Wilbur and Orville Wright were two small town bike mechanics with a dream. Everyone said they were “nuts” and “crackpots” and even people who knew and liked them as people could not figure out why they were “wasting their time” chasing an absurd impossibility. Man would never fly. It was ludicrous. But they were determined and worked hard at their dream, despite frequent setbacks, mistakes, accidents, and trials and miseries beyond anything they had ever imagined.
They might feel disappointment for a moment or hours, but the next day were back hard at work. Resilience, persistence, an attention to detail, and a courage that would not give up began to have their effects. But on one difficult day, Wilbur had been worn down and actually said that the dream might not happen for a thousand years. And then, within a year or two, it did.
But even when they were successful, most people didn’t believe it. They were ridiculed, castigated, demeaned, and called liars and worse. And yet they kept their heads up, maintained their inner poise, and kept working to improve their flying machine, pushing it to greater and greater accomplishments. When finally their success was public and undeniable, they became huge celebrities, which brought big financial payoffs, but actually got in the way of their work. And still, they found ways to persist and fight through fame as they had fought through infamy and failure.
Even though Wilbur died of typhoid fever at the age of 45, he left a lasting legacy that changed the world for us all. Orville carried on but it was never the same as the great partnership they had enjoyed, in bad times and good times. It’s a great lesson and encouragement to any of us who dream impossible dreams and struggle to bring to the world the best we can create. It helps to find a great partner who can share the dream, the work, and the eventual results. And when we face turbulent strong headwinds, we should remember what Wilbur once wrote in his notebook: “No bird soars in a calm.”
For more, go read The Wright Brothers, a great book on these guys by David McCullough.