Brian D. Shelton | Life on the Wire

Last Friday night, my family and I sat riveted to the television, as we watched Nik Wallenda fulfill a lifelong dream.

He became the first person to traverse Horseshoe Falls at Niagara Falls on a two-inch-wide cable suspended 200 feet in the air, spanning the equivalent of more than four football fields.

The feat lasted a little over 25 minutes, but the journey took him almost 27 years to complete.

At age 6, Nik was on a family trip when he first visited the Falls and had the thought, “Wouldn’t it be cool to be the first person in the world to walk directly across the top of Niagara Falls on a tight rope.” The dream was born.

A seventh-generation member of The Flying Wallendas family of aerialists, Nik Wallenda is a six-time Guinness World Record holder and self-described “King of the Wire.” He had been preparing, directly and indirectly, to realize this dream since he first dared to dream it 27 years ago.

In addition to physical and mental preparation, Wallenda needed to get two laws changed — one in Canada and one in the United States — in order to make the attempt to cross Niagara Falls. Each law was more than 100 years old and it took Wallenda two years of lobbying to make it happen.

As with any dream, preparation, patience and persistence in the face of any and all challenges were at the center of his successful completion of the walk.

Wallenda’s journey consisted of 5 stages: The Descent – The Wet Zone – The Valley – The Climb – The Final Test.

His trip across Niagara Falls is a beautiful metaphor for life and the realization of a dream; it was a journey made up of very different stages, each wrought with unique (often perilous) challenges.

In spite of the danger, excitement, awe-inspiring imagery and magnitude of the moment, what struck me at my core was the absolute and undeniable power one person’s dream can have on others.

photo credit

As I sat (ok, I admit, I stood and mostly paced) watching Wallenda slowly, gracefully walk that two-inch wide cable, I surveyed the room to find each member of my family entranced by what they saw happening on the television.

My nine-year-old daughter’s eyes were the size of saucers when they weren’t obscured by her hands. I could feel her heart pounding in her chest from across the room as she watched. She began asking questions. She started dreaming out loud.

I could hear the inspired and energized crowd of over 100,000 cheering, the commentators expressing their awe, my own child expressing her “if he can do that, I can live my dream” thoughts to her mom and me. In that moment, I could literally feel the power of a dream.

From the time she was born until now, each night I tell my daughter, “Sweet dreams and always dream big.” That night, those words suddenly clicked — for her and for me. For her, Wallenda’s feat was a tangible example of what those words really mean. It awakened her from deep within.

For me, seeing that affirmation come to life in my daughter was humbling and exciting. It was also a great reminder that I must lead by example, that I will not give up on my own dreams, but rather pursue them with the exuberance of a child.

For more information on Nik Wallenda, visit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nik_Wallenda

Watch the event: http://abc.go.com/watch/2020/SH559026/VD55211543/highwire-of-niagara-falls—live

Brian D. Shelton serves as Global Strategic Marketing Manager for ExactTarget. He has over a decade of experience, which includes an extensive background in marketing, public relations, e-commerce management, product development, technology, and web development. Brian holds a Master of Science degree in New Media supported by a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism, both from Indiana University. He lives on the west side of Indianapolis with his wife, Rachel, and two daughters. Contact Brian directly at bshelton@exacttarget.com or via Twitter @briandshelton.

Getting Out of My Children’s Way

“I am so happy to see you.  Tell me about your week,” I fondly said to my 15 yr-old when I arrived home from the Tribeca Disruptive Innovation Awards.  “What battles did you win on World of Warcraft?  Would you like to grab lunch tomorrow so we can catch up?”

I did say, “I'm so happy to see you.”

The rest of the conversation is fictionalized.  It went more like, “Did you finish your homework for Monday?  Have you practiced trombone?  It's time for you to go to bed.”

Seriously.

Unfortunately, I seem to be learning to positive-speak rather slowly.  Here's a recap of an interchange with my daughter in mid 2010.

***

My 9 yr-old daughter bounded into our bedroom this morning, announcing that she has two projects on the docket for today.  The first is a habitat with rocks and soil in a re-purposed lizard tank (think fish tank but for land creatures).  The second is to make animals out of homemade play-doh and paint them.

As I listened to the unveiling of her plans, the only thing I could really focus on was that her fingernails were dirty, and needed to be cut before we go to church.

Seriously.

I did finally push out of my mouth something like “What great initiative Miranda! Sounds like a terrific project!”  But this was not my first or even screaming-to-be-said thought.


When we interact with adults, and even other people's children, we make a concerted effort to emphasize the good over the bad, carefully timing any bad.  Yet we often, even compulsively, and clumsily point out what isn't right with our children.

Wrote William James, “the art of being wise is the art of knowing what to overlook.”

I'm thinking that if I want to rear children that know how to dream, and be a person around whom others will feel it's safe to dream, it would behoove me to work on overlooking the bad, underscoring the good.

I will eventually mention that my daughter needs to trim her nails, because good grooming is important. But the timing difference — a delay of just two hours — is key.

I sometimes wonder if the biggest obstacle to my children's dreams is me.

May we know what and when to overlook.


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