16 Timeless Lessons from Two Brothers Who Ignored Impossibility

“The Wright Brothers flew through the smoke screen of impossibility.”
-Dorothea Brande

It was the 1890’s and the race to fly was on. Even Wilbur Wright himself in a moment of deep disappointment, remarked to Orville that man would fly, but not in their lifetimes. Somehow the brothers moved past the disappointment, setbacks, obstacles, failures, copycats, haters, and lack of resources to hold a place of national and international acclaim.

Their critical steps and mindset are a virtual map to success.

Analyzing how they did it might very well bring YOU one step closer to flying through the smoke screen of impossibility in your own life, work, and art. Today is the first of three articles that’ll give you 16 timeless lessons from the Wright Brothers approach to invention and innovation. Tune in later this week for the rest of the lessons about ignoring impossibility and making your vision a reality!


Take a Different Approach

From the beginning of their aeronautical work, the Wright brothers focused on developing a reliable method of pilot control as the key to solving “the flying problem”. This approach differed significantly from other experimenters of the time who put more emphasis on developing powerful engines.

If genius is really about 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration as Einstein said, then approaching things differently in your work can have a significant impact. How are you approaching an age-old problem in a new way?

With Teen Identity Portraits and Magazine, we took the traditional photo studio and turned it on its head… we didn’t do traditional portraits, we didn’t sell big wall prints, we focused on raising the self esteem of teen girls, and empowering them with a voice and vision for their future.

Since its inception three years ago, many other studios and photographers have started to take the concept and claim it as their own… as far as a desire to reach teen girls and raise their confidence and esteem, that’s great! When it comes to copying our approach, our style, and even our name or slogan, that’s not okay… for them or us. For them, it will never have the power it did for us since it came from our hearts, our vision, our idea. For us, it’s treading on copyright and a brand we’ve been building, that has gained traction and media attention, and requires action.

Best solution? Take your own unique and different approach… give it your own unique spin, name, style and brand. That’s where you’ll win.

Collect Accurate Data

Using a small homebuilt wind tunnel, the Wrights also collected more accurate data than any before, enabling them to design and build wings and propellers that were more efficient than any before.

Are you capturing data about what works? What works in your life to inspire you, to force you to take action, to implement change? Are you creating processes, testing them, selecting the best one, and writing it all down? Are you implementing systems that you know work because you’ve collected enough data to clearly see the difference?


Pay Attention to Early Interests

In 1878 their father brought home a toy “helicopter” for his two younger sons. Wilbur and Orville played with it until it broke, and then built their own. In later years, they pointed to their experience with the toy as the initial spark of their interest in flying.

Much of who we are and what we love to do started early. It may not have been in the same form or function as it currently looks or you may have abandoned what you loved for more practical pursuits, but now is the time to drag them out again. What was it that sparked your interest? Was it reading, writing, visual images, visiting places, spending time with people, sketching, singing… make a list and see how many of those you are pursuing now.

Then CHANGE SOMETHING! Start doing more of what you love and less of what you don’t.

This is your only life. Live it.

Gain Essential Skills

They gained the mechanical skills essential for their success by working for years in their shop with printing presses, bicycles, motors, and other machinery.

There is no shame in early or small beginnings. What you learn along the way can guide and influence your thinking for a lifetime. Become a tinkerer. Not only does it sound cool, but you can gain valuable knowledge about what works and what doesn’t without a huge investment in the outcome. Don’t worry if your tinkering isn’t directly in the field you eventually want to conquer.

Much of what we do and learn today is transferrable… are you learning to be efficient, effective, action-oriented, tolerant or any of a million other skill sets? Those will help you in your future which may be just around the corner!

Conduct Extensive Testing

From 1900 until their first powered flights in late 1903, they conducted extensive glider tests that also developed their skills as pilots.

You cannot be afraid to test. Most people would say they aren’t afraid of testing, they are afraid of failing. However, testing and being open to extensive testing requires a willingness to fail repeatedly and not give up. You must develop the emotional maturity and mental loyalty to stick with your idea even when it doesn’t work right the first time. That goes for building a business, pursuing your art, or even building legos.

Develop your skills. Hone them. Test them.

Stretch yourself beyond the current limits of what you think is possible.

There you have it! Five incredible lessons for how to blow through the smoke screen of impossibility. It’s been done before by people less talented but more willing to invest their energy in doing the work.

Will you be one of those people?

Take the first step… Identify one of the above strategies and tell us in the comments what you’re going to do to make it happen today!