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Saturday, August 8, 2015

Omar Sharif and Faten Hamama and Life Cycles

Omar and Faten - They Had It All And Lost It Within 7 Years

Recently the much-loved famous Hollywood actor and world-class bridge player, Omar Sharif, died at the age of 83 from Alzheimer's Disease. This is something I only became aware of through a Facebook comment, because I was travelling and not keeping up with the news. So this whole tribute article is an excellent example of a blind analysis. I didn't select the subject and I had no prior knowledge of his life - save the usual Lawrence of Arabia and Dr. Zhivago movies and the fact he was a very good bridge player. I might add that neither movie lines up exactly with a Life Cycles significant year, so I have to really examine what did happen in some of his main adult significant years (like 24/31/36 etc.) to see what I get.

One of the chief pieces of information came to me quite late and that is the death of his one and only wife Faten Hamama, at the same age, earlier this year. He has described her as :- "his one true love". Although they officially divorced in 1974, they had been living apart for around a decade beforehand. Omar was not just separated from his 'one true love' by his own actions either, he was also separated from his beloved country of birth, Egypt, for most of his life (although he did spend some of his time there when his son settled in 2003). He largely lived out of hotels in wherever his latest movie was being shot. He was an international upmarket nomad if you will and has expressed his loneliness at this existence many times. Others have also commented that his roles often portray him as a "stranger in a strange land", so art imitates life again.

Let's examine both Omar (or Michel Chalhoub, which was his birth name) and Faten together, because their lives were inextricably linked, whether they spent most of it apart or not. Michel Chalhoub was born 10th April, 1932 in Alexandria, to a Melkite Greek Catholic family of Lebanese descent (so he was a mixture of influences even at birth). Faten Hamama was born 27th May, 1931 to a lower-class Muslim family in Mansoura, Egypt, though she claimed to have been born in better circumstances in Cairo. She was determined to become an actress when just a child and indeed appeared in her first movie role at the age of 8, becoming known as "Egypt's Shirley Temple". In Life Cycles terms they were Confluent for around 6 weeks (not really a large time, but then again it applied in every significant year).

They met in 1954 when Michel was selected for a part in the movie that would launch his career - Struggle In The Valley. By then Faten was a big star in Egypt and though she was married at the time, she agreed to share an on-screen kiss with Michel, who became known as Omar Sharif. This spilled over into real life and they fell in love and she managed to initiate an amicable divorce from her older husband. She was a very strong, independent woman, who later championed the rights of Muslim women to do this. Omar, in turn, agreed to convert to Islam. This was in 1955, so within Faten's age 24 Year of Revolution (May 1955 to May 1956). This was a moment of personal triumph for her, one of defying conventions. At this time she would have "had it all".

Then in Omar's age 24 Year of Revolution (April 1956 to April 1957) Faten became pregnant and their only child Tarek was born in March, 1957. Thus Omar is also Confluent with his only son for around the same amount of time as he is with his wife. At this time he would have "had it all" :- he had married Egypt's biggest star and they were called the Arab film industry's equivalent of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. They co-starred in movies and in this year they made a thriller Dark Waters (poster is shown above), which has been rated in one poll as the best Egyptian movie ever made. He now had a son and a very bright future. We all know, that with the benefit of hindsight, he was to become an even bigger star in Hollywood, but that was almost by default and it was 7 years away. Once again the unbroken journey of forward momentum for 7 years is displayed.

Now we move on to Faten's age 31 Year of Broken Pathways (May 1962 to May 1963). Just before this time she had starred in The River of Love (1961), her last movie with Sharif and the end of their on-screen partnership. Times were also changing for the worse in Egypt from Faten's point of view. There was a new initiative by President Nasser in 1962, to introduce Soviet-style socialism and this would come to include travel restrictions outside of Egypt. It would impact on her freedom to attend international film festivals and also meant a repression of Muslim women to initiate divorce. However these were insignificant issues compared to Omar's sudden and unexpected offer of a leading role in the movie Lawrence of Arabia. Director David Lean ostensibly picked out his photo, because his liquid brown eyes would contrast well against Peter O'Toole's very blue eyes. Already a major star in the Middle East he was cast as Lawrence's guide, but after many other stars pulled out or were unsuitable, he was offered the starring role as Sherif Ali. Lawrence was shot during 1962 and released at the end of Dec.

