Lately I have been reading, among other books, The Wright Brothers by David McCollough. He is my favorite writer, as I have read all four of his presidential biographies on John Adams, Harry Truman, Teddy Roosevelt, and George Washington. The painstaking detail that McCollough employs in fleshing out these historical figures is breathtaking. His book The Wright Brothers retells a story that I thought I knew, but after a few pages I quickly realized I didn’t. And the detail with which he describes the Wright brothers clearly shows that these brothers were not country bumpkins who happened to get lucky. He vividly portrays two young men who had an insatiable curiosity and an indomitable work ethic that helped them gain victory over the sky.
The process they used to get a flying machine off the ground, and then learn how to perfectly control the craft, belies their simple exterior. Almost all of the people who came into contact with the Wright brothers’ experiments misunderstood them and underestimated them. While looking on their exterior, people could not see the countless hours they had poured over books on flight and the countless hours they had invested in trying to understand how flight worked. All people could see is two young bicycle shop owners who dared to do the impossible.
Their story applies to you as well. People cannot see what is on the inside of you; they can only see what is inside themselves. All people can see is what is on the outside of you—and they project onto you what they believe about themselves. They assume what is on the inside of you conforms to the paradigms they believe about themselves. They don’t know who you can become, and they may try to limit you based on what they perceive about you. Just like the Wright brothers didn’t allow others to limit them—in fact, they seemed delightfully oblivious of what others thought of them—you should not allow others to tell you what you can do.
Based on Proverbs 21:31 (MSG), here are three things you can do—like the Wright brothers—to achieve victory over anything.
1. Do your best
The Wright brothers didn’t just wish they could fly. They thoroughly research everything they could find on the subject. They corresponded with people around the world who had explored flight. And then they worked and worked and worked.
One of the eye witnesses who saw the Wright brothers’ flying machine make its first flight on Kill Devil Hills said this about their progress.
It wasn’t luck that made them fly; it was hard work and common sense; they put their whole heart and soul and all their energy into an idea and they had the faith.
Like the Wright brothers, throw yourself into what you want to do. Get serious about what you want to accomplish. Research how you can achieve what you want to do. Find out about others who are doing or have tried to do what you want to do. You cannot assume it will just happen. You have to put time and effort into it over a prolonged period of time to achieve victory.
2. Prepare for the worst
When the Wright brothers were experimenting with flight, they realized that the wind presented a difficult dilemma: they needed it to provide the lift but they knew it could also destroy their craft—and kill them in the process.
Wilbur Wright spoke about their flying experiments to the Western Society of Engineers in Chicago on June 24, 1903—nearly six months before their historic flight on December 17, 1903.
Before trying to rise to any dangerous height a man ought to know that in an emergency his mind and muscles will work by instinct rather than conscious effort. There is no time to think.
You will face adversity. You should expect to have obstacles in your way. And you have to be able to resolve in your mind what you will do when these things happen. If you are to do something that you have never done before, then you will have to prepare for things that you have never encountered before. Do not let these things prevent you from accomplishing what you have set your mind to do. So you must set your mind beforehand on how to deal with what you will face in the process.
3. Trust God
Faith was a part of the Wright brothers’ life, as their father was an itinerant minister. They no doubt understood the providence of God, that all things are provided from His hand and that they had to rely on Him for the outcome.
You also must put your faith to the test. You must trust God to see you through to victory. Unless the Lord builds the house, the laborers labor in vain (Psalm 127:1).
Before the turn of the 20th century, Wilbur Wright wrote to his brother Lorin.
I entirely agree that the boys of the Wright family are all lacking in determination and push. That is the very reason that none of us have been or will be more than ordinary businessmen. We have all done reasonably well, better in fact that the average man perhaps, but not one of us has yet made particular use of the talent in which he excels other men.
Wllbur Wright did not know what he was capable of doing less than ten years before he and his brother first launched their first flying machine. You have no idea what you are able to do until you apply yourself to a noble effort worthy of your time and effort and sacrifice.
I’ve heard it said that “The harder I work, the luckier I get.” The more you do what you must do, the more likely you will have a positive outcome for your labor.
Ultimately John Quincy Adams’ famous quote says it all: “Duty is ours. Results are God’s.” You have to trust God to bring you to victory.
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