One of the most valuable assets a person needs to acquire, and then put into purpose, is the ability to pivot. Pivoting is not a preternatural human condition, because we are generally bred and trained to always force forward, no matter the peril, to reach any and all final goals at any and all costs — in both human treasure and in the assumption of precious trinkets.
Pivoting requires imagination and lots of forethought. Education is key. Experienced, smart, people open to new ideas are always the best, and most masterful, pivoters.
When faced with danger or a dead end, pivoting can be both salve and salvation as your wits earn you another day in battle.
Failure to pivot — and to brusquely and blindly stay on the same pathway — is how tragedies are written. How many times have we read throughout history about bullheaded leaders refusing to see the daylight behind them and not the looming darkness beyond the horizon in front of them?
We are asked to pity those fools, when we should be disavowing their inane refusal to fight human nature and the inherent risk to self-preservation.
A more modern day example of perfecting the pivot concerns a theatre director I was working with several years ago.
The director had a famous movie star wife and was working on a new play by a semi-famous Playwright. The Playwright had some recent success on national tour, and so, the rule in the theatre is the person with the most current success sets the muscle standard, and it was the director’s job to play into the Playwright’s every want and need in order to move the project forward.
The director made a suggestion during rehearsal to the Playwright, and after the Playwright shot down the idea, the director quickly, swiftly and expertly, turned on a dime and was able to make the Playwright believe that he had actually suggested the Playwright’s change himself and, in the snap of a finger, the Playwright was agreeing with the director’s recommendation that, actually, had just been the Playwright’s suggestion.
I stood there, stunned by the magical misdirection and re-stating the exact opposite of what the director had originally stated in order to move the show forward. What a skill, I thought, to claim someone’s idea as your own when you had just suggested the exact and precise polar opposite!
It was an important learning moment for me as I saw not all decisions or opinions had to be forever pinning, and that, sometimes, the best forward defense is to turn around the absolutely opposite way and “walk backward” into a right future.
As I ruminated on that experience years later, I came to realize the director must have had a lot of practice in spinning and pivoting because of his marriage to a movie star. You don’t survive a celebrity marriage without the lesser fame being able to dodge and spin and hurl and pivot on cue without any warning whatsoever to keep the peace and earn another day in disguise.