Omar's age 31 Year of Broken Pathways (April 1963 to April 1964) really coincided with the enormous critical and box office success of Lawrence. He was to go on to receive an Academy Award nomination and two Golden Globe Awards. He became, in this year, literally the toast of Hollywood as a new actor and offers began to roll in, along with a hoard of female admirers of this fascinating Arabian Sheik-style leading man. He was also affected by the Government-imposed travel restrictions and to a much larger extent than Faten was. He couldn't really work in Hollywood and visit Egypt in between and Faten wanted to continue her career in the Egyptian film industry, so they basically came adrift at this point.

I'm going to interject here and ask the obvious :- "Could things have turned out differently or was this separation inevitable?" Omar is on the record as saying :- " Maybe if I hadn't made Lawrence I would have gone on living in Cairo and had five children and lots of grandchildren" Well yes, maybe this is so. Also, maybe if Faten was not quite so independent-minded she could have followed him to Hollywood and worked at carving out her own international career. Also Omar was by his own admission drawn to the girls like a bee to honey and now there were ample leading ladies only too willing to share an on-screen (and off-screen as well) kiss with him, starting in 1964 with Ingrid Bergman in the movie The Yellow Rolls Royce. He soon admitted as much to an enquiring Faten saying that he :- "meets all these beautiful girls, actresses and other women.....and that he might fall in love with one of them at any moment". Well you've got to give him points for honesty I guess, but the marriage survived in name only until a divorce in 1974.

Once again we're left with the residual friendship side on Confluence and a life-long bond through their son (who had a small part in Zhivago). Now on to their own defining age 36 Years of Revolution, that had a similar theme - to live life by your own standards regardless of what government policy or religious convention might have to say. Firstly to Faten (May 1967 to May 1968). In the national setback following the Six Day War with Israel in June, 1967, Faten was asked to co-operate with Egyptian Intelligence Services and she refused resulting in her maintaining a self-imposed exile from her country. Despite President Nasser trying to get her to return and calling her a "national treasure"; she stayed away till the year following his death in 1971. She divided her time between London and Beirut. Isn't this ironic?! I mean if it would have happened a couple of years earlier then maybe Omar would have seen sense and returned to her.

She also championed the rights of Muslim women to initiate divorce and other related human rights causes, resulting some 7 years later in her breakthrough movie - I Need A Solution. From his side however, Omar's age 36 Year of Revolution (April 1968 to April 1969), was all about defying religious convention and causing a storm of criticism in the Arab world. It should be noted that he always felt deeply about religious and racial equality and harmony, not unnaturally since he was an ethnic Lebanese Christian, who had become a Muslim and in turn held no enmity towards Jewish people.

In 1968 the movie Funny Girl was released. He co-starred with Barbara Streisand and it attracted much negative publicity as she was Jewish and he kissed her on-screen (and fell in love with her off-screen as shown above). The Egyptian Government immediately condemned the film and it was banned in many Arab countries. Omar himself was unrepentant saying that he saw nothing wrong with any of it. He was as much a rebel against orthodoxy as Faten was, albeit in a different way. However, this placed a wedge firmly between him and his homeland. His own form of patriotic redemption was shown through his other great love - the game of bridge. He was a world class player and in 1968, even though he was living in France, he wanted to take part in the Bridge Olympiad as Captain of the Egyptian team. The Government refused to sponsor the team in France, so Sharif put up his own money to pay for their accommodation and living expenses. It was his personal contribution to his country, as well as a high point in his bridge career.

Omar has often echoed sentiments that argue for an inclusive view of religious differences and this was in turn imparted to his son Tarek, who in 1983, whilst doing a Uni course in Toronto, had a relationship with a Jewish fellow student, as a result of which Omar's grandson - Omar Sharif Jr.- was born. Omar Jr. was not only named after his famous grandfather, but he has become an actor and has recently admitted publicly that he is gay as well as half-Jewish (although this is just a label as you can't really be half of a religion).

