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7 Life Lessons from Highlining

by Apurv Gujar
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Tie a rope between 2 points, and try to walk on it. That’s slacklining.

Do the same between 2 cliffs, that’s when it becomes an extreme sport. This is highlining.

When I first heard the idea of walking on a rope, to be honest, I thought it sounded lame. 

But over the years, I surprised myself with how big a part of my life it has become.

It has taught me and shaped me in ways relevant for me to effectively run a company, relevant for anyone to become a stellar part of an organisation, and beyond that, principles to live life by.

Here are the seven key lessons I’ve learned from years of highlining and explain how each applies to life.

## Lesson 1: Know the Why 

Being such a niche sport, highlining is not commercial. You cannot pay someone to make you highline. Most highlines we have to set up ourselves.

And every highline setup is unique.

So that means, you can’t just blindly apply best practices. It’s essential to know the principles and reasoning as to why certain things are done or not.

Understanding this “why” ensures you set up a highline that won’t kill you.

Similarly, in life and business, it’s crucial to not just do something for the sake of doing.

Understand motivations and desired outcomes, to understand the “why”.

Then use a strong foundation of fundamentals to achieve the outcome most effectively and improvise when needed.

## Lesson 2: Mindset is Everything

There are a few skills and techniques one has to learn to be able to highline. These are all about consistent practice.

There is obviously some level of physical ability required.

But beyond these basics, it stops being a physical sport.

It’s all in the mind.

To keep the focus for extended periods above the void, with the wind, the vibrations, those beads of sweat running down your brow, the lactic acid build-up, and the inner chatter…oh that inner chatter.

Mindset is everything. 

And so it is in career, business, and beyond – intelligence, diligence, and hard work will only take you so far. After those basics, mindset is what the true rocket fuel in life is.

## Lesson 3: You Need a Team For Your Dream 

Setting up a highline is not easy. 

From needing a bunch of specialised gear, figured out how to pass it across the valley, lugging the heavy gear and setting it up safely. It’s a massive coordinated project.

It’s miserable (and sometimes impossible) to do it without your crew, your team.

There are times when you trust in them with your life, literally.

But beyond just logistics, it’s magical to have close friends who you love, sharing and cheering you on your journey, pushing you all while having their journey. 

To share the laughs, the milestones, the fears, and the frustrations.

Anything big needs a team. And honestly, it’s a lot more fun with the right team.

I cannot imagine running my company without my co-founders and teammates.

We would not have got to where we are on our own.

A team gives you the foundation to become a better version of yourself, pull off something spectacular – and have fun doing it.

Truly, the whole is much greater than the sum of the parts.

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

Find yourself in the heart of a hunting spectacle, where jackfishes, trevallies and barracudas whirl in a frenetic frenzy. 

## Lesson 4: Embrace Failure by Learning to Fall

The path to doing anything on a highline, requires you to fall, a LOT.

I’ve seen friends not being able to do anything on the highline for years, and being stuck. Just because they were too afraid to fall. 

Even while practising close to the ground, it’s important to know how to fall, so that injury is minimised and you can go at it again. 

Try, fail, learn, repeat, and finally succeed..until you fail again.

It forces you to embrace failure.

Growing up in India, it’s cultural for failure to be unacceptable. 

(Un)luckily, I was able to get through my entire educational journey without failing. And that caused me to have no relationship to failure.

Life with all its uncontrollable variables, slapped me. And the lack of a healthy relationship with failing made it really hard to deal with it.

Embracing failure, learn from it, and rise powerfully. This is a journey where I still have some way to go.

An aversion to falling holds most people back from great heights.

## Lesson 5: Seek Forgiveness, Not Permission

Most people don’t know about highlining. It also looks quite risky.

These facts combined, make it ridiculously unlikely to get official permission to rig a highline.

Bizarrely, most slackliners would have stories of being kicked out of parks that are close to the ground, completely safe, and care is taken not to harm any trees.

The only way to make it happen is to do it anyway, responsibly. And then if there is a confrontation that happens, to respectfully educate, and if that doesn’t work to seek forgiveness.

In life, bold moves need to be taken after calculating the risk and making a judgement. Seeing permission for every small step is detrimental to progress.

You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.

Don’t wait for permission. Take your shot.

## Lesson 6: Find Your Flow

Why do I highline? Why go through all this hardship for seemingly no gain?

I highline, kitesurf, freedive, surf, and snowboard. Why are people into extreme adventure sports often not into just one sport?

It’s the pursuit of “flow”.

“Flow” is the mental state in which one is fully immersed in a feeling of energised focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the activity.

Also called “getting in the zone”, it is the melting together of action and consciousness.

And it doesn’t just happen in adventure sports.

Flow state can occur in your day-to-day things.

It happens at the sweet spot at the edge of your skill where you become completely involved to be able to do it right.

This pursuit of flow pushes me to be at the edge of my skills and do better at work, play, and everything else, and more importantly, to say no to things that are not worth my time. It’s what pushes me towards self-discovery and constant growth.

Find your flow, find your joy, every day.

## Lesson 7: Balance is Key

Highlining demands balance – (obviously) on the line, but also way beyond it.

When I started pushing to get better at highlining, I saw myself making better decisions for my nutrition, fitness, and schedule.

Surprisingly this overflowed into my work, relationships, mental health, and more.

Our mind does not have separate buckets for different aspects of life.

When any area feels out of whack, symptoms spill into other aspects of life.

Physical, mental, emotional, career, financial, social, and environmental – all aspects of life overlap, co-exist, and compound, and we can only have a truly extraordinary life when all of these exist in harmony and balance.

I could not have imagined that a sport about a simple rope would teach me so many things.

It has given me moments where I have been brought to tears due to breathtaking beauty, humbled by where I am, and how I ended up here.

It has introduced me to a beautiful community I never knew existed and people who I consider the closest of friends.

It has shown me firsthand that there are no limits to human potential, ergo no limits to my potential.

Apurv Gujar is a friend of an alumnus and has graciously agreed to contribute to Fundamatics, we express our heartfelt thanks to him.

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