Managing Through Tough Times : Finding Your Inner Ball

insert ball hereWhat is presently the tallest completed skyscraper in the world (but not for long) also has the world’s most massive ball. 

As an elegant solution to stabilizing the tower against lateral stresses such as wind shear and earthquakes (because human civilizations have a tendency to build along windy coasts and major fault lines), the designers of the Taipei 101 skyscraper threw a ball at the problem: A 730 ton, $4 million suspended sphere made from 41 welded steel plates, hung on public display in an atrium between the 87th and 91st floors, where it acts as a tuned mass damper. 

keep it steady, hang in there...In other words, it’s a carefully calibrated (tuned), massive hanging ball (mass) that counteracts against the swaying motion of the building (damper). As the building moves in one direction, the inertia of the ball creates resistance, reducing the overall movement by up to 40%. The owners of the building have dubbed the ball “Damper Baby” (apparently it’s a Libra). The building shakes, the ball jiggles, the schoolchildren giggle.  It’s all good.

Thank you SMG for sending me this link on Gizmodo (complete with all the obvious big ball comments). The post includes a video of the ball — or rather, the building — shaking, supposedly during the recent Sichuan Earthquake in China.

AT&T used to say Reach Out and Touch Someone... but keep your hands off this ballI like this big ball. For one thing, it’s big.  And it’s not just big.  It’s heavy. Ponderous. It’s cradled by several well-lubricated, finger-like, heavy-duty hydraulic pistons. You can’t just get balls like this shipped in overnight. You have to grow ’em, one steel plate at a time (because cranes can’t lift the whole ball). You need big, thick cables to hold up this ball. The ball is a powerful, potent metaphor, just hanging over your head. Don’t drop the ball — there are people with offices right under it. Hang the ball up high, where it can do more work at the top of building, where things move around a lot. The ball is not easily swayed.

the ball is hanging over your head‘A person should be flexible like the reed and not stiff like the cedar’ said Rabbi Elazar ben Shimon, back in the 2nd-3rd century. He was not a certified seismic designer, but he was the son of an uncompromising religious fundamentalist who was wanted dead by the Roman Empire authorities — they ended up living together as fugitives, father and son, in a cave for over a decade. This guy understood people and conflict.

The maritime expression ‘on even keel’‘ is a frequently used phrase to describe those who have the ability to be steady ( ‘level-headed’ ) in shaky situations, though if you ask a seaman, he’ll tell you that a more correct comparison to Damper Baby would be the nautical concept of ballast. Big ‘ol ballast, unlike bombast, is tangible and heavy… and like the ball, it is within. 

ok, you may be the tallest, but who has a bigger stabilizing ball?Having this big, inner ball is not the same as being merely well-founded or well-grounded  (though Taipei 101 is that too — it’s held up by piles that have been thrust some 262 feet deep into the earth).  Nor is it about just going with the flow. There is some sway, but without getting carried away.

Of course, to paraphrase King Missile, sometimes it’s handy to have a detachable ball. The ball is good for those tough situations, but other times you may want to let loose, unchain yourself, ’cause otherwise that ‘ol ball is just going to hold you back and get in the way.

I may have to restrict comments on this post.


About danspira

My blog is at: My face in real life appears at a higher resolution, although I do feel pixelated sometimes.

Posted on June 24, 2008, in Architecture, Business, Career, Life, Metaphors. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. wow! i am amazed! i hadnt even heard of anything of the sort! i am quite impressed!

    i wonder if the large metallic ball has a gravity… it might. slightly.

    i also wonder what happens if u place small explosives at the pistons…

  2. Feeling destructive, are we? Why do you have to go and bust my ball-metaphor?

    Well, the building can support the ball’s weight, this we know. We also know that the area beneath the ball, where the pistons connect, is sufficiently tied to the building’s structural members so that the load of the ball is transferred to the building’s columns, as it sways around. So the only remaining issue is whether that area is designed to withstand and transfer the force caused by the ball suddenly dropping the (short) distance between the bottom of the ball and the floor right beneath it. I would be very surprised if this little detail weren’t accounted for. Apart from damage that would be catastrophic to the building as a whole, I’d say this ball is in good hands.

  3. i thought about the finding ur ball v/s letting loose thing.

    (face value posts go on faster.. the introspective ones take a little while to brew)

    i wonder if there is a need to let loose if one has found their inner ball.

    it’s all about equilibrium. or even fancier, homeostasis.

    if happiness is about finding inner peace. inner peace is all about this inner ball.

    so my take on the ball is this:
    (1) a profound knowledge of who we are and what drives our actions. (“know urself”)
    (2) accepting (1). (“accept who u are”)

    the trick of course is spending the energy to figure (1) out and being honest enough with ourselves to achieve (2).

    it is obviously not a light switch type realization and more of a lifelong work: so the ball grows with time, and the bigger it gets, the more resilient we become.

    this brings the conversation back to the going from A to B concept of flow. i talked about being reactive v/s planning the future. the inner ball is the difference between “going with flow” and “being reactive”. it’s the skillz necessary to move in a specific path at a specific time for maximum performance.

    we can even go a step further and tie this to success in life/business. (companies need to find their inner peace.. all the MBAs talk about a mission statement but few understand how deeply it ties into the whole picture)

    finally, letting loose is a reaction. a reaction to a state of stagnation, in order to achieve some form of equilibrium. a kind of a jump start of a stalled engine. an engine that’s well lubed, and is running like a whistle (am i messing expressions up?) doesn’t need jump starts!

    (btw.. kudos for the “bust my ball-metaphor” pun, made me chuckle 🙂 )

  4. heh stupid smiley parser! some of those winks are actually badly placed punctuations.

  1. Pingback: Keeping a Level Head « Meme Menagerie

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