Can you see how Omar and Faten were very similar in their attitudes and outlook? Had Omar not 'fallen for the lure of a Hollywood career' they could well have had five children and many grandchildren and fought their progressive causes together. Had Omar not lived a lonely life abroad (even though outwardly glamorous), they could have remained close friends in Egypt, no matter if they divorced or not. Omar did not find another satisfying long term relationship and Faten remained his 'one true love'. I hope you enjoyed this tribute article, which became by accident another case of the influence of Confluence in Families. Till next month :- "may the cycles always bring you good fortune."

Friday, July 3, 2015

The GOOGLE Story - Life Cycles and the Wojcicki Family


(sung to the tune of “The Brady Bunch”)

"This is a story, about a man called Larry,

Good buddy Sergey and a little com-pan-y,

Known as Google, which began in a garage,

Owned by Susan of the Wo-jit-ski{sic} fam-il-y,

Then others, flocked to join them,

And you knew it would be much more than a hunch,

That one day they’d become successful,

And that’s how they all became the Google Bunch"

This is the most ambitious series of linked posts I have yet attempted. I will link all 3 blogs to tell The GOOGLE Story, from a Life Cycles - Families perspective. This main blog will tell the story of Susan Wojcicki (pronounced Wo-jit-ski) and the massive contribution she made to the fledgling Google company. My SECOND BLOG will then tell the story of her sister Anne and her marriage to Sergey Brin and her own interesting career. Thus the theme of these two posts will be that they were sisters, within the high-achieving Wojcicki family.

Then my THIRD BLOG will feature a Life Cycles Confluence analysis of founders Sergey Brin, Larry Page and Susan and Anne. Does this sound ambitious? It sure does to me. (N.B. If the three terms used in core Life Cycles theory - Year of Revolution/Year of Broken Pathways and Confluence sound like a foreign language to you please read THIS.)


Did you know that Google actually began life in a garage in Menlo Park in September 1998. This was thanks to a very fortuitous set of circumstances for the house owner - one Susan Wojcicki and her husband Dennis Troper. She was born 5th July, 1968 into a family of academics from the Silicon Valley area and she planned on joining them as she graduated with honours in History and Literature from Harvard in 1990.

When she was in her age 24 Year of Revolution (Jul.1992-Jul.1993) she completed a Masters in Science and Economics and has reflected that the newly discovered breakthrough called the World Wide Web (see my post on Tim Berners-Lee for evidence of the time period match) opened her eyes to a whole new range of possibilities :- "No one in my family had ever worked in business beforehand.....I realized, oh, I can make things, I can sell things, I can have influence. And then when the Internet came out, you could reach people all over the world. I mean, that was just amazing." This was also around the period when she worked for a time at Educational software firm MagicQuest, which resulted in her getting bitten by the tech bug.

She went on to complete an MBA in 1998 and had also worked for top consulting firm Bain & Co. and at this time for Intel in a junior role. She and Dennis had just purchased a new home in Menlo Park (which she describes as humble) and were expecting their first child when they rented their garage to two Stanford students for $1,700 a month to help with the mortgage.

She tells of a parade of venture capitalists and journalists, who made their way to the fledgling company through Susan's living room and eating late night pizzas and M&M's with Sergey and Larry, where they talked of how their technology will change the world. Within a year (in other words at or very close to her age 31 Year of Broken Pathways (Jul.1999-Jul.2000)) she joined them to become the company's first marketing manager and Google employee No.16.

Talk about a veritable year of challenge (which is the definition of a Broken Pathways Year). She began with an office, but no staff and no budget :- "We had no marketing budget, but I was supposed to market the company -- by myself," she recalled. "It was a little overwhelming." However Susan was not to go on to be called 'The Most Important Person in Advertising' for nothing. Let's add another verse to 'the Brady Bunch' theme music..........
"Then Susan said to Larry and Sergey,

You’ve created all this wonderful geeky stuff,

But if I can, make us a decent profit,

Then we can go public and make a bundle soon enough….."

Her first task was finding office space for Google after moving out of the garage. Her early duties included refining the original Google logo designed by Brin and the overall spare look of the Google home page. She came up with the first of Google's "doodles." In addition she also contributed to the development of 'Google Images' and 'Google Books'. However her next big idea really hit pay dirt. In 2003, she came up with her multimillion-dollar brainstorm: AdSense.

