Why Do We Fall? ... learning to pick ourselves up


There is an epic moment in the movie, “Batman Begins”.

As Wayne Manor is burning to the ground -- Bruce Wayne (actor Christian Bale) decries,

"I wanted to save Gotham. I failed.”

It is a heart wrenching self-condemnation.

Actor Michael Caine, as Alfred J. Pennyworth, quickly responds.

With unflinching wisdom and stoic, yet unmistakable caring, he reassures:

“Why do we fall, sir? So that we can learn to pick ourselves up.”


Sometimes We Fall

I fell.

It was dark out. The evening marked the end of a very long, yet beautifully ‘full’ day. Friday.

I’d closed my week with a wonderful client meeting. Envisioning strategic futures and his plans for bringing new possibilities into fruition.

Now I'd had the chance to serve as a parent-judge in a speech tournament. Several hundred high school students from across the city were participating, including my daughter.

The tournament was exhilarating. Watching and experiencing these young people share their ideas, talents, and ideals. It was awe-inspiring. Their energy: contagious. Their courage: noteworthy. Their willingness: exemplary.

But, it had run late and I was hungry, tired and cold.

My daughter had arrived at the school through a ride from a friend’s parent, since I’d come directly from my client.

So, when the tournament ended, we had to walk to their vehicle to retrieve her backpack. Then, we walked back to and through the school, to exit the other end and walk to our car.

It’s an old school of amazing character, creaky doors, really old-fashioned classrooms. And, a thoroughly confusing layout!

We ended up wandering around inside the building for a few minutes. We were a bit like mice in a maze, trying to find where we needed to exit.

It was now well after 11:00 p.m. on a Friday night. I was feeling distracted and a bit nervous about walking in the dark alone with my daughter. Especially now that everything had so quickly become deserted. Plus, we were parked quite a distance away.

When we found a side door to the building, we decided to just exit, so we could better orient ourselves from outside.

We stepped out. It was pitch black. 

The school is set back a good distance from the street. Since this was obviously a secondary entrance, and it was late, there was no exterior lighting.

Our eyes squinted in the dark.

I was scanning the distance, trying to figure out which direction we were facing. Peering into blackness, to see what street we needed to head towards.

As we adjusted to the inky dark, we saw that we were at the top of a short flight of wide stairs. I could also see familiar landmarks in the distance. 

With a bit too much hurry, I stepped off the landing, onto the first step, and then the second…

I felt my foot stub on that second step. (I realized later that the steps of the old school were not “to code”. That is, they were not the normal and anticipated height of a stair).

I entered that lo-o-o-ong, slow motion moment of free-fall…

There was nothing to hold onto and, like most falls, too fast -- yet too slow -- to do anything about it. 

Nothing but thin air… 

My daughter tried to grab me but luckily she missed, else I would have taken us both down.

Instead, I landed – hard – coming down on both knees. Impact! ... with what felt like a thunderous, reverberating THUD... onto the concrete landing below.

It wasn’t a big fall, as falls go. But I fell the height of two full stairs, plus momentum. There was nothing to break or cushion the fall onto my knees.

I felt my entire body shudder.


Learning to Pick Ourselves Up

I’ll skip ahead and let you know that how I did not shatter my knees or lower back is a miracle and a mystery. It’s caused me to experience even deeper gratitude. It took me a while, but I did pick myself up and recovered nicely.

But the fall is not the point of this story. Why do we fall? ... learning to pick ourselves up. Getting up again. That's the more important perspective.Tweet: It's not the fall that matters; it's learning to pick ourselves up. ~@JaniceKobelsky https://janicekobelsky.mykajabi.com/blog/why-do-we-fall-learning-to-pick-ourselves-up #Leadership #Resilience[click to tweet] 


So let me share with you some leadership insights. A few take-aways for “learning to pick ourselves up.” I was reminded of them with this mishap.


Ouch... That Hurt!

There’s no such thing as a “smart” accident or, a desired or aspired failure. No such thing as a sudden loss that isn’t, well, “sudden”.

Even if you see it coming, it is still a feeling of swerving or toppling out of control to the inevitable.

