Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Crossing the line

'Only those who could risk going too far can possibly know how far they can go’
Dr Walter Bishop in the TV series Fringe 

I am an avid fan of the TV series Fringe, which revolves around the past experiments of Dr Walter Bishop which threatens to tear the universe apart. He regretted the consequences of his past actions, but he lamented that 'Only those who could risk going too far can possibly know how far they can go’. And I thought that was a pretty interesting line.

We have all heard the phrase “Don’t cross the line.” And that is always accompanied by the unspoken “or else…”

We can understand that there are serious consequences for breaching the limit, and that the limit is a “line” – sort of a metaphor for the limit being a threshold of which everything is fine and tolerable behind the “line”, and all hell breaks loose when you “cross the line”. It’s that fine distinction between staying within the line and going one extra inch and breaching that limit, and getting into trouble. It is like the breaking point of a material… you can push it that far, but an ounce more pressure and it totally gives way and shatters.

To avoid getting into trouble, many of us steer clear of the imaginary line. Of course there are real consequences and thus the line is real to some extent, but the line cannot be visually seen. As such, we have to assume the position of the line or imagine the line, which interestingly means that the line is flexible or relative – depending on the parties on each side of the line. But of course, the line is resolute and firm when it comes to physics, but we are not talking about that.

What we are referring to – is the line of human effort. While mere mortals stay clear of the line, champions and winners dedicate themselves to pushing the line and the envelope of what’s possible everyday. They challenge the convention of the line’s position, stretching the boundaries of the line instead of staying in the safe zone. Champions push harder than anyone else, even though they never can know how close they can get to the line without crossing it – and crashing or failing.

Getting closer to the line entails taking huge risks, but these are calculated risks that winners take. As hard as they push themselves to enlarge the envelope of their performance, even the greatest of champions have doubts lingering in their minds. Just how far is too far? It is perhaps the unique combination of experience, faith and determination that allows them to do further than anyone else, skirt closer to the line than one can possibly imagine, and attain the success that eludes peers with fear of breaching the line.

So while we should not throw caution to the wind, be conscious of how you read the phrase “do not cross the line…” The human spirit has amazingly resilient properties, which means you can push closer to the line inch-by-inch, much more than you can possibly imagine. That is of course, if you wish to. Many of us will prefer to lurk in the safety zone far away from the line, but for those of us who wish to be the best that we can be, treat the line with respect but do not fear pushing the boundaries.

Have you done your best? The fun part of life is that you won’t really know. Only those who've crossed the line will know where the line is.