AdSense is an extension of a program Google had successfully launched in 2002, called AdWords. AdWords offers advertisers sponsored search ads, those little text ads that appear near search results. Advertisers have to pay only if the ads get clicked. Wojcicki's suggestion:-"Why not offer these same ads all over the Web, on blogs and websites? Entice Web 'publishers' to participate by giving them a portion of the ad revenue. In other words, every time someone clicks on an ad on your site, you get a check."

Both these initiatives were a runaway smash from the first and it has been estimated that in the early days they produced nearly all (as much as 98%) of Google's income. Was it a mere co-incidence that later in 2003 Sergey and Larry didn't proceed with an offer to merge with Microsoft, but that in August, 2004 they went public with around 20 million shares at $85.00 each giving a market capitalisation of $23 billion?

Even today Adwords/Adsense is the second leading profit generator for the company. Do you wonder why she is called 'The Most Important Person at Google You've Never Heard Of.' But insiders know her worth without question. She has well and truly earned her title as 'The Most Important Person In Advertising'. All this coming from a surprisingly low key and pleasant person, who has been raising four children throughout this whole era, and places motherhood on an equal footing with her career.

But what was next for Susan? You see in Life Cycles terms she would soon be at her all important and often career-defining age 36 Year of Revolution (Jul.2005-Jul.2006). You know (or at least you do now) that this is still the most important concept in Life Cycles Theory. What began it all. So, yet again I put myself to the test. Now I am a 'bush poet' by nature, so I'm going to add another verse to my 'Brady Bunch' song

"Then Larry and Sergey said to Susan,

Use your magic on this video thing we have,

But when she said, no buy You Tube for a bundle,

Others thought the deal could go completely bad…."

In early 2005 Google launched a new product known as Google Videos with modest goals of letting users watch material from a library of archived TV content. This was managed by John Piscitello. However, recognising that this new approach was languishing, Larry and Sergey decided towards the end of the year (in other words right smack in the middle of Susan's 36th year) to bring in their chief revenue producer to see what she could do with this new initiative. Almost from the start Susan says she was easily outgunned by a rival start-up company known as You Tube :- "I saw some of their numbers and I just realized how much bigger they were than we were and even if it doesn't look good for you at that moment, you have to make the decision that it's not really about you but what's the right long-term thing for the company."

So she decided to champion the acquisition of her main rival in what was to prove to be Google's most expensive foray at the time. The founders wanted $1.65 billion as well as continued involvement and reasonable autonomy. The deal was negotiated in Sept. 2006, so just outside her age 36 year by 2 months, but it would be safe to say that nearly all of the spadework had been completed within her 36th year. You know, Life Cycles is not science, but on this occasion it's awfully close. Has this breakthrough acquisition gone on to define much of Susan's career? Well I'm told, when I read bio-summary articles, that she is known for Google and You Tube. However since 2006 You Tube has become her personal baby, and she has gone on to become senior Vice President and now Head of You Tube in 2014. I think there's little room for debate about her age 36 Year of Revolution coming to define her career and life.

Another element that I study in Life Cycles is what I call a 'period of controversy' that tends to happen before the breakthrough moment. Did controversy play a part in this acquisition? Well many considered this a risky move by Google. Though Susan presented the financial model justifying this huge acquisition; You Tube was not making money at the time and was initially a huge money loser. There were also legal concerns, regarding piracy issues over some of the content, and it landed Google in a brutal legal fight with Viacom (who were also rivals over the purchase).

They charged that Google had knowingly benefited from pirated content. But slowly with a $3.1 billion purchase of DoubleClick in 2007 and other acquisitions, such as the AdMob mobile ad network, it has has begun to pay dividends. In 2013 analysts estimated You Tube's revenue at $5.6 billion. Typical of Susan though she currently feels that You Tube, her baby, can do even better. This is demonstrated by a comment from the CEO of Maker Studios (who work with You Tube to create improved content and revenue) :- "I don't think anything was broken, but I assume even Google and YouTube believe it can monetize better. This is something Susan is very focused on."

