, hanging on for dear life, staring at the rocks below and sucking for air, that I realized that I needed to learn to become much more acutely aware of where I am at all times. That has saved me from falling countless times since.

I find it fascinating that so many people like to live their lives and even run their businesses living on the edge. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve heard all of the explanations, like going for the gusto, or experiencing the next big thrill, or making a lot of money. But, have you ever noticed that, before you make that bungee jump, some person whom you have never met before, hands you a clipboard and a pen and asks you to sign a waiver that releases them from responsibility for the action they are about to help you take? Think about that for minute. You’re the one about to do the dangerous thing, but they are the ones looking for protection!

I’m not here to advise you against taking risks, but there is a huge gap between foolish risks and calculated risk. Experience has proven to me that most people unwilling to count the cost of their actions. Unless you count the cost, you can’t calculate the risk.

I don’t walk close to the edge of cliffs or busy highways, because the cost of the risk is more than I believe that I can afford. There are many accomplishments that can be achieved, if one is willing to pay the price for living on the edge. Climbing Mt. Everest is a loft goal, but it is not without significant risks. Anyone who would consider taking on that challenge must also consider that the risk of failure is greater than the reward of success. The bodies buried beneath the ice and snow are testimony to those who had believed that nothing could stop them.

Our generation has tainted the original meaning of the Nike slogan, “Just do it.” The fact is that that is often very bad advice. I have stood high on mountain tops and savored the magnificence of the Grand Canyon, but I refuse to approach the edge. Stone Mountain rises out of the ground not far from Lithonia, Georgia. I have climbed it several times. But there is a strange phenomenon about that place. There is a point of no return as one walks toward the vertical side of the mountain. The human eye is not able to discern where that point is. For that reason, many, thinking that they were safe, walked too close to the edge and have fallen to their deaths. My point is that often times we are not able to tell where the falling off place is.

That being the case, it seems to be best to try to avoid that place, not to try to see how close you can come to it.

On a much more practical scale, I propose that we count the cost and calculate the risk more carefully when . . .

. . . We think about telling a lie
. . . We consider stealing from others
. . . We want to see how fast this baby can go
. . . We contemplate revenge
. . . We feel like following the crowd
. . . We value power or popularity more than personal integrity
. . . We don’t care what others think
. . . We don’t think that we will get caught

When you break it down and reason it out, there is no more dangerous place to be than on the edge. The thrills that kill last a lifetime. The problem is that the lifetime is often much shorter or much less enjoyable than it could have been.

I can think of a dozen ways to end this, but I think that Rotary International’s 4-Way Test can help in every situation where we must decide what to think, say, or do. We would all benefit from asking ourselves these four questions before we make any decision:

  • Is it the TRUTH?
  • Is it FAIR to all concerned?
  • Will it build GOODWILL and better FRIENDSHIPS?
  • Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?

Answering those questions honestly will keep us far enough away from the edge to be safe and secure, if not prosperous and of clear conscience.

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Is Success Measured by What We Accomplish in Life?

Is Success Measured by What We Accomplish in LifeSuccess is measured by what we accomplish in life. Isn’t that right? No, it is not.

The problem with measuring success by what we accomplish is that we have no standard against which to measure. The fallacy of determining success is often subtle.

We have been trained to view success as reaching a goal. That goal could be imposed or it could be self-defined. Some would say that earning a degree is a measure of success. It’s hard to argue with that, but it is only a success in that you achieved a predetermined goal. But that “success” is limited to achieving that singular goal. Once achieved, there must be new goals set and new attempts to reach those new goals. Reaching each goal is a success. But when does a person become a success?

Is it when you earn your first million dollars? Or is it when you retire? If success is earning a million dollars, the majority of people on the planet are not successful. If it is retirement, another whole group are not successful, and many of those are people who successfully planned to retire, but who suffered some kind of physical or financial disaster. Does that mean that they were never successful? Suppose you make a million dollars. Suppose you spend it all. If you called earning it success, what do you call spending it?

May I submit that success should not measured by what we have done? Rather, it should be measured by what we have done compared to what we could have done. Success is a measure of accomplishment versus possibility. The real question is not, “What have you done?” It is, “What have you done with what you have available?”

