A world without air travel.
A world with people stuck where they are, unable to go where they want to go.
Oh wait, you don’t have to imagine. We have this f*cking thing called 2020.
For the first time since the invention of aircraft, virtually all air travel has reached a standstill. That’s an average of 100,000 flights a day – most of which are now grounded. Think of the magnitude of that. That’s close to 39 million flights in a year which is almost as many days it’s felt we’ve been social distancing.
You could say that 2020 has felt like we’ve travelled back in time to the 20th century, a time before we were able to book a flight and take off across the globe to exotic destinations. Since it feels like we’re back in 1902, let’s take a look back at what inspired the most significant invention of the 20th century.
The year: 1878.
The place: A dandy town known as Dayton, Ohio.
The event: Inspiration in the form of childhood wonder.
Bishop Milton Wright brought home a toy helicopter powered by a rubber band. A nifty gift for his two sons, Wilbur and Orville.
Inspiration struck the then 7 and 11 year old boys. From then on, the two brothers built kites, gliders, wind tunnels and all sorts of unique contraptions in admirable attempts to make their childhood dream a reality – all while working in a small bicycle shop. However, they weren’t the only ones pursuing this dream. And because they were not as well-funded as others on this pursuit, they worked on improving their mechanical skills in the bicycle shop and accumulated some hard-earned funding to continue to pursue their “hobby.”
That’s pretty badass in our books.
Imagine how one simple toy could ignite something in two little boys that would go on to change the world forever. From that one moment of childhood wonder, fascination, and determination came something at the time no one thought possible. Something so bold, so out of the box, that it would shatter the law of gravity as we knew it at the time.
The brothers got down to real business in 1899 when Wilbur was writing literature and was shocked to find out that so many people with extraordinary minds hadn’t made any significant progress in flight action. From Icarus to Leonardo Da Vinci, flight has made its way through history, literature, art, and so much more. Us earth-bound humans are fascinated by it.
Yet, no one had taken the requisite steps to turn the idea into reality. To get their hands dirty and build something new that would manifest the thought into action. Not until the Wright brothers!
They used this to fuel their ambition further with the realization that just because nobody else had yet done this, it did not make it impossible.
Why not seize the opportunity and live life on their own terms? So they spent the next few years pursuing multiple (failed) attempts, but all along, unapologetically ambitious in their undertaking.
Finally, one afternoon Wilbur was studying the wild, unpredictable way birds fly, when inspiration struck him like a jolt of lightning. Why not try to warp and rotate the wings of the plane to stabilize the flight? He decided to break the rules with a new way of thinking. They took the risk to test this theory on a 5-foot biplane kite in the hazardous weather conditions of Dayton, Ohio. And lo and behold, success!
The Wright brothers were obsessed with turning their vision into reality. They were going to stop at nothing to make their childhood dreams and goals come through. Why? Because they were dreamers. Visionaries. Rebels with a cause.
And they were right to be.
From December 17th, 1903, the world would never be the same again as the Wright brothers took flight. They reached new heights. 852 feet for a total of 59 seconds.
They had done it. And the world would take flight with them.
Other rebels followed in the Wright’s footsteps and just 10 years later, airplanes were flying at an altitude of 10,000 feet. Can you imagine the exhilaration they must have felt to be the first human beings flying at an altitude so high inside of an object that could’ve collapsed at any moment? That moment of suspension, of uncertainty and excitement, of blind faith and unparalleled vision. That is what dreamers are made of.
Just 66 years after the Wright brothers took flight, mankind challenged the laws of gravity to a whole new dimension and 240,000 miles in 76 hours later, we put humans on the moon.² That’s how mind-blowingly fast technology developed.
If these badass Ohio rebels didn’t have the ambition to pursue their dreams, the guts to take the risks they did, and the perseverance to keep trying despite their failures, the world would perhaps look quite different. We might still be stuck within the limits of our own countries, cultures and communities. Everything and everyone we experience is the result of the fusion of cultures. From music to food to languages – we are only able to exist beyond our own bubbles because of our ability to fly and visit other places.
Now, remember that rubber band powered toy helicopter? This story probably wouldn’t have existed if it wasn’t for that. The Wright brothers never forgot that little toy and have even said it was that very object that sparked the inspiration for the first flight.
It is the ordinary that sparks the extraordinary.
As you work towards your own extraordinary, Joule is with you to help power those dreams.