Don’t Look Down

March 2018

“Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet” – Stephen Hawking

I was recently at the World Congress Center in Atlanta and I ended up being the last person to leave the conference. I hopped on the escalator and headed up to the next level. The escalators at the WCC are extremely long and about 1/3 of the way up, I realized I was the only person on the escalator. No one was behind me.

I turned my head and looked down. Big mistake. It was a long way down. I got anxious and gripped the handrail but my knees were buckling. I have been on hundreds of escalators in airports, office buildings, and even amusements parks. But never alone. There were always people behind me. So it never occurred to me to look down. 

It seemed like an eternity getting to the top, but when I finally arrived, I was pale, sweating and almost on my hands and knees. A tiny kind woman who spoke no English came over to help me up. I was so relieved and grateful that I hugged her and profusely thanked her for saving my life. 

So what just happened? The answer is simple – I looked down. And it was scary. But there was an outstretched arm and ultimately success at the top of the stairs if I could just get there.  

What a metaphor for life. Loss of confidence can show up in a myriad of ways. Our response should be to keep moving forward. Keep learning, unlearning, and relearning.  Don’t get stuck and don’t look backwards at the scary stuff. At least not for long.

Kikkan Randall and Jessica Diggins finally did what no American women had ever done before. They won a gold medal in cross-country skiing at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang. But it took them 18 tries. They sure didn’t look down. Diggins said, “It feels unreal, I can’t believe it just happened. For sure it is painful but then we go ‘wow, I just pushed myself so hard, I can’t believe we were able to do it.’ It’s a sport that demands so much of you and challenges you to dig deep down and see what you’re really made of. And this gold metal means so much more as a team, than it ever would as an individual metal.”  

Astronaut Clayton Anderson was rejected 14 times by the NASA astronaut selection committee before they said yes. Yet he was always looking up.  “The fact that I applied to become an astronaut fifteen times has not been lost on my friends, followers, or fans. Jokes and snide remarks hinged on the fact that 14 times I was a failure and a reject. Even a NASA public service announcement highlighted that it took me fifteen tries. I could not have cared less. I wanted to be an astronaut.”  

Life is too short for paralyzing fear, giving up, and looking down.  As Brene Brown says, “Living a brave life is not always easy. But regaining our footing in the midst of struggles and fear is where our values are forged”.  We all have a choice – do we look up or down? The test is to stay resilient and move your way back up. The one thing all Olympic skiers, astronauts, business leaders, and celebrated achievers in any field have in common, is that at the beginning of their journey, they were none of these things.  

Check out this link…the most fun you will have looking up! Elon Musk’s Falcon Heavy Launch 2018