The founder of a prominent, private university used to say that, “Not everyone comes to school with a 50-gallon brain to fill. Some only have a thimble.” He would continue on to make the point that the school would make every effort to fill whatever brain capacity you brought. The problem, as he had seen it over the years, was that altogether too many who brought large capacities graduated without a thimble-full of essential learning. The question he was asking was, “At the end of four years, what will you have learned compared to what you could have learned?”

Barbara Corcoran, of Shark Tank fame, noted that she will never invest in any enterprise run by children of wealthy parents. Her observation was that they tend not to appreciate what they have, because they have so much. Therefore, they are more likely to make reckless decisions because they think in terms of, “What have we got to lose?” At the other end of the spectrum there are people who invest and risk everything they have. Some win. Some lose. But they all tend to try harder.

Those with nothing to lose don’t need to try as hard. If their venture fails, they can always try something else. I generally agree with her observation. It is not always true, but it is often true. She understands that people who are standing with their backs to the wall have no choice but to give it everything they’ve got. If they don’t, they may have to start over with nothing. These people have determined that they are “all in.” For them, there is no “Try.” There is only “Do.”

They are the successful people. They are not the people who measure success by what they have done. They are the people who measure success by doing all they can do to be all they can be.

Where are you on the road to success? Are you giving it all you’ve got? That’s what it is going to take.

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Cause & Effect are not necessarily closely related in Time & Space

Cause & Effect are not necessarily closely related in Time & SpaceMost of us learned years ago that, “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” We were also taught that “There is a cause for every effect and an effect for every cause.” Somewhere along the line, we have come to misunderstand how those two principles operate.

In the western culture we have come to believe that every reaction is immediate to the action, and we transpose that onto cause and effect. We have complacently led ourselves to believe that cause and affect are closely related in time and space. That is not necessarily so.

The fact is that cause and effect are not necessarily closely related in time and space. They can be, but they do not have to be. If we fail to understand that, we will eventually suffer consequences that can sometimes be severe.

Lung cancer as a result of smoking cigarettes is a classic example. Many young people have understood the potential effect caused by smoking, but they always think that, “it won’t happen to me.” Day after day, month after month, and even year after year, they continue to smoke with no apparent effect. Then, one day, in what had once appeared to be the distant future, an x-ray or other test reveals the inevitable effect. It may have been a long time coming, but it came.

There is an aspect of this axiom that can yield positive results, but one which may also cause us to unnecessarily suffer. I’m talking about doing good things for others and expecting immediate results. If we do not understand that the real effects of our good deeds may not appear for many years, or that we may never personally witness the ultimate outcome, we can become weary, even to the point of bitterness, thinking that we have wasted our time. It is only when we fully grasp the concept that the desired effect will eventually come, that we can continue pressing on even when we see no apparent effect.

In the early 16th century, as a teenager, Galileo notice that when the chandeliers in the cathedral at Pisa swung back and forth, the time it took to make the swing from one end to the other was always the same, regardless of the distance. He conducted experiments that proved his observation to be correct and he recorded his observations. Fifty years would pass before another man thought of a practical application for Galileo’s findings. The invention of the pendulum clock became one of the most dramatic, life-changing events in the history of mankind.

Now here is the moral of the story. We make countless choices every day. Each of those choices will ultimately have some kind of effect. Some of those effects will be immediate, but some will not. What is more, some of those that have an immediate effect will also have a long-term effect. The principle applies for every choice. It does not differentiate between good and bad. It just is.

Making right choices tips the balance in your favor that the eventual effects will be beneficial to yourself and others – perhaps many others. I would hope that we would always choose wisely, or at least try to. I wish everyone who reads this would stop making bad choices, not just because they are inherently bad choices, but because their effects will eventually be felt. But my concern is far greater than that.

My singular hope today is that this article will have an effect on people who are already committed to making right choices, that it will encourage you to keep on keeping on and that you will focus on continuing, with full assurance, that cause and effect are not necessarily closely related in time and space. Do not be discouraged. Do not think that you are not having an effect. You may not see it yet, but your reward will come someday.

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