It is an Eye Opening Experience
Simon Sinek in his now famous TED Talk, “Start with Why. How Great Leaders Inspire Action,” strove to explain how the Wright Brothers, Martin Luther King Jr. and Apple succeeded, while many others with similar goals, during the same time period, never achieved their results or recognition.
All of his illustrations made interesting points but he particularly focused on the Wright Brothers. Though they were the least qualified to achieve success, they were the first ones to fly. Samuel Langley, then secretary of the Smithsonian Institute, had the best people working for him and all the money he needed to be the first to make a machine that could fly. The Wright Brothers on the other hand, funded their efforts with the proceeds from their bicycle shop.
In fact, when the Wrights succeeded, Langley abandoned the project, like an explorer who was beaten to the North Pole. He didn’t even have the foresight to take the technology and develop it from conception to maturity. He only wanted the fame and fortune of being first. The Wright Brothers, on the other hand, believed they were changing the world. The difference, according to Sinek, was they understood the “why.”
The Rest of the Story
Here is a side story that is as amazing. When the Wright Brothers were successful, they sent a telegraph home to their sister Katharine:
“SUCCESS, FOUR FLIGHTS THURSDAY MORNING ALL AGAINST TWENTY ONE MILE WIND, STARTED FROM LEVEL WITH ENGINE POWER ALONE, AVERAGE SPEED THROUGH AIR TWENTY ONE MILES, LONGEST 57 SECONDS, INFORM PRESS, HOME FOR CHRISTMAS.”
David McCullough wrote in his book “The Wright Brothers,” “It had been agreed earlier that were Wilbur and Orville to succeed at Kitty Hawk, Lorin their older brother, acting as press agent, would immediately notify the local papers and the Associated Press.”
So when Katharine delivered their “SUCCESS” telegram, Lorin took it downtown to the city editor at the Dayton Daily Journal, Frank Tunison, who also represented the Associated Press. He read the telegram and showed no interest. “Fifty-seven seconds, hey?” he reportedly said. “If it had been fifty-seven minutes, then it might have been a news item.”
All that appeared in the Dayton Daily News was that the brothers, who had been away doing experiments in North Carolina, would be home for Christmas!
Missing History Because You’re In It
Not missing the history that is being written right around us, which many times is camouflaged by our short sightedness or familiarity, has to be one of our most purposeful resolutions for 2016. Tens of thousands gathered to watch the manned launches from the Cape beginning in the early 1960’s, few however showed up to view Dr. Robert Goddard’s initial launches in 1926.
The other key resolution is understanding the “why” of what we are doing. When the “why” is clear, the most daunting tasks are embraced.
It is said that when Ernest Shackleton, the famous Arctic explorer, was preparing for one of his expeditions, he put the following announcement in the newspaper: “Men wanted for hazardous journey, small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful, honor and recognition in case of success.” To everyone’s amazement, volunteers showed up in droves. That is the power of the “why.”