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It is a story that has gotten a fair amount of attention this week, in part because it is simply dripping with irony.

Jimi Heselden, 62, the multi-millionaire owner of the Segway company that manufactured the high-tech, gyroscope-controlled two-wheeled “personal transport” vehicle, died this week when the Segway he was driving on his British estate plunged off a cliff and into a river.

To this point, foul play is not suspected. Authorities are still trying to figure out whether the accident was caused by mechanical problem or user error.

The Atlantic reports that Heselden was an interesting individual: “A former coal miner who lost his job following the 1984-85 miners' strike that affected much of the British coal industry, Heselden took his redundancy, or layoff, money and invented Hesco bastion, a collapsible wire mesh and fabric container that is used for military fortification and flood control.

“The product has done so well over the past couple of decades, that Heselden was able to purchase Segway in late 2009 and also to donate millions of his personal fortune to charity. When he died this past weekend, Heselden was worth more than $250 million.”

The metaphor seems obvious. Often, we think we are completely in control of our circumstances. We think we have the power, and that resolve and strength of will can see us through virtually any circumstance.

But, as John Lennon once said, “Life is what happens when you are making other plans.” So is death.

Whether flying high or enduring low points, it is critical to respect the fact that there is such a thing as circumstances beyond our control. We do the best we can, but remember that this may not always be enough. And sometimes it doesn’t matter.

The Atlantic adds to the irony, noting that while the Segway was not invented by Heselden (Dean Kamen did that, promoting it as “the future of transportation” when he unveiled it in 2001), there are at least nine cases in history in which prominent inventors were killed while using heir own creations.

My favorite: Otto Lilienthal, the German aviation pioneer who invented the hang glider, who died in 1896 after taking more than 2,000 glider flights, “after snapping his spine when his glider lost its lift and he fell from about 50 feet.”

It’s like the line from Bull Durham: “You have to play this game with fear and arrogance.”

And that’s my (unusually philosophical) Wednesday Eye-Opener.

- Kevin Coupe
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