#10 Entrepreneurial Lessons From Movie 'The Walk'

Movie ‘The Walk’ is the true story of a French high-wire artist Philippe Petit, who at the age of 24, walked between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York on a high wire on Aug 7, 1974. Twin towers were then the planet’s tallest buildings and this high-wire walk at the height of around 1,350 feet covering distance around 200 feet is called the “artistic crime of the century”. Philippe Petit is the only man on this planet, who took this walk.

This movie shows how the ‘impossible’ can be made into the ‘possible’ and teaches various lessons that could be useful for entrepreneurs. A few of the lessons are as follows:

  1. Define your vision: To become a leader, an entrepreneur first has to identify his niche. Then, he has to come up with a clear vision of where he wants to reach in that niche. Philippe was skilled in his niche of wire walking and always used to look for a perfect place for his wire walk. He got this vision of doing the world's highest cable walk when he was 18 years old and visited a dentist due to his ailing toothache. He read about the proposed construction and saw drawings of twin towers in a magazine.
  2. Learn from failures and move ahead: Learnings from failures create a foundation for success.During his training, Philippe fell from the wire because he thought he has arrived destination three steps before the destination. He learned from Papa Rudy that most wire walkers die when they arrive because they think they've arrived when they're still on the wire.During his first public performance, Philippe got distracted by insults and laughs of fishermen. Walking on the wire is as much mental as physical. Philippe lost his concentration leading to lose of balance and fell in the lake.
  3. Build a great team: Once an entrepreneur has the vision, he has to communicate it passionately to create his team. If entrepreneur’s vision is well understood by his team members, then they would approach the world in a different way to achieve the vision of the entrepreneur. Philippe passionately shared his vision with various people and involved them as his team members and mentors. In Paris, Annie helped him with a perfect place to practice, Papa Rudy taught him finer traits of wire walking, Jean-Louis helped him with a way to get the cable across the towers. In New York, Barry Greenhouse and J.P. helped him in various ways and there were few other team members, whose contributions helped Philippe in achieving his dream.
  4. Know your strengths and limitations: An entrepreneur should know his strengths and limitations and then work on improving his strengths and getting people on board, who could help him on his limitations. Though Philippe had been doing wire walking since few years, he realized that wire walking at Twin Towers will be a different level of challenge. He relearned traits of wire walking at that height from Papa Rudy. Between 6 years of defining his vision and achieving his dream, he planned and practiced multiple times to achieve perfection and built a team having members with different strength areas required to achieve the objective.
  5. Define the deadline: Achievers don't wait too much for favorable conditions. They give themselves deadlines and then instead of accepting unfavorable conditions as an excuse, they figure out their own way to achieve the objective. They apply mindset of ‘how it can be done’ instead of ‘why it can’t be done’.  3 months before the day of his dream walk, Philippe decided the date of his walk and made sure that he achieves his goal as per the deadline.
  6. Give great attention to every area: Complex tasks require close attention to the details of every area.The entrepreneur should have one-foot market understanding and another one in developing capabilities and offerings. Philippe studied the towers, visited them multiple times, and enquired about specifics. Accordingly, he learned how to accommodate issues such as effects of wind and weather on the wire at that height, what kind of wire and accessories in terms of weight and thickness to be used, how to enter towers with his collaborators, need to put wood blocks between the wire etc.
  7. Establish a clear set of responsibilities: Operational details of who will do what in the team and how it will be done should be clearly defined. In the movie, it is shown that before the walk, Philippe involved the entire team, established responsibilities, planned the timelines and sequence and then communicated the plan for more than 20 times to the team.
  8. Adapt to unexpected situations: Though Philippe and his team planned for every possible step, they faced numerous challenges while being in the final situation. For example, they were 3 hours behind schedule, the team was delayed when the heavy cable sank too fast and had to be pulled up manually for hours.
  9. Respect your customers: Great achievers, performers, and entrepreneurs respect their customers and audience for their time and attention. Papa Rudy taught Philippethat a performer must have an honest respect and gratitude for the audience. During his walk between Twin Towers, he got down on one knee and saluted the wire, the towers, city of New York and watchers.
  10. Show your gratitude to your team: Entrepreneurs push their teams to achieve their vision. After achievement, it is very important to thank team members for their efforts. After achieving his dream of becoming the most glorious high wire walker in the world, Philippe said to his team “I would like to make a toast. To all of you. My accomplices. I know I can be... a little difficult. But, but... You never gave up on me. And because of this, I was able to walk on that wire. So for allowing me this honor... Thank you”.

Though Philippe Petit’s attempt was illegal and in my view should not be taken as an inspiration for doing something illegal, his journey of achieving his dream has many positive lessons that could help entrepreneurs in achieving their dreams.

(Views expressed are author's personal and don't necessarily represent any company's opinions.)

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