WYSO

Seeking a Bit of the Wright Brothers' Grit

Aug 25, 2016

Last week Kettering writer Rebecca Rine sent her kids back to school, and it caused her to think about FOCUS:  how to teach it to her kids and how to refine it in her own life.   In this commentary, which first appeared in the Dayton Daily news - she explains that her inspiration is the Wright Brothers.

I recently went to Carillon Historical Park, and as I listened to the guide tell us about the Wright brothers and their attempts at flight, I realized I yearn to have their attention spans. They devoted years to learning how to create a successful flying machine. They didn’t merely dabble — they had laser-sharp focus and dedication. In fact, they made a pact not to get married or have children because their lives would be wed to unraveling the mystery of flying.

We know they succeeded, but it’s lovely to remember they failed endlessly. For years, they fell from the sky, injured themselves and undoubtedly went to bed frustrated many nights, grappling with what went wrong and how to fix it tomorrow. It took years of intense concentration before they got it right.

How wonderful would it be to set out to do something enormous and agree to stick with it even in the midst of failure not just once or twice, but for years on end? I took guitar lessons last year and quit because I was annoyed my fingers weren’t getting strong enough fast enough after one month. I had a deadline a year ago to finish a book I’m writing. I’m still on chapter one.

I want the pristine attention span of the Wright brothers. I want to funnel all my focus into one thing and be phenomenal at that one thing instead of writing my scatter-brained to-do lists, telling myself writing them down is the first step, and tomorrow I’ll dig in. Inevitably, tomorrow brings a deluge of new ideas that I adjust my attention to and write those on the dry-erase board, because writing them on the board means they’re going to happen, right?

I’ve become short-wired and quick to jump ship, struggling not to check my Facebook for the 4,000th time — but I want that steady grit of gnarly determination the Wright brothers tapped into. Surely there were countless distractions they could have allowed to drag them down, so I can’t blame today’s society for my poor attention span. The boys probably sacrificed many star-filled nights around a campfire or fishing with friends. Gosh, those things sound so great — I wish I were doing them right now! Oh… um… There have always been distractions to pull us away, but the Wright brothers were resilient in the face of all temptation, committing themselves to flight instead of creating lofty excuses.

One thing the guide pointed out is that the Wrights did have a housekeeper. If I had a housekeeper to take care of everything, you know what? I’m sure I’d come up with different excuses about why I can’t focus on my goals.

Unlike the Wright brothers, I am married and have children, so I clumsily juggle those things with working full time, running home during lunch breaks to cook dinner to be ready for that night, drooling as I doze off reading with precious morsels of children for whom I want so badly to set a good example. But the truth is I need to do more — not for them but for myself.

I need to show my kids more Wright brothers’-style steel fortitude. I need to look failure in the eye, welcome it into our home, and ask it what it will teach us today. I don’t want to just tell my kids to try their best — I want them to see me trying my best every day and fail hard and often and continue to tackle my goals with louder fervor each time, so they can learn to do the same. I want them to focus enough to build what their souls ask, but I also want it for me.

Rebecca Rine is a writer living with her husband and two small children in Kettering.