12 Seconds That Changed Everything

Twelve Seconds That Changed EverythingThe concept of time, when you really start to think about it, is strange. Take seconds, for instance. How long can you stay underwater without having to come up for air? Twenty seconds? Thirty? Forty? A minute? I’ll bet that those seconds seem really long.

Do you think that 12 seconds is a long time? Let’s find out. Count with me; one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, 10, 11. . .

Now, that didn’t seem that long, did it? So, what’s so cool about 12 seconds?

5 Steps to Craft a Case Study’s Content StrategyTwelve seconds is exactly how long the first mechanically powered airplane stayed in the air, on a windy, chilly December day way back in 1903.

As I was visiting the Wright Brothers National Memorial in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, last week, I saw a letter composed by either Orville or Wilbur. I don’t have the exact quote, but from what I remember, it said, “In the next several months, I will be pouring almost all of my money into this flying machine, and I may even lose my life.”

Can you remember anyone in recent years who’s said that about their invention or idea?  Twelve seconds. Do you think those seconds felt like a long time to the pilot of the first powered flight, Orville Wright?

I’ve been to some pretty historic places before, but my visit to the Wright Brothers National Memorial was especially intense for me. My first thought was about the risks the brothers took. The U.S. park ranger who gave us a brief tour of the grounds and told us stories about the brothers said that the Wright Brothers were not taken very seriously. As a matter of fact, one reason that they chose Kitty Hawk, NC, was that it was a pretty lonely place in the early 1920s. But it had wind. More importantly, it had sand–nice, soft sand that increased their chances of survival in a crash.

They needed wind to do experiments with a glider version of their plane. There’s a huge hill in Kitty Hawk called Kill Devil’s Hill that they glided off of more than a thousand times.

My next thought was an entrepreneurial one: Did the Wright Brothers ever think about the airplane’s commercial possibilities? Or were they just trying to prove something?

According to the State Library of North Carolina, they didn’t consider the commercial possibilities of flight: “The brothers did not take up the problem of flight with the expectation of financial profit, and they had no intention of ruining their bicycle business in pursuit of a dream.”

Airplane companies were formed in France and Germany to manufacture Wright planes, and eventually the Wright Company was organized in the United States to do the same, with Wilbur as president and Orville as vice president.  The brothers grew wealthy and famous, but they looked forward to the time when they could retire to devote themselves to scientific research once again.

Their one invention forever changed transportation as we know it–in 12 seconds. Do you think that the Wright brothers’ invention impacted the small-business world?

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Joel Libava Joel Libava is the Franchise Expert for Small Business Trends. Joel, The Franchise King®, equips today’s prospective franchise owners with time-tested, proven techniques designed to increase odds of success. He does this through one-on-one coaching, and gobs of useful content that can be found on places like Small Business Trends, SBA.Gov, and his award-winning franchise blog, The Franchise King Blog . He’s been featured in Entrepreneur® magazine, and is frequently called upon by national media outlets and publications for his no-spin insights into the world of franchising.

7 Reactions
  1. I love the story and it has a lot of application to small business owners today. Just look at what they had to do in preparation for that first flight; building the airplane, testing the glider and then taking the leap of faith knowing they might crash.

    Small business owners need to do the same. Build your business, test a lot, and then take the big leap knowing that you may crash.

  2. Robert, thanks.

    It was really cool being there. When I got there, I just knew that I’d be writing something up about my experience.

    I’ll tell you; it felt like sacred ground.

    I wonder if @RichardBranson ever visited there? Better yet, I wonder if the Wright Brothers,(as they look down on us)have seen the inside of a Virgin Atlantic jet.

    They would be amazed how far things have come along.

    The Franchise King

  3. hey Joel, i loved this post. I love your comment about how many of us create an invention that might kill us! Are we committed?

    I am/was a hangglider pilot and I flew off that same hill years ago. Should say that I ran up and down the dunes trying to fly. I have a sense of what they went through, but only a sliver. The glider part was easy — it was the next step that took faith. Soaring and landing in the sand is not so frightening when you’re only feet above the ground. Soaring and trying to take off and fly, truly fly, that took heart and some other body parts…

  4. Hey Joel, It was inspirational post and I enjoyed it. I believe risking is key to small businesses. You have to risk and do things or just quite and leave your job. Like flying, source of many other inventions was a passion. A passion of doing something impossible or passion of making life better. These are things which I believe every business owner should keep in mind.

  5. Thanks Joel,nice thoughts, great post. It takes courage to bridge the risky bridge enabling to cross the road of success for small businesses. Must have commitment and determination to keep on going. Thanks again

  6. Amir and Faulvem,

    Thanks for stopping by Small Business Trends!

    I appreciate your nice words.

    These brothers changed our world.

    The Franchise King

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