The Price of Stability

Snowboarder in flightToday is Day 10 of the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Most of the news leading up to the Games focused on security issues, human rights, and Russia’s ability to keep athletes and visitors safe. Not the only place in the world where “Security” hit the headlines. The same news programs featured Egyptians saying, “All we want is stability and security.” And I thought at the time, “Isn’t that true of us all!”

Stability has a price, and it is high. An old boyfriend of mine used to say in his wry way:

You gotta get out there on the skinny branches;

that’s where the fruit is.


Those branches are also of course not very stable.

So I’ve been watching the Olympic competitions these past 10 days. My new favorite sport, I’ve decided, is SlopeStyle. Young (and not-so-young) athletes stand on their snowboards at the top of the same slope – out there on the skinny branch. And then they leap. Even after years of training, even in perfect condition giving it everything they have, they can’t predict the outcome of their runs. Sometimes they perform at their peak. And sometimes they fall.

“It’s all about balance.” I hear this so often these days, especially from dear friends of mine whose mission in life is to create harmony in this troubled world. But my question is, “How do we get there from here?”

There is nothing stable in the world;

uproar’s your only music.

– John Keats


For years, I struggled with my own physical balance. I used to fall a lot. After I tripped on the curb in 2009 and broke my hip, I’ve been very cautious. So, when I started working with a personal trainer last year, herself a former competitor in the Winter Games, this is one of the areas she targeted. “It will improve your confidence,” she said; and that interested me.

Anja taught me a couple of things about balance:

  1. It’s one of the easiest and fastest fitness targets to improve.
  2. It only improves when you’re pushing your limit.

Right there at the edge when you’re just about to fall is where you grow. And that’s my experience in life too. Pretty frustrating at times. But there’s something that occurs when you take it to the limit. It’s as if you kick into a different level of performance beyond anything you’ve ever done before. Something comes in to help.

I’ve been happy to see the Games unfold without incident so far. It gives me hope that Mandela’s idea still has a place here:

Sport has the power to change the world.

– Nelson Mandela


When human beings push their limits, not only does it make them better, it makes us all better.

So while we might long for stability in theory, we have to ask ourselves if it’s really what will serve us… if it’s even possible in this constantly changing world. This is not a political statement but a very, very personal one.

In a collaborative system, as is our world, power is better distributed among the many than held by the few. But this only works when the many participate in co-creating that system. It’s about balance, and balance is achieved by:

  • Giving everything you have.
  • Knowing what you can control and what you can’t.
  • Using whatever freedom you have to choose.
  • Taking responsibility for the outcomes.

It serves no one to play it safe. The more each of us takes responsibility for what we create – for the effect of our outcomes in the world – the higher society will rise and the lower the risk that it will collapse.

When given the choice of stability or instability, I’ll usually choose instability. Not always comfortable. But always empowering, even when I fall. How ’bout you?