I can relate to this almost ceaseless quest for improvement. This constant analysis of how well we're doing. With my Life Cycles Research I am constantly trying to challenge myself with more complex and inter-related case examples and The GOOGLE Story is currently cutting-edge for me. I hope you enjoyed this whether you're into IT or not. Of course if you are, then it should hold extra interest. For some odd reason, I find myself drawn to the present and future orientation of the IT world. I have now analysed people such as Alan Turing, Bill Gates, Tim Berners-Lee, Steve Jobs and now the Google pioneers. Of course I regard myself as belonging to the future more than the present and I suppose this accounts for it. Till next month :- "may the cycles always bring you good fortune."

Thursday, June 4, 2015

On The Money - Life Cycles and Floyd Mayweather Jn. and Sen.

Welcome to the second post in the Life Cycles and Families series. This time it's a father and son, who are not just part of one of the greatest boxing dynasties ever, but they are also a household name in the community generally. I think it'd be safe to say if you haven't heard the name Floyd 'Money' Mayweather then you've 'been living under a rock'! His most recent fight with Manny Pacquiao was watched by an estimated 300 million world-wide and had sports journalists asking :- "With his unbeaten record, does this make Mayweather the 'Greatest Boxer of All Time'?"

No question the Mayweather family generally is 'on the money' in terms of success. But in common terms I'd say they're a 'bunch of tearaways', with criminal convictions and family feuds, that have involved Floyd Sen., his brother Roger and of course, Floyd Jr., who is as big a tearaway as the rest of them. They're the original 'black sheep', who have used their boxing talent to drag themselves upwards and eventually reach great heights. We're here to examine some key events in their combined careers from a Life Cycles perspective.

The photo above is tagged as 'Big' Floyd and 'Little' Floyd, so let's begin with 'Big' Floyd. Mayweather Sen. was born 19 Oct. 1952. His boxing record was 28–6–1 (18 KOs), and he won the U.S. Championship Tournament in March, 1977 against Miguel Barreto and then lost to the legendary Sugar Ray Leonard in Sept. 1978 on a points decision. He was a flamboyant dresser, who recited poetry about and directly to his opponents. In 1978 his brother-in-law shot him in the leg during an argument (see full story at the side column). Like I said the Mayweathers are a wild bunch. After he gave away boxing he became even more famous as a trainer.

Let's get down to Life Cycles analysis. A lot of big events happened during his age 24 Year of Revolution (Oct. 1976 to Oct. 1977) like his career high point of the U.S. Belt. But this was one day to be eclipsed by the birth of his son 'Little' Floyd Mayweather on 24th Feb. 1977. This is auspicious in Life Cycles terms because it gives the bond of Confluence, being the shared period of 8 mths. between Feb. and Oct in their birthday to birthday years. It usually means a 'fated relationship'. This will also give us our mathematical equation for each 12 year period. There is a wonderful anecdote that says when 'Little' Floyd was just 7-8 months old he would mimic his father's hands in a boxing-like gesture. This caused 'Big' Floyd to say :- "I knew then that he'd be a boxer!"

When 'Little' Floyd was in his age 12 Year of Revolution (most of 1989) and 'Big' Floyd was in his age 36 Year of Revolution a significant thing happened. It is well recorded that in 1989, 'Little' Floyd changed his surname from his mother's family name of Sinclair to Mayweather, to proudly reflect his links to his father. In spite of (or maybe as a result of) his father's many beatings, 'Little' Floyd trained relentlessly in the gym and even though he said he "basically raised himself", he now wanted to become a Mayweather in name and blood. It was a telling decision - an attempt to bond with his father (notwithstanding that he made his money by selling drugs), and an excellent example of Confluence in action. At this time 'Big' Floyd was just about finished with his career as a boxer (he had only one more shambolic fight in 1990, which he lost), but his career as trainer for 'Little' Floyd was cranking up, as he would soon go on to have a successful amateur career.

