Cut the Rope
January 29, 2021
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In 1853, America hosted its first world’s fair in New York City. The organizers built a beautiful exhibition hall called the Crystal Palace. This is where the latest and greatest inventions were showcased. This is also where a man named Elisha Otis pulled off one of the most remarkable stunts in the history of the world’s fair. Otis was the inventor of the safety elevator brake, but he was having a hard time selling his idea to safety-first skeptics. It was time to go big or go home. He stood on an elevator platform hoisted high enough for everybody in the exhibition hall to see him. Then Otis, who had positioned an axman above the elevator, cued him to cut the rope!
The elevator fell—a few feet. The crowd let out a collective gasp. And Elisha Otis pronounced, “All safe, ladies and gentlemen. All safe.”
I know—cutting the rope doesn’t seem safe. Can I tell you what’s not safe? Playing it safe! In fact, the greatest risk is taking no risks. Cutting the rope is about taking calculated risks. When I say “calculated,” I’m talking about a risk-reward ratio. I’m not advocating blind leaps. Keep both eyes wide open, but you’d better not focus on the wind and waves. The only way to walk on water is to keep your eyes fixed on Jesus! Well, you have to get out of the boat too!
When Elisha Otis pulled off this unforgettable sales pitch, there were only a few buildings in New York City taller than five floors. Why? No one wanted to climb the stairs! It was next to impossible to rent top-floor real estate. Then in 1854, Otis installed an elevator in a building on Broadway, and the rest is history.
By 1890, there were ten buildings taller than ten stories. By 1900, there were sixty-five buildings taller than twenty stories. And by 1908, there were 538 buildings in New York City that qualified as skyscrapers, including the famous Flatiron Building between Broadway and Fifth Avenue. More and more buildings got taller and taller, and something else happened. Higher floors started producing higher revenues! As long as you didn’t have to climb the stairs, everyone wanted a room with a view.
Elisha Otis had turned the world upside down. He didn’t just invent the safety elevator brake; he made the modern skyscraper possible!
At last count, New York City has fifty-eight thousand elevators. Those elevators make eleven billion trips every year. And that’s just New York City! According to the Otis Elevator Company, the equivalent of the world’s population rides on their products every three days. All because Elisha Otis had the courage to cut the rope!
If you want to imagine unborn tomorrows, you’ve got to cut the rope. It’s scary, especially if you’re afraid of heights. But anything less is maintaining the status quo. You will experience a few falls, a few fails. That’s for certain. But cutting the rope is the way we cut the ribbon on the dreams God has given us.
Excerpted from Win the Day: 7 Daily Habits to Help You Stress Less & Accomplish More. Copyright © 2020 by Mark Batterson. Used by permission of Multnomah, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.
Mark Batterson serves as lead pastor of National Community Church in Washington, DC. NCC also owns and operates Ebenezers Coffeehouse, The Miracle Theatre, and the DC Dream Center. Mark holds a doctor of ministry degree from Regent University and is the New York Times bestselling author of 17 books, including The Circle Maker, Chase the Lion, and Whisper. Mark and his wife, Lora, have three children and live on Capitol Hill.