The Flight of Autodidactism: The Wright Brothers

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When we think of the Wright Brothers, its easy to remember that they were the team responsible for the world’s first functioning airplane.  It is worth it to pause and look at the way each brother came to become some of the world’s greatest innovators with their invention.  You can probably guess what it is that made them capable of their achievement: autodidactism, of course!

By definition, innovators are people who pave a path that hasn’t been taken before.  As such, a formal education could have only gone so far for Orville and Wilbur Wright.  What they needed was a desire to learn on their own beyond the limits of school – a trait that both had in abundance.

 

Wilbur Wright

The older and more responsible of the two brothers, Wilbur was a well-rounded child with a lot of focus and dedication.  He was an avid athlete growing up and did well in his classes.  In fact, he was going to go to Yale after finishing high school.  Just before leaving, a hockey accident caused Wilbur to loose his front teeth. Although his injury was more harmful cosmetically than physically, the loss of his teeth delivered a heavy blow to Wilbur’s confidence, causing him to become more withdrawn.  Shortly after, his family’s quick move to Ohio from Indiana resulted in Wilbur never receiving his high school diploma.  These two incidents combined prevented him from attending Yale.

Wilbur’s dedication and ambition began to dwindle a bit at this point and he took a break of sorts for the next few years, helping his mother at home and father at his Church.  The big turn-around in his life came when Orville (who was five years younger) caught up in age and drew Wilbur into his own endeavors.

 

Orville Wright

Orville was always a mischievous child who was constantly getting caught and into trouble.  Largely different from his brother, he had very little interest in school and dropped out after his Junior year in high school to start his own printing business.  He pulled Wilbur into this business as well, extracting him from the rut in which his injury had placed him.

Taking on a leadership position over his brother, Orville led his newspaper to becoming a daily print and eventually turned to commercial printing.  Ever the entrepreneur, Orville went on to capitalize on the biking craze and opened a bike repair shop with Wilbur taking more of a partnership position.

 

Two Heads are Better Than One

Their bicycle repair shop is where most of their autodidactism occurred – at least in terms of the skills they later used to build the first functional airplane.  At the same time, during the mid 1890s, there was an increase in global interest in aeronautics.  Flying high due to the success of their shop, the Wright Brothers decided to take part in the craze.

Wilbur wrote to the Smithsonian Museum to request some of the more recent publications about aeronautics and the brothers began essentially teaching themselves aerodynamic engineering, building only on the knowledge of mechanics they had amassed from building their bike shop.

The rest is history as Orville and Wilbur began their experimentations and failed every time, filing for patents in aerodynamics along the way.  Eventually, they successfully developed the world’s first human flying machine in 1903.

 

Their work was surrounded by controversy and questions about their legitimacy, but regardless of all that, the Wright Brothers successfully pushed forward the concept of an airplane – an invention that the modern world probably couldn’t exist as it is without.  What’s more impressive, however, is the fact that Orville and Wilbur both managed to teach themselves the aerodynamics of the time and rose up as the world’s foremost engineers without so much as a high school diploma.  Autodidactism at its core, people!

He Flunked, Was Rejected, Went Bankrupt…And Then Founded The Walt Disney Company

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An actor, animator, filmmaker, and wildly successful businessman, its kind of shocking at first to hear that Walt Disney only had around 9 years of formal education.  He started school at the ripe old age of 7 and dropped out at 16 to join the military.  Unfortunately (or fortunately) for him, he was rejected for being underage and spent a year in France with the Red Cross instead.  After returning to the United States, Disney received his first job as a cartoonist in 1919, and the rest is history.

 

“Children have got to be free to lead their own lives.” – Sebastian, The Little Mermaid

small_2917335255Despite having strict parents, Walt grew up doing what he wanted when he wanted.  He was a shrewd businessman even as a child.  After his father, Elias, bought a newspaper delivery route, Walt was made to work for him without pay.  He knew how to make the best of his situation, though.  From delivering medicines for the local pharmacy on his route to selling extra papers without his father’s knowledge, Walt developed a thriving business of his own without any help, encouragement, or formal education.  This continued throughout his few years in high school and, of course, eventually led to exemplary management of the Walt Disney Company.

 

“The very things that hold you down are going to lift you up.” – Timothy Mouse, Dumbo

Classes came second to work for Walt during his schooling years.  His exhausting work schedule left little time to study, which had a heavy impact on his grades.  Even as he worked such a demanding schedule and small_6635533755trudged through school, however, Walt always found time to indulge in his passion for drawing.  He traded his cartoons for haircuts, became the cartoonist for his school’s newspaper, and later submitted to magazines and drew for his co-workers in Paris – all learned from just a couple of brief stints in art classes.

All the work, discipline, and cartoons did very little for Walt’s grades as a child, but he grew up to build The Walt Disney Company – so it is difficult to argue against the merits of his childhood activities.  He learned how to run a business, work with colleagues, and develop a skill that would redefine animation and serve as a catalyst into a new age of cinema.

 

“If your heart is in your dream, no request is too extreme.” – Jiminy Cricket, Pinocchio

Walt’s success can really be attributed more to his attitude than any form of education (and perhaps even small_2486345776experience).  “Do what you do so well that they will want to see it again and bring their friends.”  This was the philosophy he lived by: to achieve excellence and watch the theaters fill up as his reward.  This attitude inspired Walt to take risks (like starting a business) that sometimes caused him to fail (he had to declare bankruptcy in 1922), but then he got back up again and made Alice in Wonderland.  

Teaching yourself anything can seem like an insurmountable challenge when you get a good look at just how much there is to learn, but the real magic is in the learning, not the teaching itself.  A teacher (whether its a person, software, book, or audio recording) can only teach as well as its student can learn.  Walt is an ultimate example of a sponge learner – he soaked up his experiences so well, he never even needed a teacher to hold his hand.

