Friday, March 30, 2012



Former New York City Mayor Ed Koch likes to say,” New Yorkers think fast, talk fast and walk fast”.  And nowhere is this walking fast thing more evident than on the sidewalks during rush hour (which seems to go from 7am to 9pm daily). 

First, you have to keep your head up and eyes open and always keep moving – that gives you the chance to see something or someone coming.  Second, you have to use your feet, hips and shoulders in tandem to provide the greatest maneuverability – not unlike hockey and basketball players as they quickly move from one place to another.  And lastly, your reflexes have to be sharply tuned – you just never know when someone is going to come out of a doorway or driveway, or sharply around a corner.

When I first got here, I was almost paralyzed by this activity. I’d either stop  against a building and wait, or just stop in mid-stride and give way to everyone else (giving way has its own set of impacts for those behind you).   Imagine walking down a busy street, buildings on your right or left, and you come past and beyond them as you approach an intersection.  First, you have to check the light ahead to see whether to stop or go (or, more appropriately – speed up or slow down), and then you have to use (or at least sense) your peripheral vision to avoid the people going both ways across your path, and lastly you have to combine confidence with competence so that others sense you know what you’re doing.  And even then there are lots of opportunities for bumping!

But now that I’ve been here a year I’ve got this sidewalk thing down – almost as good at avoiding collisions as when I’m behind the wheel of a car. But this learning hasn’t been without its many close calls – after all, muscle memory takes time to sink in. And while this is just one of the more visible and visceral examples of adjusting to change, it really is emblematic of this adventure I’ve been on here in NYC. Because it’s something that applies to life in general: having to be flexible enough and aware enough to get along with all kinds of people in all kinds of situations. It’s an important lesson that needs to be learned and used all the time if we want to be good at or successful at anything we do. And without this skill, we just bump into others in the worst ways possible.

Whether navigating a busy street or a busy life, a game of skill or the game of life, a causal relationship or relationships at work, a trip to the store or a trip through you daily tasks – knowing how to flexibly get through a crowd is a skill that’s needed. Take time today to make sure you’re as good at this very basic skill as you can be. Because the bruises and scars you’ll get if you’re not may never go away.

My message this week is about being responsible for the things you do:

Arte Nathan"Only people who die very young learn all they really need to know in kindergarten.”

-Wendy Kaminer

Wendy Kaminer (born 1949) is a lawyer and writer. She has written several books on contemporary social issues, including A Fearful Freedom: Women's Flight From Equality, about the conflict between egalitarian and protectionist feminism.

You really need to know everything about the things you own.  And when you think about all the things you own – your house and everything in it, your cars and all their extras, your toys and the things you use when you’re not working, your friendships and all that’s needed to maintain them, and the things you are responsible for in everything you do – there’ a lot to know and continually learn about.  And just when you think you know it all, something new is discovered or published and you’ve got to go back to the books or the internet to make sure you don’t fall behind.  No matter how old we are, there’s a tendency to either think you know enough to get by, and that too is a trap to be avoided.  If any of us stop learning and growing, that’s when we start falling behind.  And that’s never a good thing.  So forget what they say about everything you need to know you learned in kindergarten, and commit to continuous learning today!

Stay well.

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