How The New Film “The Walk” Takes Goal Setting To New Heights

Achieving your goals is never an easy task. Whether it’s a new diet, sales quota, or list of books to read, there are always things like obligations and social events that seem to occasionally steer us away from reaching our goals. But in the case of Philippe Petit, it is not necessarily determination, scheduling issues, or family obligations that hinder him reaching his goals, but rather the long arm of the law and a 1,368 ft fall.

Who is Philippe Petit?

Philippe Petit is an aerialist from France who, in 1974, broke all the rules and risked everything, even death, in order to achieve his goal of walking between the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City. The event was termed ‘the artistic crime of the century’ and made Petit a world-record holder at the early age of 24. A new film titled The Walk, based on Petit’s book To Reach The Clouds, is opening in theaters this week, and chronicles the daredevil’s epic journey to completing his goal. But the road to achieving his famous walk did not happen overnight.

Petit’s Goal

Petit was first inspired to scale the void between the World Trade Center in 1968 during a visit to the dentists’ office, where he saw an illustration of the unfinished towers in a magazine and was instantly obsessed with strapping his wire across the buildings. Of his ‘calling’ to scale the towers, Petit recalled, “It was something that had to be done, and I couldn’t explain it…it was a calling of the romantic type.”

Perfecting His Skill

Petit spent the next six years secretly preparing for his stunt. He practiced and trained immensely, perfecting his skill and mastering his craft as a tightrope artist. Then, in January 1974, Petit flew to New York City for the first time to begin scouting out the location of the towers. He wanted to know everything that he could about the World Trade Center, even going so far as to pose as a reporter to interview New York Port Authority executive Guy Mozzoli. Then the day of the groundbreaking event came.

The Walk

Along with a group of friends and colleagues, Petit and company made their way up the two towers on the evening of August 6, 1974 to prepare for the record-breaking stunt. They smuggled up Petit’s still disassembled balance beam, a 250-ft one-inch thick steel cable, rigging wire, and a bow and arrow. For the rest of the night the group worked to assemble the rig to prepare for Petit’s walk, which happened on the morning of August 7, 1974 just after 7:00am. As crowds of New Yorkers paused on their way to work to look up in fear and awe, Petit walked and danced about his rope, even as Port Authority police appeared on the roof to remove him and his crew.

Goal Accomplished

The stunt made Petit a worldwide folk hero. His performance made international headlines and public opinion swayed Port Authority officials to drop all charges that were made against him, even granting him a lifetime pass to the observation deck of the south tower. Petit’s ambition and determination to complete one of his lifetime dreams continues to inspire people of today’s generation. A 2008 documentary about the event, titled Man on Wire, received an Academy Award for Best Documentary, and the new drama from Forrest Gump and Back to the Future director Robert Zemeckis called The Walk is opening in theaters this Wednesday, September 30, 2015, and will allow Petit’s triumphs and tribulations to reach a whole new generation of goal setters.

*Please note: I am not encouraging anyone to perform any dangerous stunt, or to break any laws that would endanger your life or the lives of others.