The limits of passion (revisited)

Five years ago today, I wrote a little blog post here about this guy, Gabriel Nderitu, an I.T. worker in Kenya who had a passion to fly an airplane he built himself, using only what he learned on the Internet.

For a few days, he became the darling of the Internet. Nobody had the heart to tell him that plane would never fly.

At the time, James Fallows provided a takeaway that resonates just as much today. There are plenty of people who don’t have the same opportunities as others, “but who take their own life drama and possibilities just as seriously and can dream just as ambitiously.”

Whatever happened to Mr. Nderitu? That plane pictured above didn’t fly. So he made some changes. And that didn’t fly, either. Eight more times he made changes, and eight more times he ended up with a really nifty go-cart.

But on try number 11 late last year…. well… it didn’t fly then either.

Try number 12 failed, too. Then a couple of months ago, he tried number 13.

In August, number 14 went bust too.

For the record, Clyde Cessna — yes, that Cessna — crashed his plane 12 times before he got one to fly.

Meanwhile, some aviators in the upper Midwest, by way of the Wisconsin-based Experimental Aircraft Association, have tried to gin up interest in sending him some resources. But so far, the effort has fizzled.

Mr. Nderitu’s passion isn’t contagious.

Have a passionate day!

  • Inella

    Love this from the linked article:

    //Does he know how to fly a plane? Pause. “Not exactly,” he confesses. It will cost $7,000 and 90 days to get his private pilot’s license. “I will deal with that problem when I get there.”//

    Spoken like the Kenyans that I grew to love while serving there in Peace Corps. You keep trying!

    • John

      The Wright Bro’s didn’t know how to fly a plane either. He’ll do okay.

  • Al Lee

    Typical PC / Internet effort to view failure as success. The reference to Mr Clyde Cessna is particularly useless. Clyde Cessna had his first successful flight in 1911, when aviation was truly in its infancy, and he was a revered pioneer in aviation. But rather than praise true achievement, lets keep rooting for someone who is pretty clueless and is lucky not to have injured himself or anyone else. If this man is to be admired for his failure and thought to be teaching us a lesson, it would go a long way towards explaining the last 7 years in this country. Of course the fact he is in Kenya might explain why he is a hero…

    • “But rather than praise true achievement,…”

      I’m missing out who is being denied praise because people think a guy who pursues a dream is getting a little attention?

      Who are you talking about specifically and how does spending 3 minutes reading about that guy deprive someone else of attention?

      • Al Lee

        Not the right question, Bob. It’s not the 3 minutes it took me to read about it. It’s the news organizations like yours, the camera crews, writers all trying to put their own “Feel Good” spin on it, etc. How much time could you have spent communicating the accomplishments of someone who actually accomplished their goal. The problem here is when pursuing a dream (which is neigh on impossible for this fellow’s situation and just part of everyday life for most of us) and failing becomes more newsworthy than true accomplishment, then people will loose the ability to tell the difference. Or is that is the goal?

        • Well I’ll ask you again, then. By giving this gentleman a minimum amount of attention, who isn’t getting some that you think should be?

          For the sake of discussion, let’s assume he flies on attempt 15. Has he accomplished something? Or has he failed?

          Let’s take Elon Musk as an example. He’s failed in his attempt to reuse a rocket. Are his attempts worthy of note or should they be dismissed until he succeeds? Does the fact he didn’t succeed make his dream invalid?

          What about Maickel Melamed, who finished last in the Boston Marathon this year. He has muscular dystrophy. Is that a success or is that a failure? What if he’d only made it to mile 25?

          Moreover, for purposes of talking about the human condition, does only success matter?

          • Al Lee

            Still not gettin’ it… I have never been to Kenya, but my guess would be that somewhere within a hundred mile radius of this guy, there are people trying to improve irrigation, expand potable water supplies, obtain clothing, and a host of other activities that could have a positive impact on a number of people. Keep driving past this guy and find them.

            Elon Musk’s dream does not need my validation. Whether he succeeds or fails in this endeavor, the reason it is noteworthy in the first place is he is already successful at other things, and probably has access to resources that increase his odds in the rocket project. Even at that, whether he succeeds or fails would be more newsworthy because the possible benefits could impact many people. There have probably been a number of other people who have tried, and no one is aware of them. Shouldn’t success (or even failure of a project potentially beneficial to a large group) be more newsworthy than a guy whose dreams line up so poorly with his resources?

          • More newsworthy. And has Elon Musk not gotten that publicity

            because over the course of five years, a blogger on a site with 11,000 posts wrote two about a guy in Kenya who wants to fly an airplane?

            Keep driving past and try to find them.

            //there are people trying to improve irrigation, expand potable water supplies, obtain clothing, and a host of other activities that could have a positive impact on a number of people. Keep driving past this guy and find them.

            You mean like this?

            http://blogs.mprnews.org/newscut/2012/01/in_1997_i_had_a/

            or this?

            http://blogs.mprnews.org/newscut/2008/01/an_american_in_kenya_1/

            Or even this…

            http://blogs.mprnews.org/newscut/2008/01/a_plea_for_kenya/

            I mean, I think I understand what you’re saying — that there are more important, more newsworthy, people that you don’t specifically know about than a guy who wants to fly an airplane in Kenya. Sure, I agree, there are.

            But nobody is saying that this guy is the most important guy in Kenya, nor that the efforts of others to raise the living standards of people are unworthy in comparison. Quite the opposite. I cover those stories here all the time (I don’t know if you’re a regular reader or whether you parachuted in from the Internet and landed on this deal). This guy doesn’t prevent me from relaying those stories, nor do those stories prevent me from relaying this guy’s.

            See, I view the blog as a snapshot of life on the planet. There ae big deals and there a little deals. There are thousands of stories to tell that provide a complete snapshot of the good, the bad, the ugly, the angels, the devils, the successes, and the failures.

            I don’t think any one story threatens the telling of any other.

    • Jack Ungerleider

      You must be new here. I’ve been a loyal News Cut reader for some time and I’m not surprised that Bob runs a follow-up story about someone attempting to build an airplane and fly it.

      Those of us who are long time readers know that Bob built his own plane and has provided us with magnificent views of Minnesota and other places more far afield when he has flown that plane. While you think this is an example of some greater attempt to glorify failure, I see as yet another aviation story on News Cut. One of the many Bob has shared with us over the years.

      • Kassie

        Exactly. You have to wade through the aviation and sports to get to the good stuff.

        • That’s so Minnesotan! :*)

          It actually has nothing to do with my love of aviation. It has to do with my love of how people live their lives.

          Let’s look at the James Fallow quote again and see if we can put it in a context that has nothing to do with airplanes:

          There are plenty of people who don’t have the same opportunities as others, “but who take their own life drama and possibilities just as seriously and can dream just as ambitiously.”

          Let’s think about what this fact means and how it changes how we might view other areas of the world.

          Because that’s pretty much what NewsCut actually is: an opportunity to examine what we believe and why we believe it.

          • Kassie

            Hey, I keep coming back. You don’t need to defend NewsCut to me.

          • I think you’re a charter member. heck, I’d call you up and read the damn posts for you.