Think for a minute about what Ed Catmull calls “life’s two inch events”

One of my favorite recent books is Creativity, Inc by Ed Catmull. Catmull is the head of Pixar Animation studios and he has been a creative and leadership force in a number of pioneering animation efforts such as Toy Story.

Catmull is fascinated with the role fate plays in shaping our lives. He writes about  life’s “two inch events.” His point is that if I wouldn’t have awakened just as a pal was falling asleep at a very dangerous curve when we were 21, several stories, including that of our children, would be fundamentally different.

On one trip to the badlands and Mt. Rushmore, when my son Jeff was about three, we left an amusement area and encountered heavy traffic. Our Down syndrome son Jason was seven. An oncoming driver obviously lost patience with the traffic and attempted to pass four or five cars only to find the McGuire family directly in his sights and no way to get back into his lane. He was certain to hit us but my defensive actions were limited because there was a steep ravine on our right. With fate on my side, I turned the wheel hard right to avoid the oncoming car. As we precariously skidded on the edge of that ravine I jerked the wheel back hard left to avoid guaranteed tragedy.

I had just saved my family from one of our scariest encounters ever, and possible death, when my two little boys simultaneously and gleefully shouted “Wheeeeeeeeeee.” Not the kind of acclaim I expected for my life-saving maneuver.

It was one of those “two-inch events” and you would not be reading this blog if I had come just a bit closer to that ravine. My daughter, Tracy, and her family probably wouldn’t be around etc, etc.

I don’t tell this story to be macabre but rather to stress the sense of gratitude we all should feel. I am willing to bet every reader of this post has a “two-inch event” for which you should be grateful.

I have a friend who survived dangerous action in Vietnam and who survived alcoholism. He shakes his head in amazement when he considers the “two-inch events” in his life. But I marvel at how this man connects people and boosts people’s self esteem. His retirement job is helping people be better. As I talked to him the other day I couldn’t help but think how much the world would have lost if “two inches” would have ever gone against him

Life is fragile and our job is to make the most of it with joy and enthusiasm. We have to avoid anything that looks like passivity because that two inches could easily go against us the next time.

One thought on “Think for a minute about what Ed Catmull calls “life’s two inch events”

  1. Since I was driving for the first two inch event you mention, I “get it.” (Fortunately that night, we didn’t “buy it.”)

    I agree, profound gratitude is the response to so many of these close calls in our lives.

    Blog on!


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