Wheelbarrows, Tightropes, and the Pursuit of Happiness: A Short Story About Finding Fulfillment in the Present

5 min read

Jean Francois Gravelet—better known as The Great Blondin (or, as you’ll soon see, the Daredevil of Niagara Falls)—was a famous French acrobat.

Gravelet cheated death on a daily basis, but perhaps his most famous feat took place on June 30th, 1859, when he thrilled crowds by walking a 1,100-foot tightrope 160 feet above Niagara Falls without a safety harness.

The act was such a success that The Great Blondin repeated it an estimated 300 times over his career, often finding new ways to make the already-dangerous act even more outrageous, such as …

  • Completing the journey blindfolded,
  • Carrying someone piggyback across the gap, and even
  • Carrying an oven out to the middle of the tightrope to cook an omelet.

But as great as all those acts are, there’s another one I want to focus on: His wheelbarrow trick.

Who Wants a Ride in the Wheelbarrow?

After traversing the gap a few times, Blondin would often turn to the onlooking crowd and ask if they thought he could walk across the tightrope, blindfolded, while pushing a wheelbarrow.

Predictably, the crowd would cheer him on with a, “You can do it!” And so he would.

And when he got to the other side, he’d say, “Okay, now I’m going back. Who wants a ride?”

Suddenly, it would get very quiet. So he’d ask again: “I said: Who wants a ride in the wheelbarrow?” Again, there was only silence.

Unfortunately for Blondin, there was rarely a single person willing to climb into the wheelbarrow, so most of the time he’d complete the trek back alone.

But what’s the point of all this? What I find most intriguing about this fascinating story is that, despite everyone’s belief that The Great Blondin could make it across the falls with a wheelbarrow, nobody dared to climb in.

And I think this is indicative of how many of us live our lives on a daily basis. So I’ve got a question for you …

Which Type of Person Are You?

Think of happiness like the wheelbarrow in The Great Blondin’s story. Using that analogy, there are three types of people in life …

#1: Those Who Push the Wheelbarrow in Front of Them

These types of people believe, “If I just achieve the next big thing, then I’ll be happy.”

With this approach, you’re placing happiness at some point that’s indefinitely ahead of you. No matter how far you walk, that wheelbarrow will always roll on in front of you; just out of reach.

It’s like saying, “I’ll be happy when I make my first $1M.” And then realizing … That wasn’t enough. So you think, “I’ll be happy when I reach $2M.” But … That’s not enough either.

When you follow this path, you’ll spend most of your life looking for happiness, fulfillment, and purpose in the “next thing;” in your next big accomplishment.

It’s the act of chasing happiness throughout your life, only to realize at an old age that you’ve made a fundamental mistake. And now you’re left struggling in the little time you have left to find what true happiness is.

#2: Those Who Pull the Wheelbarrow Behind Them

These types of people believe, “What I have isn’t enough, so I can’t do this.”

With this approach, you’re putting happiness behind you; and that weight is preventing you from starting. For example: You might put off running a half-marathon until you can run a 7-minute mile.

The problem with this view is, you’ll always feel like there’s something more you need before you can get started. As a result … You’ll never be ready and you’ll never get started.

It’s not allowing yourself to experience the joy of running the marathon anyway, regardless of your fitness level.

With this perspective, it doesn’t matter how big or how small the task is; you’ll never feel ready to take it on (and you’ll spend most of your time second-guessing yourself as you carry the weight of that wheelbarrow behind you).

#3: Those Who Simply Hop in the Wheelbarrow and Enjoy the Ride

And finally, there’s the third type of person, who believes, “I have everything I need to be happy, fulfilled, and successful already.”

These are the people bold enough to climb in the wheelbarrow and realize life isn’t happening to them, it’s happening for them; who realize that happiness isn’t somewhere in front of or behind them; it’s all around them.

These are the people who climb in the wheelbarrow and say, “I don’t know exactly what’s going to happen; I’m just here for the ride!”

The Power of the Present

So again I’ll ask … What type of person are you?

Are you pushing your wheelbarrow toward an undefined point that’s always sometime further ahead? Or is the weight of your wheelbarrow keeping you from moving to a happier place? Or are you riding the wheelbarrow, rushing headlong down the mountain and having a blast?

I don’t know where you are today, but I will say this: There’s no better time to climb in the wheelbarrow than now.

Pursue happiness now—in the present—and don’t worry about what needs to come before of what needs to come later.

At the end of the day, living the present moment is what matters most. It’s where you can have the biggest impact on your company, your family, and anyone (or anything) else you care about.

So, in the words of The Great Blondin … “Who wants a ride in the wheelbarrow?”

Share this article
Radical Delegation isn’t your typical business book.

No theory here—It’s a pragmatic, conversational handbook for leaders designed to free up 12+ hours a week

Receive exclusive updates to help unleash your superpowers on your journey to True Greatness.