Famous Failures Series – The Wright Brothers

When is the last time you flew in an airplane? (Thanks to Covid – it has probably been awhile!) How long did that trip take you? More importantly, how long would it have taken you to reach the same destination if you’d never flown at all?

Without Wilbur and Orville Wright, the world would be a very different place. But did you know the Wright Brothers, who revolutionized powered flight, never finished high school much less had a degree from college?

To the outside observer, the Wright Brothers didn’t look like much. They started out in an entirely different field from where they wound up. Initially their interest lay in newspapers and the printing process. In 1889 they built their own printing press involving components created from such diverse objects as junk iron, a gravestone, and even an old buggy top. For the next seven years they struggled, first to produce their own newspapers, and then as printers. The problem? They never could get community support on the newspapers they produced. Even their mechanical achievements failed them. Despite their designs in printing presses becoming better over the years, they never garnered the clientele to make a business out of that particular service.

In the end they abandoned printing completely. They were not defeated though, and turned their attention elsewhere – at the current bicycle craze. Even this enterprise took time. It took them more than two diligent years of hard work to create a bicycle design both lightweight and functional enough to become popular.

You probably know the rest. From there they turned their eyes to the skies. The same issues they’d had in bicycles they saw as being the problem with the current airships being developed: the problem lay in keeping the craft lightweight enough to attain altitude, while maintaining ease of control, with enough power to keep the plane in motion as it went. In short, they felt what was needed was a craft you could handle as easily as a bicycle in the air.

Again, the Wright Brothers had to dig in and prove themselves diligent. Early failures had them wanting to give up on more than one occasion. In 1903 they proved the idea was possible with their success at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.

What can we learn from this story? First, your official education isn’t everything. The important thing is to keep learning, sometimes through trial and error.

Second, never give up. Failure is bound to happen. It’s what you do next that counts.

The Wright Brothers persisted, and because they did, they were able to attain new heights. So will you if you hang in there and keep going. Like the Wright Brother’s airplane, you’ll get your ideas off the ground in no time!

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