Written By: Dan Baldini
A few weeks ago, like lots of Americans, I boarded a Southwest flight from Indianapolis to Sanibel Island for a trip to warm sunshine and beaches. It was a full flight, so there was the typical grumbling about no aisle or window seats. Plus, we took off about 20 minutes behind schedule. First World problems, I know. But in two and a half hours, we landed in sunshine and balmy breezes.
Ahhhhh, spring break. After the horrible winter we had this year, it was even more of an anticipated trip than in recent past years.
We certainly enjoy the beaches, the adult libations, the shell collecting, and the restaurants. But a perennial favorite shopping spot on the island for me is Gene’s Books, a quirky, small bookstore. It can’t be any bigger than 3,000 square feet, probably the size of a modern Barnes & Noble coffee area within their average 80,000 square foot store. But the serendipitous finds inside never fail to disappoint me. Books are stacked floor to ceiling, and many are no longer in print. It even has that musty library smell inside which is as intoxicating as Chanel No5 is to many genteel folks.
Anyway, I bought two books this trip for reading on the beach and lanai. One of the books was The Wright Brothers by David McCullough. I’ve read his other books, but never this one. The price was perfect at $8.95.
Cracking open the spine, his writings time warped my mind back into the early 1900s. For the next three days, I was engrossed in it. Like you, I always knew the surface details about how the brothers were the first to fly an airplane. I’ve even had the pleasure of seeing their original Flyer suspended from the Smithsonian Air Museum ceiling.
But, McCullough’s deep research into their personal lives and the trials and tribulations as they passed from young boys, to adults, to their deaths are examples of:
• Perfect and absolute relentless focus by those two gentlemen.
• Monitoring the smallest of details, lest their untested theories bring their deaths and family embarrassment.
• The suffering through hurricanes and mosquito infestations on the Outer Banks, of ridicule by the experts at The Smithsonian (no shortage of irony here), and others attempting to steal their intellectual property, like the infamous Alexander Graham Bell.
• Financial bootstrapping to generate cash for their 1903 Flyer without any government or private grants.
• Society’s failure to recognize, at the time, the magnitude of their miraculous achievement. Even an editor of the Associated Press was unimpressed with their 57-second flight.
Imagine what would have happened if they had given up, thrown in the towel, or become distracted by other worldly desires. The reason for such a soft discussion with you today, is that sometimes we can feel like we’re not making progress in our personal or professional lives.
We are now finished with the first quarter of 2019. Sometimes, it might feel like the whole world is against you. Sometimes, it might even feel like you should just quit and throw in the towel. Sometimes, it’s hard to recognize the small victories. Orville and Wilbur knew deep down in their souls what 57 seconds aloft, like soaring birds, was bringing their way. They had the grit to keep going. So, don’t you dare quit!
If you’re not hitting your rental property goals as a landlord or property manager, how can you refocus on smaller details to find out the problem? For the Wright Brothers, it was hiring a trusted mechanic named Charlie to operate their bicycle shop during their long trips to Kill Devil Hills and Kitty Hawk so they could focus exclusively on their experiments.
If you’re not hitting your savings goals, as a tenant, to buy your next home or to get out of debt, how can you refocus? For the Wright Brothers, it was selling and repairing bicycles that generated enough profits to run their airplane experiments. The bicycle shop was just a means to an end for them.
If you’re a business owner who is constantly battling staffing issues, which small issue can you attack and remove first to gain momentum? For the Wright Brothers, it was befriending local folks at Kitty Hawk to help them build barns and living quarters.
As our spring break trip wound down to its inevitable conclusion, we arrived back at the airport for the flight home. I’ll admit I was a little ashamed at how, from time to time, I allow issues, frustrations, and challenges to blow up to an imaginary size, compared to their actual relative scale. I sometimes let myself worry and wring my hands instead of rolling up my sleeves and getting after the solution.
But that’s one of the glorious lessons to be learned from an old book, purchased in a small, quirky bookstore, on a small island. We can keep trying. We can keep learning. And we can soar among the heavens
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