Phillipe Petit crosses between the Twin Towers, August 7, 1974

How you can use Phillipe Petit’s secret for accomplishing great things

In 1974, the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center complex stood as the highest buildings in the world. On the morning of August 7, Phillipe Petit, a 24-year-old Frenchman, stepped off the edge of the south tower to walk the wire he had rigged between them.

This was not an official stunt. In fact, Petit referred to it as his “le coup, the artistic crime of the century” and spent six years planning. It all led to roughly 45 minutes spent on the wire, where he made eight passes back and forth between the buildings — including kneeling and lying down on his back — before walking off the other side to the waiting handcuffs of police.

The entire story was captured by Petit and his crew and was later turned into a documentary called “Man on Wire,” in homage to the description from the original police report. “Man on Wire” was completed in 2008 and won several prestigious awards, including the Grand Jury Prize from the Sundance Film Festival and the Academy Award for Best Documentary. The movie is terrific; I recommend you make an effort to see it.

I was reminded of Petit recently while watching a TED Talk he gave in March, ’12. As he described what it was like to take that first step from the edge of the building at the top of the world, I couldn’t help but think of how his words applied to every endeavor, every project, every effort we make.

Those of us who work at desks are not often faced with being on the edge, but there are certainly events that push us beyond our comfort zone and raise the blood pressure. Expectations, either internal or external, exert tremendous forces that must be dealt with in order to succeed. Here is how Petit describes these moments and how he quiets the “inner howl” that assails him. The words are his, the emphasis is mine:

On the top of the World Trade Center, my first step was… terrifying.

All of the sudden, the density of the air is no longer the same. Manhattan no longer spreads its’ infinity; the murmur of the city dissolves into a squall whose chill and power I no longer feel… I lift the balancing pole, I approach the edge, I step over the beam. I put my left foot on the cable. The weight of my body rests on my right leg, anchored to the flank of the building. I ever-so-slightly shift my weight to the left, my right leg will be unburdened, my foot will freely meet the wire.

An inner howl assails me: the wild longing to flee. But it is too late. The wire is ready. Decisively, my other foot sets itself onto the cable.

‘Faith’ is what replaces ‘doubt’ in my dictionary.

When he puts one foot on the wire, he has the faith — the certitude — that he will perform the last step. If not, he says, he would run away and hide.

You cannot have a project or goal if you don’t have faith. If not, it will be like ‘Oh, I hope, one day, you know, that success will fall from the sky and I’ll be there to receive it.’ It doesn’t work like that.

“There is no recipe, there is no algorithm, parameter or algebraic formula that I could give to say, “If you need to concentrate in duress or in an amazing moment in your life, do this or do that…” it all depends on who we are.

But I believe he has provided the formula: We have to know both where we’re starting and where we’re going, and we must have absolute faith that we’ll get there. If we do, taking that last step will be as certain as the first.

The big announcement from Apple wasn’t the Watch or the new iPhone

Apple Watch

A game-changer for the fitness industry, but not the biggest announcement of the day

Let’s be clear: everyone (except me, apparently) wanted a bigger phone. They’re going to get that with the new iPhone 6 and 6L. And the Apple WATCH, with it’s beautiful design, fitness tracking capabilities and deep integration with the iPhone is going to be a big hit. (A very big hit, in fact.)

But the announcement that stole the show was also the one that you might have missed. It was the introduction of Apple Pay. Apple’s new payment system will work in tandem with an NFC chip built into the phone and rely on the already-popular fingerprint scanning security features. In theory, it will make it simple for you to pay for nearly anything without ever reaching into your wallet.

At launch, there will only be about 200,000 place where you’ll be able to use this new process, but look for that number to grow very rapidly over the next couple of years. The reason this is such a big freaking deal is this: everyday, Americans process more than $12 billion dollars in credit and debit card payments. If they can convert these transactions to happen in their ecosystem, Apple stands to make a tiny percentage on each one of those transactiosn. A tiny percentage; so small no one will really notice. But pick almost any tiny number you like and then multiply it by 12 billion. The result won’t be so tiny anymore. That’s the size of the market, theoretically available for a cash influx, every single day.

