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What the Wright Brothers can teach us all today

The Wright Brothers changed the world in so many ways.

A few weeks ago I read David McCullough’s book on the Wright Brothers, and last week my family visited the Wright Brothers Memorial Museum in the Outer Banks.

What really impresses me about them is that they revolutionized the world literally on a shoestring budget. They were not funded by a wealthy investor or a government agency, at least not until they had some good successes (such as proving they had learned how to fly.)

They did not go to college, nor did they have any specific certification or license. (They did get patents on their work and were later funded, but not at first.) They were not extremely wealthy, although they were able to afford the time to work on flying thanks to their bicycle business. But no one paid them to leave the comfort of their home in Dayton, Ohio and move to a remote, at times mosquito-infested area called Kitty Hawk.

When they first went to the Outer Banks, about 50–60 people lived in Kitty Hawk, and the residents there were not wealthy. Orville and Wilbur Wright had to get to the island by boat, a much more treacherous activity back then. They lived there at first in a tent under miserable conditions and dealt with swarms of mosquitoes, and later they built a shed.

Not to mention, they had to know they were risking their lives. In fact, they were inspired by Otto Lilienthal, a man who died while trying to fly. Although the Wright Brothers were much more studious and careful before flying, they have to know how risky the venture was.

Their work was very tedious. They had some successes their first year at Kitty Hawk, but their second year was full of frustrations. The two high school dropouts went back to their hometown of Dayton, Ohio and worked on building a wind tunnel to simulate the process as much as possible. All of this work took a lot of knowledge of science, math, engineering, critical thinking, and other subjects for Orville and Wilbur. (Did I mention they never went to college?)

What I really love about the Wright Brothers was that they were passionate about their craft. We tend to think today someone with a college degree, an MBA, or some certification has it made. Or we tend to think that if someone is hired by a Silicon Valley company they have it made. But getting hired is often just the start.

Even today we need people who will get things done. We need people who will execute and fix things when they aren’t working.

We need people who love their craft so much that they will deal with frustrations to become better at what they do.

In my industry of staffing and recruiting, this can mean learning more about employment law, communication, and networking. It can mean learning more about searching for resumes and using keyword searches, learning about using technology more efficiently, and just learning a whole host of other subjects. It definitely means reading articles or books and listening to podcasts about what I do. And it means putting in the time to focus on the mundane tasks.

Whatever industry you are in, you have a craft that needs to be improved. Hopefully you don’t have to risk your life like Lilienthal and the Wright Brothers did. But you will deal with frustrations. I hope you love your craft enough to keep striving to improve.

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