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Striding Edge

One of the most famous walks in England is along a high ridge in the Lake District called Striding Edge. It runs to the east of the mountain called Helvellyn, one of the highest mountains in England, and particularly in bad weather, one of the most dangerous. Most English mountains are relatively safe, but that’s one of the ones that isn’t.

The difficulty about Striding Edge, as you can tell from pictures… is that it’s so narrow and high. At many points you can look down past your right foot into one valley, a thousand feet below, and past your left foot into another, equally far below. A cool head and a steady nerve are what’s needed up there. And the path – well, the path naturally jerks and jogs its way along, twisting this way and that, keeping to the top of the ridge because that’s the only way forward. A pace to the right or the left – or a pace straight ahead when the ridge twists to right or left – and you’ll be over the edge.

Tom WrightPaul for Everyone – Galatians and Thessalonians

In so many of the challenges we face at home, at work and in our culture we find ourselves walking on Striding Edge. As we maintain relationships, bring up children, build organisations and manage colleagues, as we participate in wider movements and share with others online – as we live through crises and struggle to gauge our response – there seem to be many ways to fall:

Aristotle taught that virtue is a mean – so bravery lies between cowardice and foolhardiness. It can be a hard line to find, especially when seek the balance-point – to find “bravery” – between virtues that seem in opposition:

  • Staying quiet and speaking out;
  • Conservatism and risk;
  • Compassion for weakness and pushing for growth;
  • Optimism and despair;
  • Community-mindedness and self-preservation;
  • The Now and the Not Yet;
  • Flexibility and structure;
  • Empowerment of others and control;
  • Patience and initiative;
  • Stewardship and largess;
  • Generosity and efficiency;
  • Waiting for others and getting on;
  • Freedom and responsibility;
  • Kindness and getting things done;
  • Individuality and group identity;
  • Subjectivity and objectivity;
  • Rigour and probability clouds;
  • Accountability and forgiveness;
  • Planning and spontenaity;
  • Work and play (both at work);
  • Executive and generative work;
  • The Law and The Spirit of the Game;
  • Ideas and implementation;
  • Trying new things and doing the existing things well.

The list goes on, and it’s easy to fall. These are some things that help:

  • The clarity and resolve that come from knowing where we’re going, and why we want to go ;
  • Staying focused on the path;
  • Awareness of (but not obsession with) the pitfalls;
  • Planning for the journey – seeking advice, learning from others;
  • Going together (fellow travellers);
  • Choosing the right time to climb the mountain, and knowing when to turn around if things get out of hand. It can help to decide what “out of hand” means in advance.

2 thoughts on “Striding Edge”

  1. Really excellent. Glad you listed those 6 bits of advice. I think this post shows some organising principles for a lot of what you have been blogging about (Bookerdile?)

  2. Love this and love the 6 pointers – feels like these are key organising themes on many issues you’ve been blogging on (Bookerdile?)

I'd love to hear your thoughts and recommended resources...