Now we'll now progress to 'Big' Floyd's next age 48 Year of Revolution (Oct. 2000 to Oct. 2001). Remember that 'Little' Floyd's age 24 Year of Revolution (Feb. 2001 to Feb. 2002) included much of this period. By now Floyd Sen's training career was give or take in full swing. Of course he had taught his son how to box and use his famous defensive stance to advantage in the early days, but this was interrupted in 1993, when he was sent to prison for drug trafficking. His younger brother Roger (who won two World Titles) took over his position. In 1998 he returned as trainer and manager for his son's 14th pro fight, a second-round knockout of Sam Girard in February. The photo above was taken during this time in 1998.

Unfortunately in 2000 things turned really pear-shaped. In March (right before our Critical Period of Confluence), Floyd Jr. had a falling out with his father and fired him as trainer. He also evicted his father from a home that he owned and repossessed a car he was driving. They reportedly didn’t have a cordial conversation for nearly seven years. I've discussed before the downside of when those who share close Confluence have a falling-out. So when 'Big' Floyd was 48 he had to watch as brother Roger returned as his trainer and 'Little' Floyd's career went from strength to strength. He then assumed his age 48 new career direction by training one of 'Little' Floyd's greatest opponents - Oscar De La Hoya. This is the second key stage in the father-son relationship that correlates almost exactly with Life Cycles theory.

Finally we'll look in on the only other such period of time in their combined lives ie. when 'Big' Floyd was on his age 60 Year of Revolution (Oct. 2012 to Oct. 2013) and when 'Little Floyd' was in his age 36 Year of Revolution (Feb. 2013 to Feb. 2014). Again it is a matter of public record that in May 2013 (in the exact Period of Confluence) 'Big' Floyd again took over as the principal trainer of 'Little' Floyd. This was after a break of just over 12 years, during which he had been under the steady hand of Uncle Roger. This was not an easy decision to make and you can see for yourselves at the side column how this created angst for Roger in particular. However, it is an excellent first-hand account of the bond of Confluence in action. It didn't come out of thin air either. 'Big' Floyd got back on speaking terms with 'Little' Floyd when he didn't train De La Hoya in his 2007 fight with his son. Gradually things began to thaw, but there were two other factors in recent times. One was that Roger was suffering from diabetes and it affected his levels of energy and more telling was because 'Little' Floyd felt he got hit with too many shots against Miguel Cotto in his May 2012 fight and wanted his father’s help in slipping punches. Given that fights at the top level are usually spaced out, the decision rolled out 12 months later.

In summary this is how the father-son/'Big' Floyd-'Little' Floyd story played out in Life Cycles Families terms.

1. Floyd Mayweather Jr. was born as Floyd Sinclair when his fahter Floyd Mayweather Sen. was in his Age 24 Year of Revolution
2. When Floyd Jr. was 12 he legally changed his name to Mayweather, whilst Floyd Sen. who was in his age 36 Year of Revolution had all-but finished his boxing career and became the full-time trainer of Floyd Jr.
3. When Floyd Jr. was in his age 24 Year of Revolution he had just fired Floyd Sen. (who was in his age 48 Year of Revolution) and then switched to his uncle Roger , who had previously trained him when Floyd Sen. was in prison. Father and son had a major falling out and didn't speak for 7 years.
4. When Floyd Jr. was in his age 36 Year of Revolution he announced that his father (who was in his age 60 Year of Revolution) would resume as his trainer.

This is an almost copybook case study of how those who share the bond of Confluence and are closely related can have a fated relationship. I did this analysis not because I knew any of it, but because someone mentioned the fact that Floyd Jn. had been in jail and then resumed his career. That's all I had. It only came out when I started to write. Hope you enjoyed this slightly different post. Life Cycles Families will return next month with just about the biggest story in the world of IT - The Story Of Google-. Till then :- "may the cycles always bring you good fortune".

Saturday, May 2, 2015

The Wright Brothers - Flyers Not Liars

This is the beginning of a new cycle of 12 posts (at the rate of one a month). It follows the same structure that this blog has had since its inception in April, 2009. Each twelve months there is a different theme, which is intended as a different lesson in Life Cycles theory. I explain all this in greater detail in my SECOND BLOG. The lesson for this cycle of posts is Life Cycles and Families. We are going to see a variety of usually well-known people, who share some form of family relationship. Our first case is the world famous Wright Brothers (Wilbur and Orville). But before we begin I'll show you the accidental way this piece of research happened.

