Welcome! fisc is an abreviation of 'flexibility is cool'. The site is a collection of blogs to promote the use of flexibility in our personal and professional lives, to help manage uncertainty and achieve growth.
Yesterday with my wife, I did what turned to be an 8 mile walk along a river canal near Milton Keynes in the UK. We usually take a few pics on our smartphones along the way – photogenic narrow boats, rolling green landscapes and any wildlife we see. And the occasional selfie too. As you do.
Anyway, at one point along the walk, we passed over a short, concrete aqueduct, with a concrete spillway channel coming off it at right angles, to take excess water down to a lower channel, some 70m away from the main canal path.
I sometimes see a photo opportunity in my head ahead of time and thought I could pose, standing in the middle of the spillway, while my wife took a pic from above. At first glance, the spillway looked fairly dry and not a drop of water was trickling down it. I climbed partway down the waste ground (about the first 20m in distance from the main canal) next to the spillway and stepped down onto it, with my wife watching from the top. The spillway seemed walkable at first and not too steep to walk across. My hands left the side wall of the spillway and I gingerly started walking across it, to the mid point.
I noticed in the bottom section of the spillway, about 50m from where I was, that it flattened out. There were a series of concrete pillars on the flat section, regularly spaced. Each pillar was about one metre high – presumably to stop tree branches or other debris from going any further along the drainage channel.
Suddenly, both feet started gently sliding downwards. I used to roller blade and ski. So I knew about upper body balance, when you start moving in a diagonal direction. It was one of those moments when several things start flashing through your mind in quick succession. My first thought. This isn’t going to plan! The surface isn’t as dry as I thought. I can’t retrace my footsteps. Or quickly put a hand on the side wall of the spillway. I seem to be picking up speed. I can’t seem to use the edge of my walking boots to create any friction.
By now, most of me is touching the slimy surface and I’m moving my hands outwards for balance. I look below and see the row of concrete barriers that I’m heading for. As I approach, my speed is accelerating. I’m out of other options, so I brace for impact.
I think about trying to hit the barriers with both feet fairly close together, my knees slightly bent. I hope I’m going to hit one barrier square on and not slip half through the gap between them. My body is like a child’s body going down a slide in the playground. I’m not panicking. But I do have time to wonder how hard I’m going to hit. I decide to use my legs as a giant shock absorber and hope for the best.
The soles of my feet hit and I keep travelling. I’m still wondering whether my legs will stop me in time. Then just before my torso slams into the concrete, I stop. I have a second to register that nothing is broken and that I’ve made a clean landing.
It could have gone much worse. If I’d have panicked, or not acted quickly, I probably would be in hospital right now, with parts of my body in a plaster cast. If I’d been less lucky and there had been some metal or wood debris clogging up the concrete pillars, my landing would have been a lot more painful. Ditto if the spillway was longer or steeper. Or had potholes in it.
On the positive side, my wife is still speaking to me and I haven’t lost all credibility for making judgements. I also surprised myself in acting quickly in the heat of the moment. It’s been a long while since I’ve been in an unplanned adventurous situation, with skin in the game i.e. being out of control with a likely painful and hazardous ending coming for me personally.
What did I learn? That sometimes in life, the unexpected overrides your plan. That when it does, you become resourceful real fast, or suffer the consequences. That you can’t always change the unexpected. But you can ride it out and try to control the outcome. And also, that the work you put in earlier (lots of walking previously to strengthen my legs), sometimes pays off big time in a momentary crisis situation. And most of all, have faith in yourself and don’t panic. Brace for impact instead and hope for the best!
Have just been listening to several Ray Kurzweil TED talks about the pace of technology.
Apart from the speed, one of the most interesting & surprising things is how well technology progress measures, of all kinds, over the last few decades, fit an exponential curve. It got me thinking more about those curves in our own lives:
Since exponential curve behaviour is transforming our lives, understanding the properties of those curves is arguably the most important maths we all need to master.
Perhaps our biggest blind spot is not seeing when we’re on the ‘flat plains’ of a curve. One with the ever-steeper ‘mountain face’ of the curve ahead, still cloaked in mist. And like mountaineers approaching a steep mountain face to climb, our options are greatest before the ascent.
The least blurry view of the curve is early on, before the meteoric rise kicks in and things change at the fastest rate.
Some technology exponential curves must surely accelerate others. Probably less a case of ‘the more things change, the more they stay the same’ and more a case of ‘hold tight with both hands, for the ride of a lifetime!’
The more exponential curves swerve and jolt our lives, the more flexibility in the driving seat we require. And the bigger the flexibility toolset we’ll need for the ride. Note to self: spend more time thinking about the relationship between flexibility and exponential curve behaviour.
What do you think?
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When things go wrong, sometimes you get a second chance to fix your mistake. Your determination and your time to reflect, may mean delivering a significantly better version the second time round. Compared to achieving a modest result if you did it error-free from the beginning.
What about when things go well? There should be both an observable improvement and some recognition, right? But getting recognition is a two-step, flexibility shuffle. Step one is doing stuff to make the World a better place. You have to be flexible to think like that and to achieve it. Even then, people won’t necessarily notice your efforts straight away. Let alone give you direct credit. You might donate some money to a worthy cause. Give credit where it’s due. Or show a stranger a random act of kindness.
Incidentally, doing stuff to help teaches you something. To look outward. To be observant and appreciate what you see, including noticing the semi-hidden efforts of other unsung heroes. Doing helpful stuff teaches you that you’re not pre-destined to follow the rut of one, self-serving, materialistic pathway. It makes you a better parent or career. You can forge a more interesting & ultimately a more satisfying path. Doing stuff to help also teaches you to give more efficiently. And more graciously.
The World’s orbit runs further. And suddenly, you get someone else’s help. Or their high praise. That help benefits you in all kinds of ways you hadn’t thought of. It might come in the form of visible mentoring. Or as less visible patronage. The benefit endures, enlightens, reassures and entertains you.
The second shuffle is you pivoting to bigger, better things. Running on the legs of self confidence and observer applause.
The length of your orbit is determined by your flexibility to grow. The recognition, your destiny.