Of course, they won’t get all of them and there are certainly competitors in the market. To be sure, Google Wallet has been around for awhile without making much of a dent in the market. But let’s not forget there were other MP3 players before the iPod and there were other phones before the iPhone and there were other tablets before the iPad. Apple has consistently shown they can become the dominant player in key industries by exercising a willful amount of patience and skillful execution. I fully expect Apple Pay to have precisely the same results.

Might be time to take another look at picking up some Apple stock. (AAPL)

(For a more detailed look at Apple Pay, see this article from The New York Times Technology section: With Apple Pay, a Push Into Mobile Payments)

Six-Word Memoirs help provide focus and inspiration

six-word memoir

For this: “I love you, Dad.”

There’s a legend that Hemingway wrote the greatest short story ever using just six words:

“For sale, baby shoes. Never worn.”

There are many indications that Papa didn’t pen those words or— if he did— was not the first to do so. But the Hemingway attribution persists, as these things often do.

The baby shoes story is illustrative of trying to tell a story with the absolute minimum of words. Generally referred to as flash fiction, the six-word limit led to the idea of the six-word memoir, including a collection published in book form by Smith Magazine in 2008.

Regardless, the point remains: you can say a lot without saying much at all. Which brings me around to my question today.

Why are you doing what you’re doing? Or, put another way, when you’re gone, what do you want people to remember about you? 

Recently, my CEO group was tasked with considering these questions and writing our own six-word memoirs. It’s a great exercise that will help you hone in on the things that really keep you going, enabling you to marginalize all the noise and trash that just interferes with clear thinking.

It was also surprisingly difficult to do. In the end, I finally settled on:

For this: “I love you, Dad.” 

Do you have your own six-word memoir? If so, I’d love to read it; share it in the comments below. If you haven’t written one yet but want to try, Smith Magazine has some great examples and good inspiration.

Heartbreak leads to a tiny, lovely tribute from a worldwide community

rebeccapurple

Rebecca Alison Meyer
June 7, 2008 – June 7, 2014

Eric Meyer is an expert in what we call Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), which are used to control how things “look” in your web browser. Truth be told, he’s a bit of a legend who has spearheaded the development of making it easier for us to build beautiful things. At Rare Bird, we’re all familiar with his work and some of us have either heard him speak or read his books (or, in a few cases, both.)

A couple of weeks ago, on June 7, his daughter Rebecca passed away. She was six.

Eric and his wife, Kathryn, requested that those who attend the services and are comfortable wearing purple do so in honor of Rebecca and her favorite color. Upon hearing this, a member of the WC3 staff, Dom Hazaël-Massieux, requested that a purple in the CSS color list be named “Becca Purple” in her memory. Eric suggested that it be named “rebeccapurple” instead, because his daughter wanted everyone to call her Rebecca after she turned six, and – after all – she was six for almost 12 hours.

On Saturday, June 21, Rebecca Purple (#663399) was officially added as the 141st color to be recognized by name by all web browsers.

And so, from this tremendous heartbreak, a color is born.

This is why I write things down (and why you should, too)

Keep a Journal

Remembering what they say is the best reason to keep a journal

I was glancing through recent entries in my journal and found this gem from March 9, 2013:

Grace: “It’s been soo long since I was swimming in a pool!”
Char: “I know, it’s great.”
Grace: “It’s so much better than trying to do it in the bathtub!”

I had no memory of this. If I hadn’t written it down, it would have been lost forever. I can’t tell you how many times this has happened to me.

It’s happening to you, too, whether you know it or not. So start writing things down.

For simplicity, I’m using Day One, a Mac-based digital journal that makes it simple to record little items like this and longer form entries. I highly recommend it.

I also found this tip from Michael Hyatt the other day and I’ve been trying it since I read it. I think he’s definitely on to something. His advice? Use a template to prompt your entries. Here’s the (short) article where he lays it out and provides the template he uses. Try it, it works.