Do you remember my last post on Washington DC? There aren't any prizes for this, by the way, as it's directly underneath. It mentions my trip to the capital and shows a picture of the famous National Mall, where all the museums are. Well it was recommended not to miss the Aeronautical and Space Museum, so that was my first visit. Whilst waiting to get admitted I overheard someone being told that they should try and see the historical exhibit first, because it was closing in 10-15 mins. I thought, OK, that sounds like a good idea. I'm glad I did, because as I walked by the Wright Brothers' exhibit, I read a bit of their story and began to wonder if this could be another discovery, similar to the Walter Burley Griffin story in the second blog. Here's what I found.....

In one flash I saw that Wilbur, the elder of the two brothers was born in 1867 and that the first controlled, powered and sustained heavier-than-air human flight happened on December 17, 1903. Try adding 36 to 1867 and what do you get? Yes it's 1903 and that's the year in question again isn't it? Bingo, I'd hit pay dirt. Same as last time. No pouring over copious biographies for hours on end. As I've indicated before I'd never have got started if the going had been too tough. I also noticed that his younger brother Orville would have been aged 31 for part of this year. What does this tell you? Probably nothing for most of you, but if you really understood my posts, you would know it means they were also Confluent during this time ie. they shared time together in the Life Cycles significant years (ie. 19/24/31/36 etc). A photo of the famous 1903 flight is shown below.

I'm not going to reprise all of their fascinating story, but instead I will concentrate on just two periods :- 1903 and the second half of 1907/first half, or so, of 1908. Why would I do this? Well the answer is :- 1903 is the major beakthrough year when Wilbur was 36 and during 1907/8 Orville was 36. See, my method is just maths and stats, maths and stats. Wilbur Wright was born April 16, 1867 and Orville Wright was born August 19, 1871. Their period of Confluence when they were aged 36/31 was therefore April-August, 1903.

In summary, during 1903 the brothers built the powered Wright Flyer I, using their preferred material for construction, spruce, a strong and lightweight wood. They also designed and carved their own wooden propellers, and had a purpose-built gasoline engine fabricated in their bicycle shop. I will now create a timeline for these events. On Feb. 12-13th they tested an unsuccessful engine, whose body and frame cracked during testing. Then Wilbur made a March 1903 entry in his notebook indicating the prototype propeller was 66% efficient. So just prior to our period of Confluence (April-August) things were not complete. We all know a powered airplane needs a workable engine and though they almost had their design done, it wouldn't succeed without it.

The Wrights next wrote to several engine manufacturers, but none met their need for a sufficiently lightweight powerplant (this is like the period of temporary frustration I mention during a Year of Revolution). They then turned to their shop mechanic, Charlie Taylor, who built an engine in just six weeks in close consultation with the brothers. To keep the weight low enough, the engine block was cast from aluminum, a rare practice for the time. The Wright-Taylor engine had no fuel pump, carburetor, or spark plugs. Nor did it have a throttle. Yet this simple motor produced 12 horsepower, an acceptable margin above the Wrights’ minimum requirement of 8 horsepower. It was patented on May 22nd, 1903. So now preparations were properly underway. Below is a photo of a later model Wright engine circa 1910.

Those preparations were largely completed by August, because in Sept. they arrived in Kill Devil Hills and in Oct. they commenced assembling it. It should be noted that their airplane -The Flyer - cost less than a thousand dollars, in contrast to more than $50,000 in government funds that was given to their great rival Samuel Langley for his man-carrying Great Aerodrome project. He was trying to beat them to the punch at precisely the same time. You know what? Langley gave up the project after two crashes at take-off on October 7 and December 8, 1903. There's destiny if ever there was. If I'd been around then I'd have said:- "put your money on the 36 year-old Wilbur Wright, not the 69 year-old Samuel Langley. He's not in any sort of significant year." This also says something about the sheer tenacity and eventual superiority of the solo underfunded pioneers.

