With a feather in one hand and a rock in the other, lean out a second-story window, drop both, and watch what happens. The rock accelerates to a speeding blur and hits the ground with a thud. The feather, however, goes into a slip-slide kind of glide and lands with silent gentleness.
Both responded to the law of gravity, both arrived at the destination. The startling difference, however, was the methodology.
There’s much truth in the phrase “light as a feather.” Feathers are, indeed, light, soft and sensuous to the touch. Laying your head on a pillow filled with them contributes much to the cause of restful sleep. In woodworking, a feathered edge is a formerly sharp edge that was beveled or sanded to create a smoothness or roundness. In aviation, a feathered prop is one on which the angle can be reduced so it moves only slivers of air rather than big bites.
Our daily existence, however, angrily and unrelentingly shoves us in the opposite direction, slamming us against hard walls of loud, demanding, nagging, rough, raw, and rude, hard enough to make us wonder if our existence is becoming more about surviving than living.
Although quite a reach, I finally began to understand how those two extremes of slow, soft, and quiet vs. fast, hard, and noisy are related not so much to what we do, but rather how we do it.
Given a choice, I seek out those who are feathering their way through life. Just as they have likely proved themselves to be worthy suppliers of excellence, so do they also excel in how they reach the destination. They logically and correctly have learned there are two ways to awaken — with a sharp jab to the shoulder or with the touch of a feather on the forehead.
To exclude one or the other isn’t practical; you must decide which to apply and when. If there’s to be a default value, however, all votes lead to feathers.
I once attended an annual week-long workshop widely recognized for being no place for the meek or thin-skinned. My assigned mentor was a highly skilled master of the craft, but his demeanor was cold, tough, inelastic, unrelenting, and by the book. A glance from him was like being hit by two bullets, his voice often sounding like a threatening growl.
Working directly with me, however, was a person who although not quite as knowledgeable, was a master at using quiet and softness to instill confidence. You can easily guess whose firm hand I chose to grasp as I walked that razor sharp edge of intense and effective learning.
The more emphasis you place on the importance of this, the more you are aware of those who aren’t feathering their way through life. They pace the floor while waiting for an elevator. Their driving is checkered with darting, dodging, hard stops, and lunging forward the instant the light turns green. They eat not to taste but to fill. They show singular force when blending is clearly the order of the day. Impatience is their overlord.
In sharp contrast, those who feather their way through life move smoothly, easily, and more slowly when it’s prudent to do so. They think ahead and anticipate so as not to act impulsively. It’s no wonder you feel more relaxed when you’re around them. Their “feathered” state of mind manifests itself in everything they do.
In whose footsteps would you rather follow? What method do you want to use for reaching the next destination and the many more after that?
That brings us right back to the feather you watched slip-slide its way toward a soft landing. You did more than simply drop it. Just for fun, you imagined what it would be like to ride it down.