By Kim Constantinesco
Balance in life is a slippery slope for everyone, but what if you had no room for error?
That’s the challenge that professional tightrope walker Nik Wallenda faces every time he walks, whether it’s on a wire above Niagra Falls or over the Grand Canyon.
On November 2, Wallenda will walk the length of more than two city blocks and 50 stories above downtown Chicago. Not only will he be walking up 15 degrees from Marina City’s 534-foot tower to the 635-foot Leo Burnett Building, but he’ll be doing it blindfolded. The feat will air live on the Discovery Channel.
He’s never done a blindfolded walk before, but calls what he does “more mental than physical” at this point in his career.
“It’s all about meditating and preparing properly mentally for what I do,” Wallenda said. “I have to keep control of my thoughts and my mind leading up to the event. You’ll have these thoughts come into your mind like you’re going to be 600 feet up and the winds are going to be strong and you have to think about the weather conditions. I have to continue to filter that stuff out of my mind, and remind myself that I’ve trained for three times the distance I’ll be walking. I’ve trained on that incline. I’ve trained in rain. Today I was on that wire for an hour in the rain, so I know that I’m prepared for it as much physically as I am mentally. The physical preparation helps the mental preparation.”
A Family That Walks Together…
Wallenda didn’t just wake up one day and decide to execute one of the world’s most dangerous acts. He’s a seventh generation performer stemming from the Great Wallendas, who trace their lineage back to the Austro-Hungarian empire in 1780. Nik’s great grandfather, Karl Wallenda, was the one responsible for bringing the family’s talents to America for The Greatest Show on Earth.
“My great-grandfather was a huge inspiration, and is a huge inspiration in my life. Probably the biggest,” Nik said. “I do everything I do because of him. He’s the one who paved the road for me to able to do what I do, and he did lose his life walking between two skyscrapers.”
Karl lost his life at 73 years old during an act in Puerto Rico. It wasn’t due to his age or abilities, but due to the fact that the rigging system was poorly done. That’s why Nik inspects every inch of the wire that he walks.
“I have since went back and recreated that exact walk that took his life,” Nik said. “I did it alongside of my mother several years ago. I believe it was in 2011. He is a huge inspiration to me for sure and he is really the reason why I do what I do. I don’t want to outshine him, but to shine a light on him.”
While Nik’s great-grandfather was the first to do a seven-person chair pyramid, and then later could be seen performing two headstands at 700-feet above Tallulah Falls Gorge in Georgia at 65 years old, Nik began walking the wire at 2 years old. His first official performance took place when he was 13. Today, he is an 8-time World Record holder.
Nik even proposed to his then girlfriend, Erendira, from a high wire in front of 18,000 people in Montreal, Canada.
The scariest position that he’s put himself in?
“When I broke the Guinness World Record for The Longest Distance Crossed on a Tightrope by Bicycle in 2008,” Nik said.
Nik says that managing his thoughts is the key to managing the wire.
“I definitely apply mind over matter to most parts of my life and think that you can do anything if you put your mind to it,” Nik said. “So many people give up on their dreams because they think it’s too hard, but if you stick with it, you can do it. When it comes to walking the wire, of course negative and scary thoughts come to mind. However, I replace each of those thoughts with a positive one.”
It turns out that living on a small edge serves its purpose for Nik.
“I’m always pushing myself both physically and emotionally,” Nik said. “I hope to inspire people around the world and show that the impossible is not so impossible if you set your mind to it. I live by three words: Never give up.
Those are some grounding words to live by as well.