Fascinating things happen all around us, and the more ordinary their source, the more fascinating I find them.
Take, for example, the story of Bernie Pietenpol of Cherry Grove, Minnesota.
Like a lot of other young people coming up in the Great Depression (the first one, that is!) he was only able to make it as far as the 8th grade. He worked in a cabinet shop and as a mechanic.
But his eyes were on the skies. He wanted to fly, and have his own airplane. But there wasn’t exactly an easy path to that dream for someone in a rural Midwestern town with no money.
So Bernie decided he would just build his own plane, designed out of what he had available to him. So using hardware store parts, an engine from a Model A Ford, and carving his own propeller out of a piece of black walnut, he did just that. And then taught himself how to fly it.
And then he built another. He read an article in Popular Mechanics magazine that said an auto engine wouldn’t be enough to power an aircraft. He wrote to the editor that he had not just one, but two airplanes he had powered with auto engines. The editor said that if he would fly one over to show him, he’d believe it.
So Bernie did. The editor was so impressed he said if Bernie would give him the plans he would sell them through the magazine. So a friend was pressed into doing the drawings and they sent them off.
And they sold. 6,000 sets sold before WWII alone! It seems Bernie had tapped into a common dream of making flight available to anyone with the desire and ability to figure things out for themselves when financial resources were lacking.
Over 400 of these Pietenpol “Air Camper” planes are still flying today, safely and successfully, all over the world, and they are still being built in garages and sheds.
People like Bernie Pietenpol are my heroes, because they demonstrate what can happen if we just get up and start something. I find many people, myself included, spend all our time “beginning to begin” on our dreams and we never actually do anything.
We think we need more education, or a certain background, or something else that we think we lack, when all we need to do is figure out what we can do with what we have.
So the lesson is, just start. Now. You’ll figure it out as you go along, and starting things has it’s own magnetism that will draw the resources you need to you when you need them.
And someday you’ll be flying, too.