The Walk

Heading down the sidewalk of a street in New York City, you get the sense that there is something wrong with many people. Look at the way that they walk. Look at the momentary hold ups they cause. It’s a river of people creating its own eddies and backflow.

When I don’t have anywhere I need to be in a hurry, I like to take a second to watch: how they have no idea where they are going (and how hard navigating is). How unnatural it seems to be for them to walk in a straight line, or walk quickly. They veer this way and that way, or more often, drift slowly off kilter and don’t even realize it.

Two people manage to take up 6-10 feet of lateral space between them, conspiring unintentionally to block others from going around. Where on the earth is stopping abruptly when there are people behind you a common practice? They get surprised and scared because they get bumped, as if there wasn’t such thing as spatial awareness. Nobody snuck up on them, they just weren’t paying attention.

I see it as a metaphor. Here are a bunch of different people trying to go in different directions and do a bunch of different things. It’s life.

Some are deliberate and self-contained. Others are not. Is there more aggression in the former than the latter? Absolutely. But more responsibility as well. Less externalizing and disruption too.

How out of reach that all seems to be for many. These are easy things that seem to be so hard. And then we wonder why real obstacles seem to set people back in life. How we are caught off guard or easily discouraged by them.

We can’t even walk straight. Go or wait? I don’t know, what do the rules say? We see a runner bearing down in the opposite direction, left or right? There are no rules, better freeze.

A few simple traits cut through this knot of indecision and impotence: knowing where you’re going (or rather, that you are going somewhere), knowing the value of your time, appreciating the existence of other people (and treating them as they deserve), and proper carriage. That is, to carry yourself properly, directedly and under your own volition.

And to not be alarmed when you realize how much this sets you apart from the crowd.

Written by Ryan Holiday
Ryan Holiday is the bestselling author of Trust Me, I’m Lying, The Obstacle Is The Way, Ego Is The Enemy, and other books about marketing, culture, and the human condition. His work has been translated into thirty languages and has appeared everywhere from the Columbia Journalism Review to Fast Company. His company, Brass Check, has advised companies such as Google, TASER, and Complex, as well as Grammy Award winning musicians and some of the biggest authors in the world. He lives in Austin, Texas.