Where Does Your Bridge Go?

Bill Abbate

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Don't you love a good analogy? Especially when they are simple and apply directly to your life. Are you familiar with the one that compares building a bridge to building your life? The very thought of such a thing begs the question, what are you building your bridge over, and where will it wind up? Somewhere or nowhere?

This is no ordinary bridge, mind you. It is a suspension bridge. Everyone is familiar with one of the most iconic suspension bridges in the world, the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. It opened to traffic in 1937. According to The Frommer's Travel Guide, it is "possibly the most beautiful, certainly the most photographed, bridge in the world."

A bridge to a better life

This analogy of building a bridge and a life appeared in the first half of the last century. The quote is from a book by the editors of Forbes Magazine initially published in 1950, Thoughts on the Business of Life. While we know little about the author, he was a very astute individual. Following is the quote in its entirety:

"The long span of the bridge of your life is supported by countless cables called habits, attitudes, and desires. What you do in life depends upon what you are and what you want. What you get from life depends upon how much you want it, how much you are willing to work and plan and cooperate and use your resources. The long span of the bridge of your life is supported by countless cables that you are spinning now, and that is why today is such an important day. Make the cables strong!" L.G. Elliott

The foundation

Having spent nearly five decades in the heavy materials industry, including cement, aggregates, concrete, and steel, I must add one thing to Elliot's quote. To build anything, whether a bridge or a life, requires building it on a good foundation.

So long as the foundation is sound, the structure built on it will stand for a very long time, provided the structure itself is well made. This concept applies to life just as well as something physical. The better you build your foundation, the better the chance of living a long life and achieving much along the way.

What is this foundation exactly? In building a bridge, the foundation must be placed on a sound subsurface and sufficiently constructed to handle what you build on it. This is also true with life. Building a solid foundation of good health, honoring and respecting others, communicating clearly, continually learning, morality, and many other things at the base of our life, will make it strong.

As the foundation is in the process of being completed, you can work on the bridge itself.

The long span

The purpose of a bridge is to allow you to cross safely to the other side. Like anything in life, before you begin to build, you must know what you want and where it will go. What is the bridge built over, and where will it end? Is it going over water, a valley, gorge, river, or something else? What is the target on the other side? A road, trail, or perhaps an infamous bridge to nowhere!

What are you building the bridge of your life to cross, and where will it wind up? Let's say the destination for your bridge is retirement. You will want the bridge to carry a great deal of weight. This weight can include caring for your family, financial stability, shelter, food, and other necessary things you need so you can cross it safely.

You will suspend its path or roadway across the span of the many potential pitfalls in life. To do so, you must build it with a great number of steel cables. In life, these cables equate to numerous habits, attitudes, and desires that support the roadway to where you wish to go. Every cable supporting the roadway must be as strong and defect-free as possible. If even a few cables break, the entire structure could fail or even collapse.

Spinning the cables in your life bridge takes those strong supporting habits, attitudes, and desires. You will spin each of these into cables every day as you continue building the roadway to get to the other side. Make sure your cables are strong enough to support a road that will not fail or collapse on your way to that final destination.

It takes planning, hard work, the cooperation of others, and the proper use of resources to build any bridge. To get to the other side requires that you keep working, spinning the cables consistently. A critical part of building the bridge is to spin cables every day until you create enough for the entire span.

In the end, you must want this bridge to your destination in life with enough desire you are more than willing to put in the time and effort required. If you do not want it bad enough, it is unlikely you will complete the bridge.

Final words

Back to Elliot's quote, give serious thought to his statement:

"What you do in life depends upon what you are and what you want."

Then consider Elliot's words:

"What you get from life depends upon how much you want it, how much you are willing to work and plan and cooperate and use your resources."

If you are the type who wants something bad enough and are willing to do as Elliot suggests, you will accomplish what you desire. All it takes is determination and the willingness to keep spinning those cables every day to make them strong enough and in sufficient quantity.

Are you making your cables strong every day? How is your bridge coming along? Will it be completed on time? Will it be simple yet functional and structurally sound? Or will it be one of enduring beauty like the Golden Gate Bridge?

You, I and everyone else have only one life to live. May we spend it building a bridge that takes us where we want to go, and not a bridge to nowhere!

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Semi-Retired-Leadership/Executive Coach -Personal & Career Growth Expert -Editor and Leadership Writer at Illumination -Author

Richmond, VA
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