Taking Flight

“One of the greatest inventions of the 20th century—indeed, one of the landmark inventions in the history of the human race—was the work of a couple of young men who had never gone to college and who were just bicycle mechanics in Dayton, Ohio.” —Thomas Sowell, describing the first successful manned flight.

Beginning in 1899, Wilbur and Orville Wright scientifically experimented with the concepts of flight. Their glider experiments on the Outer Banks of North Carolina led them to discover the means of sustained lift, and more importantly, the techniques required to control an aircraft while in flight.

On December 17, 1903, they signaled the volunteers from the nearby lifesaving station that they were about to try again. Because their cruising speed was only 30-35 mph, the 27-mph headwind slowed their predicted groundspeed to a crawl. They proceeded anyway. Orville positioned himself laterally and tested the controls. To operate the glider, he had a stick that moved the horizontal elevator (which controlled climb and descent), the cradle that he swung with his hips (which warped the wings and swung the vertical tails), and a lever (that controlled the gas flow and airspeed recorder). It took all of Orville’s dexterity and finesse to handle the aircraft.

At 10:35 AM he released the restraining wire causing the counterweight to drop. Propelled into motion the glider moved down the rail as Wilbur, running alongside, steadied the wings. After liftoff, the craft pitched up and down, but Orville kept it aloft until it hit the sand about 120 feet from where it left the ground.

Wilbur and Orville Wright had just become the first true airplane pilots. Their first flight lasted just 12 seconds and traveled only 120 feet, but it proved that human flight was possible. The world had changed.

On 9/11, Again, the World Changed
It is impossible to separate airplanes from the sadness, shock, and horror of the September 11 terrorist attacks. The next day the front pages of major U.S. newspapers bore headlines like “ACT OF WAR” and “AMERICA’S DARKEST DAY,” and featured images of jetliners and their shadows just prior to slamming into the twin towers of the World Trade Center.

Manned flight was never intended for such barbarity.

In the summer of 1948, author E.B. White wrote “Here Is New York.” The longtime essayist for The New Yorker shared a fond glance back at the city of his youth. It is a tribute to the sheer implausibility of the fast-paced city, the tangled infrastructure, the teeming humanity, the latticework of neighborhoods, and the dearth of air and light.

The essay prophetically included this eerie foreboding of the plausibility of 9/11:

“The subtlest change in New York is something people don’t speak much about but that is in everyone’s mind. The city, for the first time in its long history, is destructible. A single flight of planes no bigger than a wedge of geese can quickly end this island fantasy, burn the towers, crumble the bridges, turn the underground passages into lethal chambers, cremate the millions. The intimation of mortality is part of New York now: in the sound of jets overhead, in the black headlines of the latest edition.”1

The sound of jets overhead.

Charles Bukowski once wrote, “I heard an airplane passing overhead. I wished I was on it.”

He would not have said that on 9/11.

On 9/12, Their Stories Moved Us All
My wife and I recently went to the theater to see a remarkable musical.

The venue? The 2,300-seat Mead Theatre in Dayton, Ohio’s beautiful Schuster Center. Architect Cesar Pelli’s design invokes the feeling of an evening under the stars. The cool blues and orange reds of the theatre’s interior reach all the way to the domed ceiling, where concentric circles of fiber optic lights depict the Dayton sky as it appeared on the eve of the Wright Brothers’ first flight, which took place on December 17, 1903. It is 93 feet from the floor to the starfield. Every seat is ideal in the theater’s intimate setting, since even the last row is a mere 120 feet from the stage. Why? Because 120 feet is approximately the distance the Wright Brothers flew that day in Kitty Hawk, N.C.

The musical? Broadway’s Come From Away. This breathtaking musical was written by Tony® nominees Irene Sankoff and David Hein. The musical is based on the true story of when the community of Gander, Newfoundland, played host to the world. What started as an average day in a small town turned into an international sleep-over when 38 planes, carrying more than 6,700 people from across the globe, were diverted to Gander’s air strip on September 11, 2001, when the U.S. closed its airspace.

The production presents the inspiring generosity, kindness, and hospitality of the townspeople of Gander as they sprang to action and prepared to house, feed, clothe, and comfort the nearly 7,000 passengers. Watching the musical one is reminded of the precious capacity for human kindness even in the darkest of times. The musical’s redemptive story reveals again the triumph of love over chaos.

Taking Financial Flight
The International Monetary Fund published an abstract2 in which it defined many different types of financial crisis. Here are the main topics:

  • Currency Crises;
  • Foreign and Domestic Debt Crises;
  • Banking Crises;
  • House Price Busts;
  • Credit Crunches; and,
  • Asset Price Busts.

