Do You Know Samuel Pierpont Langley?

Samuel Pierpont Langley

Do you know who Samuel Pierpont Langley was? Google him right now before reading the rest of this article.

Samuel Pierpont Langley









Most people don’t know who he is and for good reason. He was second. He came in second to some very well know brothers named Orville and Wilbur in the race to create the first airplane that was able to be controlled by man. I want to take a closer look at why he came in second. On the surface it seems he had everything. The War Department gave him a grant of $50,000 and the Smithsonian gave him another $20,000. At the time, early 1900’s, a huge amount of money to pursue the endeavor of building a manned airplane. He was an extremely bright individual held a seat at Harvard, worked at the Smithsonian, knew the top minds in the field, and had a great understanding of flight to begin with based on his previous experience with building gliders that flew up to 5000 feet. He had the capital, the know how, and the resources. Despite having what seemingly was everything needed to make the airplane happen in only two attempts was so unsuccessful. His first attempt flew like a handful of mortar and the second attempt broke apart shortly after the take off from the catapult.

There is an interesting comparison to be made here between someone who seemingly had the best opportunity to succeed and the Wright Brothers who were under funded, weren’t scientists (didn’t have college educations nor did anyone else on their team), and didn’t have a huge array of help like Langley did. Why does Langley fail while the Wright Brothers gain the accolades of the first flight? And maybe you’re wondering what does this have to do with baseball and softball?

Lets take a different approach to this:

The two camps were after the same thing, to create a flying airplane that could be controlled by man. The biggest difference was their approach to the task.

It has been said that Langley was motivated by money and fame. He was followed around everywhere by the New York Times to document the amazing breakthrough of flight. Except it never happened. When the Wright Brothers had the first flight there was no reporters around. The world didn’t find out till a few days after. Upon finding out about the Wright Brothers successful attempt Langley quit the next day.

You see the story is about the underdog, the one who believed in why it should, could, and ultimately can be done. The Wright Brothers had purpose. They were inspired and would take five sets of parts out with them because they know they would fail along the way but kept going to get as many tries in as possible before dinner. They were living their passion and despite not having all the resources others did came out on top. They knew why they were doing what they were doing. Where Samuel Pierpont Langley knew what he was going to do but lacked the why.

Martin Luther King Jr. was able to rally 250,000 people in the middle of summer for his famous speech for Civil Rights in Washington, D.C. without the help of the Internet, Facebook, Twitter, etc. They were not there to see him or hear him speak. They were there for the WHY! The cause, the purpose, and the deep down belief that they held about the way The United States should be. His speech was “I have a dream!” not “I have a plan!” His dream was the fuel for his passion and fired up those around him with the same dream.

Don’t have a plan, live life passionately with purpose. This season develop a mission filled with why you are doing what you are doing. Instead of saying just what it is that you want to do. Remember this simple equation: I – I = 0. In other words, Information minus Inspiration gets you NOTHING.

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