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  • Robert Farago


How childhood abuse gave me the Wright stuff

I’d like to think of myself as a successful man. If my mother taught me one thing, it’s that I’m not. For Daphne Farago, nothing I did was good enough.

At the tender age of 64, despite understanding and forgiving my mother for my mental and physical abuse, I still can’t give myself credit for my accomplishments.

I’ve been a CNN video editor, a TV producer, a newspaper managing editor, an advertising copywriter, a celebrity hypnotist and a part-time police officer. I’ve founded, run and sold two world-class blogs.

I’ve published a non-fiction hypnosis book and self-published a novel with an accompanying audio book. I’ve loved beautiful women and raised four clever children. I’ve traveled the world.

And yet I still feel like I’m only as good as my last post. Actually, this one.

Yes, I look back on the 320 articles I’ve written for Substack with satisfaction. But I look at my subscriber stats and think… Must. Do. Better. And when I do…

Must. Do. Better.

As regular readers know, I’m heading out on a ridiculously random motorcycle tour through America to level-up my writing.

Even if the resulting material is excellent, even if it dramatically increases this Stack’s readership, it won’t be enough.

When it comes to my self-esteem, the world is not enough.

A fact with which I’m gradually coming to terms. Helping me along in this realization: a book I found in my barber’s waiting room.

It’s one of nearly fifty children’s history books Russell Freedman wrote before passing away in 2018.

There’s nothing childlike about it. It’s a straight-forward and succinct telling of Wilbur and Orville Wright’s aeronautic exploits.

Funded by their bicycle business in Dayton, Ohio, the Wright brothers spent years commuting to the desolate beaches of Kitty Hawk, experimenting with hand-built gliders, inventing and flying the world’s first self-propelled aircraft.

In fact, the Wrights invented the modern airplane – which still relies upon key aspects of their basic design.

Not to mention designing the airplane propeller and hand-building an engine light and powerful enough to motivate their Flyer.

“No bird soars in a calm” - Wilbur Wright

The Wright brothers experienced innumerable setbacks and physical hardships: bone-chilling cold, torrential rain, swarms of mosquitos, crashes, broken parts, illness and, most of all, failure.

The expression “back to the drawing board” doesn’t begin to cover it.

Nothing stopped the Wright brothers from their pursuit. When their early wing designs proved ineffective, they built the first wind tunnel and filled notebook after notebook with test results.

When they succeeded, the world didn’t notice. Until it did. The brothers were celebrated around the globe. Riches followed.

Onward and Upward

The Wright brothers used the money to create new craft that broke record after record: time aloft, distance, payload, maneuverability and more.

In 1908, while Wilbur was demonstrating the Flyer in Europe, Orville crashed. His passenger, Lieutenant Thomas Selfridge, was killed (the world’s first air crash fatality).

Orville was gravely injured: fractured thigh, broken ribs, severe scalp wounds and back injuries.

"Retirement is not the end of the road. It is the beginning of the open highway" - Anonymous

Seven weeks later, Orville joined his brother overseas. He went straight back at it, flying for tens of thousands of astounded observers.

When Wilbur (above) died of typhoid at 45, a disconsolate Orville sold his shares in the Wright Company – and kept going. He developed an autopilot system and the split-flap airfoil, deployed on World War II dive bombers.

Wilbur Wright ended his days tinkering, making toys for his grandnieces and nephews, repairing “everything imaginable” and trying to invent an automatic record changer.

“If I were giving a young man advice as to how he might succeed in life, I would say to him, pick out a good father and mother, and begin life in Ohio.”

Mr. Freedman’s book doesn’t examine the Wright brothers’ psychology.

We know neither brother finished high school, and that their father was a famously fractious clergyman for the Church of the United Brethren of Christ.

According to Wikipedia, “In elementary school, Orville was given to mischief and was once expelled” and “spent a few years largely housebound” caring for his terminally ill mother.

Something elemental drove the Wright Brothers. It wasn’t money or fame. Whatever it was, the world should be grateful for it.

On a personal note

Just as I’m grateful for the forces that shaped my childhood, that drove me to so many different endeavors, that made me give each and every one of them my all.

I will never create anything as important as the Wright Brothers. When I shuffle off this mortal coil, my children will be my greatest achievement.

At the moment, I’m not shuffling. I’m writing these posts for your dining and dancing pleasure. I will keep doing so until the music stops.

Meanwhile, a shout-out to those of you who, for whatever reason, can’t not be persistent. And another to my mother, for creating the insatiable monster inside me. My new, always grouchy friend.


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