These macroeconomic disasters hold catastrophic implications for families, individuals, and businesses. These forces create chaos for people trying to provide for their loved ones.
We use the term “stock market crash” to describe “a sudden dramatic decline of stock prices across a major cross-section of a stock market, resulting in a significant loss of paper wealth.”3 We know the impact on individuals and families after such events as the 1929 Great Depression, Black Monday of 1987, the 2001 dotcom bubble burst, the 2008 financial crisis, and the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic market adjustment.

The word “bankrupt” comes from the Italian words banca rotta, meaning “broken bench.” “In Italy, money dealers worked from benches or tables. If a money dealer ran out of money, his bench or table was broken in half, and he was out of business.”4 How many small businesses went bankrupt during the economic shutdowns of recent years? “Annual bankruptcy filings in calendar year 2021 totaled 413,616, compared with 544,463 cases in 2020, according to statistics released by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.”5 Nearly one million small businesses went bankrupt in two years!

Inflation is a beautiful thing when applied to balloons. Not such a good thing when applied to the cost of goods and services. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics publishes the U.S. Consumer Price Index, a survey of a variety of goods, and it gets reported in the news. “The all-items-index continued to accelerate, rising 8.5 percent for the 12 months ending March 2022, the largest 12-month increase since the period ending December 1981.”6 Inflation erodes money’s purchasing power. We all have to spend more to get the same things.

Question: Against these powerful macroeconomic headwinds (stock market volatility, business closures, inflation, etc.) how can an independent financial professional direct and help protect the financial survival of their clients?

The actual Wright Brothers Memorial in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, sits atop Kill Devil Hill. Dedicated in 1932, the memorial is a triangular pylon 60 feet high made of grey granite. Its sides are ornamented with outspread wings in bas-relief, giving the impression of a gigantic bird about to take flight. A set of stairs leads to the top of the shaft, and an observation platform offers a splendid view of the surrounding area, including dunes and Albemarle Sound. The monument’s inscription reads:

“In commemoration of the conquest of the air by the brothers Wilbur and Orville Wright conceived by Genius, achieved by Dauntless Resolution and Unconquerable Faith.”7

Note the words “conceived” and “achieved.”

Financial flight starts when people rightly conceive (form an idea, plan, and/or imagine). The role of the independent financial professional (IFP) begins by helping their clients grasp ideas like risk, accumulation, tax-deferral, opportunity cost, volatility, and compound interest. Next, the IFP helps clients make plans for saving, investing, insuring, and forming legal pathways for the future. Then the IFP inspires clients to imagine their children securing higher education, themselves enjoying a comfortable retirement, and their families surviving financial disruption pursuant to unexpected death, disability, or job loss.

Financial flight is secured when IFPs help their clients achieve freedom from the gravitational pull of debt, gain the skills of navigating competing demands on their money, and develop the discipline required for accumulating and protecting wealth.

People everywhere are making financial decisions every day. They are attempting to conquer the air. Having the will to succeed financially is not enough to actually achieve success. They need the help of an independent financial professional!

“It is possible to fly without motors, but not without knowledge and skill.”—Wilbur Wright

Bring your knowledge and skill to your clients. With your guidance (genius), they can be inspired to persist with dauntless resolution, and they will be able to weather financial storms with unconquerable faith.

Love can conquer chaos (with your help) and you can send your clients flying.


  1. “Here Is New York,” E.B. White, NY: Harper & Brothers, 1949.
  2. https://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/wp/2013/wp1328.pdf.
  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stock_market_crash.
  4. https://www.lexology.com/library/detail.
  5. https://www.uscourts.gov/news/2022/02/04/bankruptcy-filings-drop-24-percent.
  6. https://www.bls.gov/news.release/cpi.
  7. https://www.ncpedia.org/wright-brothers-national-memorial.

CLU, ChFC, FLMI, is a director, vice president, team leader, speaker and mentor for Global Leadership Partners.

For nearly four decades Murphy worked in the financial services industry, and has held positions in sales, marketing, product development, training and development, distribution, agency management, and recruiting. In his latest role he was responsible for managing National Account relationships. In this role he shared business leadership and practice management concepts with business owners, marketing organizations and independent financial professionals. He is a frequent contributor to industry trade journals and a keynote speaker at industry events.

After 37 wonderful years in financial services, it was time for Murphy to give back, to share with others the training, development and experiences he enjoyed by God’s grace, and encourage others who are just starting out or seeking to grow.

Global Leadership Partners identifies, equips and sends business leaders to speak at leadership seminars in partnership with organizations primarily in Eastern Europe, but eventually, around the world. The intent is to foster development of foreign leaders who will courageously stand for strong values and a high ethical standard. This work is based on the belief that the world will be a better place when filled with leaders who lead according to proven values and bedrock principles.

Murphy is a frequent contributor to industry trade journals and is available as a keynote speaker for life insurance industry meetings and training events. He can be reached by telephone at: 312-859-3064. Email: murpd191@gmail.com. Twitter: https://twitter.com/InLifeOnPurpose.