Top 5 Life Lessons From The Wright Brothers

Exactly 111 years ago it happened. Well, almost exactly. 111 years ago yesterday.

The impossible was made possible. Adversity was conquered. Where many others had failed, these brothers achieved. Human flight became reality. 111 years ago Wilbur and Orville Wright made the first controlled, powered human flight.

Of course, this claim is disputed and it is possible that someone, somewhere else, may have beaten them to it. But the Wright Brothers are the ones that are known for it. Honestly, it doesn’t matter if they were first or not. The reality is they did it. They achieved.

Human flight has been a passion of mine from the time I developed head control as a baby and was able to look up at the sky. It’s taken me on an incredible journey, one that I describe in my TEDx talks at the Houses of Parliament and in Kansas City.

Here are my top 5 life lessons inspired from the Wright Brothers.

1. True Pioneers

Pioneers are generally people that are the first to use, to apply, to explore. The true pioneers are the ones that dare. Perhaps Wilbur and Orville were the first to achieve here. Perhaps they weren’t. But, as far as they were concerned, they were breaking new ground.

The true pioneers push forward. Despite the efforts of others, the true pioneers stay focussed on their goals. If you want to be a pioneer you must accept that failure is a high probability along your journey to ultimate success. Know that impossible must be first defied, then defeated.

2. Defy Convention

In 1903 convention was certainly not to fly. Why would you want to? Humans weren’t born to fly. Those that dared to defy this human flight convention and to pioneer its advancement, knew that an increase in engine power was more important than the development of a reliable system of pilot control. The Wright Brothers flipped this on it’s head, defied the convention of other experts and focussed on the pilot control system.

Defying convention isn’t just about societal convention. Taking advice and listening to peers is an important process. But defining and following your own path, in your own way, defying the convention that others lay down, while not without its own risks, is part of the integrity of the journey that you define.

3. Overnight Success

Achieving something great, defying, pioneering can be a life changing experience. These guys were incredible pioneers. Their seemingly overnight success wasn’t overnight – it took years to plan, research and develop with many failures along the way. They poured their hearts and souls into it.

Modern day societal convention has increased the demands for instant gratification and reduced attention spans. Overnight successes are unusual and there are exceedingly few that occur without huge amounts of hard graft. Seemingly overnight successes normally take years of work and dedication. Follow through on your dreams, don’t abandon them. Commit and achieve.

4. It’s Never Over

111 years ago, the Wright Brothers made history. But they didn’t rest on their laurels. There was so much more to achieve and develop. Sure, that day when human flight became reality they must have celebrated, but they went straight back to work. There was so much more to do. Orville Wright was born into the horse-and-buggy era and died at the dawn of supersonic flight.

You’re only as good as last thing you did. Your journey in life will continue no matter how many successes and failures you have. Your best chances of success are by building on other successes. Use these strengths to persevere. It’s never over.

5. Be Mad

In my new book, Perfect Madness, I quote Albert Einstein:

“For an idea that first does not seem insane, there is no hope”.

The Wright Brothers had a crazy, insane, mad idea. Human flight was their dream. They dedicated their lives to it. Many thought they were mad.

But sometimes the best idea is the idea that everyone else thought was crazy. The one that they all say no to. Sometimes the very best idea is the craziest one of all. Have the courage to listen to others, respect their advice and opinion but then make up your own mind. Commit. Make it happen. Be prepared to be mad; it’s perfect madness after all.

My new book has many more life lessons and I’d love it if you picked up a copy on Amazon. Once you’ve read it, leaving an honest review on Amazon would also be really fantastic and will help others to find it.

Main image by Tom Wigley.