Byron's Babbles

Wright Brothers Fascination

Posted in Education, Educational Leadership, Inspirational, Leadership by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on April 14, 2015


You all know I am fascinated and obsessed with the Wright Brothers. They are members of my personal Mount Rushmore. This past week when I had the opportunity to travel to Washington D.C. with Hoosier Academies students and families I took a group to my favorite Smithsonian Institution exhibit – The Wright Brothers and 1903 Wright Flyer, in the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. I am such a student of the Wright Brothers because of the audacious leadership they displayed. Imagine the audacity to think they could build a machine that would fly. Remember, people made fun of them. Also, the audacity to know what being able to fly would do to affect all generations to come. In other words, WHY being able to fly would be advantageous to the human race. Basically, everything in the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum is there as a result of the Wright Brother’s innovative leadership! 

Additionally, the Wright Brothers were controversial, which according to Sally Hogshead, makes them fascinatining. Some of this controversy was a simple rivalry between the Smithsonian Institution and the Wright Brothers, and their claims of who was the first to fly. The Smithsonian at the time was primarily a research facility rather than a museum and Dr. Langley, the leading competitor in the race for first flight, was America’s most respected scientist, and the keader of the Smithsonian Institution. In 1928, Orville Wright loaned the Flyer to the London Science Museum, where it stayed for 20 years. It was not until 1948 that the Smithsonian received the airplane. I for one am glad it is where it belongs and the Wright Brothers are serving as an example of American enginuity for all who come to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.

Malcolm Gladwell said it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become great at something. Imagine if the Wright brothers had “tried” flying for a couple of months and then gave up saying “we are just no good at flying.”  It sounds humorous, but many people do this when starting a new project. From something as simple as getting into shape to the more complicated endeavor of pioneering and inventing new products, achieving high levels of success in anything is less dependent on talent and more dependent on tenacity. Sometimes we forget that anything we are now good at, we were once not proficient. In other words, we must be bad at something before we can get good at it. The Wright brothers set out with a dream and worked vigorously to make the impossible a reality.  It wasn’t easy and took hard work with thousands of failures to get the success they were looking for.  After only four years, the vision they had cast was actualized by their own actions.   The more amazing part though is the business story that followed. It took them several more years to hammer out the safety issues with flight and then had a multimillion dollar earning year in 1910.  What is truly unbelievable is that after only another 5 years,  Wilber Wright was able to sell the company for not only $36,000,000, but also received another $600,000 for serving as the chief consulting engineer during the first year of the new company’s operation. We severely overestimate what we can accomplish in one year and strictly underestimate what we can do in 10. I am also always amazed to remember that neither of the Wright brothers had diplomas or collegiate courses, instead they were encouraged heavily by their parents with a “classics” education focus and read hundreds if not thousands of books from their family library.  Pontific knowledge, tenure, and certificates does not equate to being educated.

Remember, every big success requires first a dream, then a struggle, before the victory.  Think about this: “If I take away your struggle, I will also take away your victory.”


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: