What do you think about when you fall?

What do you think about when you fall


Martial arts, rock climbing, off-road running, skiing, road cycling – lots of very active and potentially dangerous sports… yet I end up breaking my rib not doing any one of these in some darkest deepest corners of the Planet, but by simply getting on a city bike and cycling at a pedestrian 20km/h to meet up with my wife for dinner in a quiet town in Northern France.

I don’t know what thoughts go through your head when you fall, but after assessing the damage and making sure the correct lessons have been learned from the fall, in line my obsession with numbers, I couldn’t stop thinking: “How hard was the actual fall? Can I quantify it?”.

Am I a drama-queen with a fragile body or was it actually a hard fall and a thus “I’m lucky it’s not three broken ribs” situation?

And for my curiosity’s sake – was it harder than Mike Tyson’s left bolo punch straight into my undefended rib cage or not?

So, when Quora and Google did not provide and conclusive results, I set off on a mental journey to compare Mike Tyson’s punch impact force and then the impact force of my fall.

Without going into too much “Wired-magazine-like” detail of Newtonian physics on this subject, to calculate a force of an impact we need to figure out the mass and acceleration of the object flying towards you (i.e. Tyson’s left fist) or those of your body flying towards a stationary object (i.e. a stone parapet wall).

Tyson was much faster than most heavyweight boxers, but most likely slower than the welterweight superstar Ricky Hatton, with his punch recorded by Zimmer System at 14m/s. Thus, 12m/s would have been a good approximation for Tyson’s punch speed.

So we have:

Tyson’s weight – 109kg
Speed of punch – 12m/s
Initiation to impact – 0.25s

IMPACT FORCE: 109 kg x 12m/s / 0.25s = 5,232 Newtons (circa 1,176 of pound-force or 533 kgf).

Now back to my fall.

Roman’s weight – 80kg
Speed – 20km/h (5.55m/s)
Initiation to impact – 0.18s (felt like eternity, though)

IMPACT FORCE: 80 kg x 5.55m/s / 0.18s = 2,466 Newtons (circa 554 of pound-force or 251 kgf).

So perhaps not as bad as Tyson’s bolo punch, but powerful enough for me to take a few weeks of rest from training.

What are the business lessons here?

Black swans do exist 🙂

You could be building a very resilient system and think you are prepared for any eventuality, but then a black swan event will completely derail your plans.

What is the solution to that?  

The same one Nicholas Taleb suggests in “Black Swan”:

– eliminate risk of ruin (don’t fight Mike Tysons of this world);


– don’t use your past to explain or predict the future (cycling at 65kmh down the hill in Lanzarote and not falling does not mean you will not fall when you cycle at 20kmh in La Boule).   


by Roman Grigoriev

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