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Failure is The Breaking Point and Not One Second Sooner

Bluebells in the Forest

Stuff happens. Stuff goes wrong. If it doesn’t, then something really is wrong. And when stuff goes wrong, sometimes we have to get as close to failing as we can possibly get to see the right course of action …

A number of years ago I was driving down a highway here in Vancouver with my girlfriend at the time. It’s a 4 lane highway and there’s the odd light-slash-intersection. As I was driving, a woman coming the other way decided to turn left in front of me.

She started to turn; she had all the time in the world. And then she just stopped. In my lane. She froze and I was barreling straight towards her.

And there was no way I could stop in time.

Every Second is a Lifetime

It’s amazing how time literally stops in situations like this. Or maybe we just speed up. But that’s a question better left to Einstein.

My girlfriend grabbed her seat and the door handle. She pushed hard against the floor with both feet and let loose a small whimpering shriek.

A single second lasted longer than any second should. It was agonizing to wait and see if this woman would go or not. She still had time to get out of the way. She still had time to go. Then another second ticked by.

And she didn’t.

With a heartbeat to spare, I swerved over to the other lane and blasted past her. And time started ticking again.

The Breaking Point

A piece of wood will bend before it breaks. Before it fails. That’s a good thing if you’re practicing archery. Not so good if you’re karate kicking planks. But lots of things bend before they break.

I didn’t know if the woman in the car parked in front of me on the highway would suddenly get “unstuck” and peel off. If she did, and I had already chosen to get in the other lane, I would have hit her. Or swerved one way then back again and probably violently out of control.

Stuff happens. And there’s always a breaking point. A point of no return. Sometimes you have seconds to make a life-changing decision. Sometimes you have a lifetime.

If you’re lucky, you have both.

Denouement
 

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4 Comments

  1. I can understand what you are saying. I couldn’t say this as well as you, but I digg it.

    I was in similar situation, and somehow I got away unscratched. But it will always be interesting how I managed to not only dodge the car in front of me, but look to my side to see if I am gonna hit another car when I join the lane. How I actually accomplished all of that in a moment, I will never truly understand.

  2. Hey Chuck,

    (great jokes on your site by the way) – Cheers to the magic of adrenaline. I think that’s the big secret for slowing down time in these situations just enough that we can find a way out of them.

    One of the best things I ever learned was “measure twice, cut once”. It’s a great philosophy to make sure you observe the situation carefully and plan your actions carefully before you execute.

    In blink-of-an-eye situations that usually means that you need every microsecond up to the breaking point before you act. Which is good, because there’s no time for testing out an idea. It has to be the right decision, right now.

  3. Exactly. Reading a line two times takes a bit more time, but you gain a lot more room to maneuver. Me thinks this is the way to get the upper hand in most situations.

  4. i’ve had similar situation but while swerving on a highway I ended up rolling my car twice. I walked away unscathed and I realized that I need to trust that sometimes there is a powerful bigger lesson in not “missing”. That as much as I think I am in control not in control all a power much greater than myself is.


 

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