 

“You just need to believe in yourself.” – Rex, Toy Storysmall_9594201177

So basically: Walt Disney went to school for 9 years, flunked most of the time, dropped out of high school, never went to college, taught himself to be a businessman and cartoonist purely by learning while doing, and became the roots of one of the most admired companies in the world.  He must have done something right.

 

“Hakuna Matata!” – Timon and Pumbaa, The Lion King

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photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/expressmonorail/3108405260/”>Express Monorail</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>cc</a>
 

Buzzwords Decoded: Motivation

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Welcome to another week of Buzzwords Decoded with Accredible!  Last week we cleared up the ruckus around ‘innovation’ and are back again with ‘motivation’ to take your resume up another notch.

Definition: Merriam-Webster Dictionary

1a :  the act or process of motivating

1b :  the condition of being motivated

2:  a motivating force, stimulus, or influence :  incentive, drive

 

How to Use it Incorrectly

Ever since we learned what a resume was and its importance in the job search, we have been taught to toot our own horns.  Obviously, displaying how awesome you are is essential to getting a hiring manager to look twice – but being obvious about it can actually be off-putting, believe it or not.  Your goal should be to make your horn so attractive that people are drawn to it without requiring obnoxious pleas for attention.

The art of ‘humble self promotion’ is difficult to grasp because it is done differently for each person, but taking out the ‘humble’ can make you sound like a bad salesman – and that will put off anyone who is looking at your resume.

 

How to Use it Properly

Going on and on about how motivated you are as a professional doesn’t actually say anything about you without some solid context demonstrating why you think you are a motivated person.  If you want to show that you are motivated, a quick description of a time when you overcame several challenges to get something done on time could be very helpful.

Another way to show you are motivated is to say why instead of how.  Giving examples of instances when you have shown motivation can take up valuable space on your resume.  Instead, you could demonstrate why you are motivated.  Maybe you have a career goal you are trying to reach or believe strongly in the social mission of the company you are working for.  These things can help to not only eliminate annoying buzzwords, but also humanize you out of a pile of robot resumes.

Asking someone to vouch for you is also a great way to show off your horn without tooting it.  Someone else has nothing to gain by praising you.  So when your former supervisor takes the time to write a great LinkedIn recommendation about how dedicated and motivated you were to accomplishing your goals, a future hiring manager is bound to take it seriously.

 

Take Away

Saying that you are motivated tells an employer or potential mentor nothing of substance and makes you sound robotic.  Solution:  You must prove it with an example, reason, or recommendation.  These things will help your work speak for itself and you won’t need cliched buzzwords that people glaze over anyway.

 

Do you have a resume cliche you’d like to see addressed in this series?  Leave a comment below with your word and the Accredibles will decode your cliche as quickly as possible!

Accredible Contest Hack #9: Leveraging the Power of Peers

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With the end of the #AwesomeSlates contest less than a week away, we’re ready to reveal perhaps the best contest hack yet:  how going social can help you gain endorsements on your Slates (and make them even stronger contest candidates!) and how a strong network can help you stay motivated!

As Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs demonstrates, we thrive when we feel a sense of belonging and feel respected. These very needs easily explain why “peer pressure” and the “bandwagon effect” can be so influential. While these might have negative associations, if we acknowledge the power of peer accountability, we can then leverage it to build networks that help us stick with a course of study, providing inspiration, motivation, and thought partners.

Find Study Buddies

Finding a group study with in college or in MOOCs is a great way to meet people that share your interests and can help you better understand the material you’re learning. Even if you are really confident in your own knowledge, if you find yourself in the position of explaining concepts to others in your group, you’ll find your own understanding solidifying and becoming more nuanced (Teaching is one of the best ways to learn!) So hop on a study forum for a MOOC or host a study session for some classmates.

Go Public

Accredible endorsements are simply quotes from colleagues and peers that attest to your knowledge or skill. After creating a Slate, and filling it up with your impressive collection of evidence, you should ask for endorsements! Asking for endorsements for your Slate can be a intimidating, but the rewards vastly outweigh the initial nervousness. Gaining endorsements boosts your credibility; this is especially valuable for people who may not know you as well or know you within a particular context. Besides the main benefit of gaining credibility and looking even more like the rock star you are, you gain…

  • Increased motivation to continue adding evidence and build out your strengths. The more people see your work after you’re done and shared your Slate with community, the more motivated you’re to put much more into it – creating Slate and learning itself. Accredible helps you to create a portfolio of your mind with every Slate representing your capabilities, talents and value. Accredible allows you to share your achievements with the world and document all your knowledge, making it timeless and enduring.
  • An avenue for feedback about your learning. Feedback is crucial for improvement because it allows you to take a deeper look at yourself and spot weaker areas.  You can get many ideas for improving your work, and even get suggestions for other topics to look into, by sharing your knowledge profile publicly and sharing your Slates.
  • An expanded network. This was an unexpected discovery for us. Some users found new friends based on interests when they shared their Slates with community.

 

Our educational journeys are enriched by the people who cheer us on, critique our missteps, celebrate our achievements, and endorse our strengths.  Don’t be afraid to share your new slates with the world — even if they’re still “blank slates,” you’re inviting others to follow your journey.

0. Contest Announcement

1. MOOC Slates

2. “Saylor category for self-paced learning” Slates

3. Formal Learning Slates

4. Knowledge/Skill Slates

5. How to Make the Most of Accredible

6. Skills ToolBox, an Overview

7. Filling Your Skills ToolBox: How to Brainstorm

8. Adding Creativity to your Toolbox

9. Leveraging the Power of Peers (current)