Milton Wright was an Indiana frontier man. Though his days were dominated by the tumultuous tasks of farm life in the 1800s, he read every book he could get his hands on.
With his father’s core values as a foundation, he persistently pursued righteousness. He was an uncommon voice for the abolishment of slavery, ignoring the ridicule and rejection that came with that stance.
But he knew his purpose, and he lived it relentlessly.
Susan Catherine Koerner also never knew how to be normal. Breaking all of the gender rules of her time, she forged a path to college, studying literary arts. But her genius surpassed even that boundary.
Her uncontrollable curiosity drew her to the inner workings of her father’s carriage shop, where she learned tools, and honed mechanical skills that would be unparalleled even by today’s standards for her gender. She was the undoubted handy “man” of her family, building appliances and teaching children how to make their own toys in her “free time.”
After a long, methodical courtship, Milton proposed to Susan and they started a family.
With the ingenuity, confidence, and grit we can observe in these two, it is no surprise that they would go on to raise remarkable children, two of whom changed the world you and I live in forever.
As we like to tell it, the foundation of uncompromising character and courage instilled by their parents, Orville and Wilbur Wright fought headwinds of physics, public doubt, and the beaches of Kitty Hawk, to bring the first airplane and world of aviation to life.
History, and Smithsonian, articulates this story as if it were an inevitable, destined path;
Of course extraordinary people come from extraordinary upbringings.
Of course they had remarkable parents!
It’s easy and fun to admire the foundation of self-made men in hindsight.
But this week as I read countless stories of the ones who built the country and world we live in, I have one resounding conclusion;
They had access to the same motivations that you and I do.
They simply didn’t stop to worry if others thought they were “on to something;” they already knew it.
They took what they could from the world around them, and pursued their vision of excellence with unbridled curiosity.
Here’s the part nobody talks about:
Wilbur and Orville took inspiration from things that seem extraordinary to you and I, but were very ordinary to them.
They had no idea they were weird.
Neither did George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, or Abraham Lincoln.
None of the men whose words label our buildings, fill our textbooks, and dominate our nostalgic recounts of history believed they were special at the time.
History and Hollywood always boil out the ordinary parts of the story.
But the ordinary of the story is important because, without it, greatness would be unattainable by the common man.
I believe I am ordinary.
I believe you are too.
But through the lens of history, only our “extra” ordinaries will be observed, so long as we have the courage to pursue them.
And the coolest part of all, is that you get to choose what those extras are.
They are all around you, my friend.
Regardless of who your parents are, what school you went to, what friends you have around you, or how much money you have in the bank…
You are at the right place, the right time, with the right people.
And You are definitely “on to something.”
But you already knew that, didn’t you?
Keep on going.