Whatever it is that you're facing... Illness. Job loss. Financial worries. Death of a loved one. Poor choices. Bad habits. Failed endeavours. An accident of some sort, or injury. The circumstances vary.

 Related post: Think 'kintsugi'! ...the value of challenges, to make you better. Honour the challenge!

Whether predictable or not, what you know when you fall is that, at least in the moment, it hurts!

Hurt is universal, especially during times of grief, loss, falling or failure. Life is sometimes relentless and unforgiving in that respect, too.

Why do we fall? ... learning to pick ourselves up. The practices I'm about to share with you are important.

They'll serve your own wellbeing and personal leadership. But also, they're for your relationships with others. Especially for those times when you're called upon to provide support or guidance.

In other words, this is about being able to lead. Which can be especially taxing when you fall.


Rising After the Fall

I've summarized these practices in a visual. It's an all-in-one, ‘go-to’ so that the practices become habit. That way, you can apply them ‘speed-of-life.’

Why do we fall? ... learning to pick ourselves up. You’ll see in the infographic below that the “fall” is time-phased into three dimensions:

  • Before: as we realize the “inevitability.” This may be mere seconds or, it could be months. It’s that time when you begin to veer into the fall and there’s no turning back, even though most of us struggle to resist.
  • During: this is the free-fall itself. The slow-motion moment.
  • After: now fallen, what happens next?

Learning to pick ourselves up is actually happening during all 3 phases. But, how much resistance you put into the first 2 is a huge determinant in how gracefully you navigate the 3rd.

Then, you’ll see two ‘lists’.


'Conventional Wisdom' and 'Uncommon Practice'

On the left is “conventional wisdom.” These are the common practices that most of us are encouraged to adopt and master. They have a strong “get on with it” flair, which we typically call for in leadership.

They are labeled “wisdom” because they are tried and true, and they work. They are the purview of the do-ers.

The list on the right tends to be much less widely applied. It’s labeled “uncommon action.” It may seem counter-intuitive. This is because these practices are more reflective.

They're a bit more unconventional in a fast-paced society, and they're restorative in nature.

They hearken to the ‘ancient’, tapping into wisdom of the ages. It's a more contemplative style vs. the “Just Do It” approach so prevalent today.

They also work. They're the purview of the thinkers


What's right for you? 

Why do we fall? ... learning to pick ourselves up. What works best for you is for you to discern. Each circumstance requires its own mindfulness and considered application.

What's here for you is a ‘menu’. Practices that may cause you to go deeper. Perhaps, be more pensive than most mainstream leadership would advise.

They're simple, often one-word, verbs.

They'll have you explore the richness and learning from your own experiences. This is especially important when dealing with hurt.

They're ideas that will serve you. Add them to your repertoire, as part of learning “to pick ourselves up”. Use them when you need to. The next time you -- or someone who looks to you for support, mentorship, guidance or leadership -- falls.

Practicing them -- as those who do, know well -- takes courage, confidence and commitment.

It's worth it.

Because each time you "pick yourself up", you get stronger. More empowered, and more accountable and 'able' than ever!

Why do we fall? ... learning to pick ourselves up:  

When we fall, life doesn’t often hand us a cushion.Tweet:

If not a cushion, these practices will soften the blow and make picking yourself up a whole lot easier!


Getting up after a fall is often easier when we have a strong vision that 'pulls' us.

EMPOWER SUCCESS will help you create focused and powerful 'vision-pull'. Get clear on what matters to you. Define your vision. Play from your strengths. Journey with a community of success-minded individuals.

Discover the 3 S's of Success in EMPOWER SUCCESS; a short online program.

Stay inspired. Make the most of you.

Need more inspiration? Read this blog post: 3 Awesome Ways to Make the Most of You


If you haven't already, subscribe to the Leader's Digest. Once or twice a month, I'll share resources (mine and others) to help support your success. Please join me: it's an honour to be more closely connected with like-minded thinkers!


Let's Connect!

  Get inspired with me on Twitter
  Share resources on LinkedIn
  Start a conversation on Facebook