What Happened at 10:34?


*Please see story credit at the end of the article.

At 10:35 AM on December 7, 1903, Orville Wright spent 12 glorious seconds soaring through the air covering a distance of 120 feet on the Wright Brothers’ now famous first flight. Imagine the two brothers, having worked on this project tirelessly, finally getting to this point. As Wilbur ran alongside of his brother, with the plane pitching up and down, battling the fierce winds in Kitty Hawk, NC, one can imagine the wide range of emotions the two must have experienced.

The Wright Brothers went through a great deal leading up to their historic flight. In many ways, they seem to be very similar to the rest of us considering the challenges they faced throughout their lives. Perhaps many of us can identify with people doubting or discouraging us, set backs, sadness, and unexpected disappointment.

The Wright Brothers certainly experienced their fair share.

Their father, Bishop Milton Wright, is credited as once stating, “Men will never fly, because flight is reserved only for the birds and angels.”

Wilbur, at a young age, suffered a significant injury, which left him deeply depressed and isolated, to the point that he did not complete high school and decided not to pursue his college education.

Their mother died of tuberculosis when Wilbur was just 22 years old.

On their actual first flight attempt, on December 14, three days prior to making history, Wilbur over steered during the launch, causing the plane to stall out and nose dive into the beach, badly damaging their plane.

Despite these setbacks and challenges, life, as it always does, moved on. The brothers eventually made their way to December 17, with Wilbur now looking on, as Orville sat in the cockpit. The plane was tethered down, as he settled in and prepared for take off.

At 10:35, he released the restraint. 

A few seconds later, he was making history. Perhaps more importantly for them, in that moment (and I don’t really know for sure), was simply the fact that they were doing it. They had dreamed something up, prepared for it, and now it was all coming to fruition. You might imagine that they did not have their hearts and minds fixed on history during those twelve seconds. The two brothers, both in blood and in pursuit, were side by side in exuberant triumph.

Picture Wilbur, at first focused on helping to keep the wings steady during take off, and then, recognizing what was happening, running down the beach with childlike enthusiasm and excitement.

Maybe Orville was so intently focused on flying, that he wasn’t able to cut loose as much as Wilbur. But I still imagine him seeing his brother out of the corner of his eye, running and leaping down the windy beach, and letting out a unbridled yell from somewhere deep inside his soul that he’d been saving up for a moment such as this.

History was made at 10:35, when Orville Wright released the restraint. 

But what happened at 10:34…

On the other side of the clock dial was joy, excitement, relief, and new discovery. But they didn’t know that then. Plans had been made, worries had been worried, and everything in front of them was uncertain. 10:35 was historic.

But what happened at 10:34…

Again, I don’t know for sure. If they were anything like the rest of us, and I suspect they were, then they had doubts, fears, and concerns. They worried what the people watching on the beach that day would think of them if this didn’t work. They remembered how they had failed just a few days before. There they sat…

As Bob Goff explained, “We all live at 10:34 (in the sense that) we don’t know how our lives will turn out, or if our ideas are going to fly.” Bob noted that so many people have wonderful ideas but they are never put into practice, because they don’t know if they will work or not. So we stop at 10:34.

So as the second hand ticked around, and the minute hand began to move, the skies didn’t open and propel the Wright Brothers into action, or thrust Orville into flight. There is nothing Biblical or preordained about 10:35, December 17, 1903. There was no power in that specific moment.

Other than this simple fact:

At 10:35, he released the restraint.

Much Love,


*This concept, “10:34”, and the idea for this story, was introduced to me through the written and spoken encouragement delivered by Bob Goff at his Dream Big Framework. I added my own research and anecdotes, but the original idea belongs to Bob.

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