The story of the Wright Brothers is fascinating. It’s been a while since I listened to the book, but what stood out to me as the main theme was the constant pursuit to continuously learn.
These brothers did not have PhDs. In fact, neither even had a college degree and Orville did not even finish high school. But they read books. They observed birds in flight. They documented their findings. They conducted experiments. Initiative and ambition drove them forward.
So how did two brothers from small town Ohio successfully win the race to create the airplane? There were other players in the world, competing to be the first in flight. What set the Wright brothers apart?
First of all, though their resumes did not have eye popping credentials and they were not Ivy League educated, they were extremely smart. And they did not stop learning. They constantly improved their inventions, and over time, it paid off. By the end of the book I was almost in shock that the inventors of the airplane were these guys. Their determination was incredible.
I’m not against formal education at all. It’s great. I went to college. But after reading this book, it inspires me to think bigger and pursue learning things that I’m interested in or that may benefit me in my future career. Maybe this will come in the form of a Master’s degree, but maybe it won’t.
In this day and age, information is so accessible. You may be able to take a college course on a subject, or instead you may be able teach yourself a new skill by watching YouTube videos, reading articles and blogs, etc. The point is don’t limit yourself. If the Wright Brothers can be the first in flight by learning new things with the resources available in the early 1900s, then surely over 100 years later we can gain new skills using the extensive information available to us for free on our own computers.
Orville Wright actually lived through the entirety of the WWII years, dying in 1948. I can only imagine what it would have been like to invent the airplane and then witness the importance of aircraft in a war like WWII. Incredible.
I have extended family in the Detroit, Michigan area and during one of our family vacations years ago I had the chance to go to Greenfield Village in Dearborn. It is essentially an outdoor museum of sorts, and one of the historic stops is the actual Wright Cycle Shop building, where the brothers housed their bicycle business and worked on some of their earliest forms of aircraft. It is the actual building, and was moved from their hometown in Dayton, Ohio to Dearborn, Michigan to be part of this historic museum. If you are ever in the Detroit area, definitely consider spending a day at Greenfield Village, and yes you will need a whole day to appreciate it.
To wrap it up I’ll say this. Learn, learn, and learn some more. Whether through reading, schooling, podcasts, audiobooks, seminars… you name it, be a student no matter what stage of life you are in. And don’t be afraid to think big. The Wright Brothers kept pushing and innovating because they believed that they had what it took to be the first in the air.
This was the first book by David McCullough that I completed and have since listened to his books 1776 and The Course of Human Events. I heard Dave Ramsey once say that he recommends authors instead of only individual books, which is a a great piece of advice. Anyway, I think David McCullough is a fantastic writer, especially if you love history.