A success at everything, a pioneer of nothing!
It is easy to be mediocre. Do the same things that brought those who did it before you success. Repeat it over and over again and you’d replicate their success. That’s all!
It was a turn-of-the-century version of the dot-com boom. The promise of a revolutionary new technology was changing the way people imagined the future. And there was a race to see who could do it first. It was the end of the 19th century and the new technology was the airplane. One of the best-known men in the field was Samuel Pierpont Langley. Like many other inventors of his day, he was attempting to build the world’s first heavier-than-air flying machine. The goal was to be the first to achieve machine-powered, controlled, manned flight. The good news was Langley had all the right ingredients for the enormous task; he had, what most would define as, the recipe for success.
Langley had achieved some renown within the academic community as an astronomer, which earned him high-ranking and prestigious positions. He was secretary of the Smithsonian Institution. He had been an assistant in the Harvard College Observatory and professor of mathematics at the United States Naval Academy. Langley was very well connected. His friends included some of the most powerful men in government and business, including Andrew Carnegie and Alexander Graham Bell. He was also extremely well funded. The War Department, the precursor of the Department of Defense, had given him $50,000 for the project — a lot of money in those days; money was no object.
Langley assembled some of the best and brightest minds of his day. His dream team included test pilot Charles Manly, a brilliant Cornell-trained mechanical engineer, and Stephan Balzer, the developer of the first car in New York. Langley and his team used the finest materials. The market conditions were perfect and his PR was great. The New York Times followed him around everywhere. Everyone knew Langley and was rooting for his success.
But there was a problem.
Langley had a bold goal, but he and his team members were only good at replicating previous success(es). The task was different this time. What he needed now was a team of habitual failures who would not let it slide until their goal was met.
What did Orville and Wilbur Wright do differently?
They were just habitual failures who would not take No for an answer. They had no sponsor and no media attention but they wanted something more than the build-a-name-for-myself mentality Langley had.
You’d agree with me that the reason Langley gave up when the Wright brothers had successfully flown was nothing more than the name, the prestige; he wanted to be more, something in the frame of his friends, Bell and Carnegie, but there wasn’t a formula to solve this problem, an approach he was familiar with and a huge success at.
Success is a team-sport. Many times, it is a product of an accumulation of “sweats”.
Inspired by Simon Sinek and Paul Thatcher.