Today’s Illustration: The Wallenda Factor

Image result for the wallenda factor"   The Modern-day Blondin
Nik Wallenda
Niagara Falls — June 15, 2012

On This Day:  June 23, 2019 — Nik Wallenda and sister Lijana walk on a high wire stretched across Times Square (They were tethered, as New York law requires.).

“This will be the first time the brother-sister team will be performing together live since 2017, when Lijana and four other performers were severely injured falling off of a high wire while rehearsing to break a Guinness world record.”

They began on opposite ends and crossed over each other in the middle.


Other Information & Facts:

Karl Wallenda, the patriarch of the Wallenda family, was born in Germany in 1905.

He was born into a family which worked for the circus.

He began performing at the age of 6.

He launched out on his own, along with his brother Herman in 1922 and toured throughout Europe doing high wire acts.

He was hired by the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus.

In 1928 he performed a high wire act at Madison Square Garden.  The net was lost in transit and he performed at that time without a net.

Over the years the performances of the Wallenda family became more and more spectacular . . . . .

•  high wire seven-to-eight people/chair pyramids
•  crossing the Tallulah Gorge (in the state of Georgia)
•  high wire walking between buildings
•  crossing Niagara Falls — June 15, 2012
•  crossing the Little Colorado River Gorge (at the Grand Canyon / 1,500 feet high)
•  walking blind-folded
•  walking up significant inclines
•  high wire acts riding a bike
•  dangling from her teeth from a helicopter over Niagara Falls

Tragedy hit in 1962.  While performing the seven-man pyramid in Detroit, Dieter Schepp loss his balance and the pyramid collapsed, killing two of the team’s members:

Richard Faughnan (son-in-law)
Dieter Schepp
Karl Wallenda’s adopted son, Mario was paralyzed from the waist down.

Rietta, Wallenda’s sister-in-law, Rietta, fell to her death in 1963.

Richard (“Chico”) Guzman, his son in law,  was killed in 1972 after a freak accident involving a live electric wire which was holding some of the riggings.

“Richard (Chico) Guzman, 29 of Sarasota, Florida, brushed against an electric clamp as he was waiting to hand Karl a balancing pole at the end of a 480 foot skywalk. The shock knocked Guzman onto some utility wire where he lay motionless for a moment, then fell 50 feet to the ground.”

Karl Wallenda died on March 22, 1978, in Puerto Rico as he was 100 feet in the air, crossing between the towers of the Condado Plaza Hotel.  He was 73 at the time

Nik Wallenda (Karl’s great grand-son through Martha Schepp), Lijana Wallenda ( Niki’ sister), and Rick Wallenda are the most well-known performing Wallendas today.

Lijana 2017 Accident:  Lijana fell 30-40 feet in an accident which nearly killed her.  They were practicing an eight-person high wire pyramid in Sarasota when the accident happened.  No one died, but several were severely injured.

“They were practicing an eight-person pyramid stunt. Five performers lost their balance and fell more than 30 feet to the ground. Three others, including Nik, clung to the wire.”

“I broke a rib, punctured my right ear canal, broke clear through my left humerus, I broke my left calcareous. But the big one was every bone in my face,” said Lijana.

Books Quotes:

Balance: A Story of Faith, Family, and Life on the Line,” by Nik Wallenda

“God’s grace is the balancing pole that keeps me from falling into self-obsession and self-deception.  Whatever I have achieved — and will ever achieve — is the result of my relationship with Him.” 

Walking The Straight and Narrow: Lessons in faith from the high wire,” by Tino Wallenda

At one time or another, I have taken each of my four children on my shoulders as I’ve walked across the wire.  In those situations, the children really can’t do any balancing.  I’m the one who has to balance and support them.

People frequently ask them,  “aren’t you scared?”
“No,” they say.

The inevitable, next question is, “Why aren’t you scared?”  They answer, “Because that’s my father!”  They have confidence in men because I’m their father.  They know I’ve set up the rigging and taken care of every detail personally to make sure they’re safe.  They know I love them so much that I won’t let anything happen to them as we cross the wire.

As they have confidence in me, I have confidence in my heavenly Father.  I know that He will take me all the way across the chasm of life until I meet Him face to face. . . . . 

There’s a lot more to being a Christian than belief.  You are a  Christian because you have received the gift that God has given you:  salvation through the sacrifice of His Son Jesus Christ. . . . 

We are the salt that preserves the earth until His return. . . . .

God bless you richly and make you a blessing!”
— Tino Wallenda


Key Illustrative Thoughts:

• risk
• calculated risk
• wreckless risk
• faith
• failure
• courage
• confidence
• death / killed
• attitude
• fear
• precaution
• fear of falling
• recovery
• scared
• grace
• tethered
• one mistake / one slip
• practice
• a net
• without a safety net
• death-defying
• the Wallenda Factor

“According to Karl Wallenda, the only real difference between walking the tightrope a foot off the ground and 20 stories off the ground from one building to another is the risk to you and those working with you.”


Other Information & Links:

The Wallenda Factor

During my leadership seminars, I pose a thought challenge to my groups:
I have laid down on the floor a 10-foot long board that is very thick and about 8 inches wide. Can you walk across it? While some people think about trying to see if there is some trick in the question, the answer from everyone is always, “Yes.” Next, I’m going to raise it on some solid blocks about six inches off the ground. Can you walk across it? Again, some people look for the trick, but the answer is yes. Okay, now I’m going to raise it two feet off the ground. Can you walk across it? Now, there is hesitation. A one or two may say they’re afraid of heights. Most everyone says yes.

Now, I’m going to raise the board to six feet. This time, about half say they would not cross the board. When I say I’m raising it to ten feet, the group willing to cross gets smaller. At 20 feet, only one or two says yes. At 30 feet, I rarely get volunteers.

I ask the group, what’s the difference whether you walk the board at two inches or 20 feet? Isn’t it the same? The difference is the Wallenda Factor.

The Wallendas were a family of circus performers known for performing amazing feats on the tightrope without a net. Karl Wallenda, the founder, was once interviewed about what it took to become a tightrope walker. He said they start out training on a rope on the ground and eventually raise it as they get better. As you go higher, Wallenda said, you have to work a little harder, pay attention to more details. You have to take greater care, especially when doing an act that involves other people, as the Wallendas did with one that involved up to seven of them.

According to Karl Wallenda, the only real difference between walking the tightrope a foot off the ground and 20 stories off the ground from one building to another is the risk to you and those working with you. The skills and techniques are pretty much the same, regardless of the height – with some added focus and greater attention.

I use this thought challenge when a group or individual gets to the point where they face a decision about taking on a major project, going for a promotion, taking the plunge and going out on their own to start a business or any number of other challenges they might face.

When you are facing that decision, to take the plunge or not, it is the risk that often holds us back. If you have successfully implemented a project, led a team, managed a department, or even run a small business, then you have the basic skills to move up to another challenge.

It is one thing to know that you still need to build up your skills to take on a challenge and try to work at getting better. Don’t let fear and risk be what controls you.

Mario Wallenda, paralyzed in 1962 circus accident, dies

‘Absinthe’ high-wire artist Lijana Wallenda survives 30-foot fall

“The Last of the Wallendas,” by Deliah Wallenda

“Wallenda: A Biography of Karl Wallenda,” by Ron Morris

“Nik Wallenda Chicago Skywalk 2014,” by Stephen C. Hill

“The Great Wallendas,” a 1978 television movie, tells their story.



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