So here is your evidence writ large:-



Following their initial success the Wright Brothers deliberately kept a low profile so that they could concentrate on creating and marketing a practical airplane. This was a financially risky venture for them, as they wound down their successful bicycle business at the same time. Flights taken during the years 1904-1905 were unspectacular and reporters went away without a clear impression of their claims. There was reasonable speculation that this was done on purpose by the Wrights, to get reporters off their backs. In fact the Paris edition of the Herald Tribune headlined a 1906 article on the Wrights titled :- "Flyers Or Liars?" Even the publisher of their hometown newspaper The Dayton Daily News stated :- "Frankly, none of us believed it." The photo below shows the newspaper reporting an unspectacular flight in Oct. 1905, on page 9, in the agricultural and general news section.

We are now perched at the precipice of our second period of study ie. when Orville was in his age 36 Year of Revolution (Aug. 1907-Aug.1908). What happened next to get them true recognition, that had so far proven elusive? In 1907 they decided it was France, rather than the US (who had shown indifference to their work), that they would journey to get some backing. Whilst there they had face-to-face talks with government officials and businessmen. They also met with aviation representatives in Germany and Britain. Before traveling, Orville shipped a newly built Model A Flyer to France in anticipation of demonstration flights. The European end of things became more his baby, because whilst in France (ironically enough) Wilbur met Frank P. Lahm, a lieutenant in the U.S. Army Aeronautical Division, who allowed him to give an in-person presentation to the U.S. Board of Ordnance and Fortification in Washington, D.C. when he returned to the U.S.

This time, the Board was favorably impressed, in contrast to its previous indifference. With further input from the Wrights, the U.S. Army Signal Corps issued Specification #486 in December 1907 (so here is direct evidence of a breakthrough in the exact period of study). Bids were invited for construction of a flying machine under military contract. The Wrights submitted their bid in January, 1908. In early 1908 the brothers also agreed to a contract with a French company. This was Orville's direct breakthrough moment, not that either brother hadn't been across things, but you can't be in two places at once. In May, 1908 they went back to Kitty Hawk with their Flyer to practice in private for their all-important public demonstration flights, as required by the contracts.

What else could have taken place of real importance between June and August 19th? (ie. Orville's remaining age 36 Year of Revolution). Well everything culminated in one day - August 8th, 1908 (I often write about this one day phenomenon in Years of Revolution). I'll let the narrative take over here, it's just such a great story :-

Facing much skepticism in the French aeronautical community and outright scorn by some newspapers that called him a "bluffeur", Wilbur began official public demonstrations on August 8, 1908 at the Hunaudières horse racing track near the town of Le Mans, France. His first flight lasted only one minute 45 seconds, but his ability to effortlessly make banking turns and fly a circle amazed and stunned onlookers, including several pioneer French aviators, among them Louis Bleriot. In the following days, Wilbur made a series of technically challenging flights, including figure-eights, demonstrating his skills as a pilot and the capability of his flying machine, which far surpassed those of all other pioneering aircraft and pilots of the day.

The French public was thrilled by Wilbur's feats and flocked to the field by the thousands, and the Wright brothers instantly became world-famous. Former doubters issued apologies and effusive praise. L'Aérophile editor Georges Besançon wrote that the flights "have completely dissipated all doubts. Not one of the former detractors of the Wrights dare question, today, the previous experiments of the men who were truly the first to fly....". Leading French aviation promoter Ernest Archdeacon wrote, "For a long time, the Wright brothers have been accused in Europe of bluff... They are today hallowed in France, and I feel an intense make amends."

Below is a photo taken of this famous flight at the Le Mans racecourse, France, on August 8th, 1908 - showing inset, a section of the large crowd.

So there it is. I don't think I need to spell it out any more than this. In Orville's age 36 Year of Revolution the Wrights finally gained the recognition and kudos they so rightfully deserved. Orville's French connection had paid off big time. You can actually see how this was a more central event for his whole life because Wilbur was to die tragically in 1912 from typhoid fever, leaving Orville to carry on their future struggles with Patents and running The Wright Company.

I think I'm done. It strikes me that all true pioneers have to fight long and hard for recognition and in that regard I believe my pioneering of a new theory of life is just another variant of this. Except I don't have a brother to share it with. However, all of you who read and enjoy my work are my brothers and sisters-in-arms. Next month Life Cycles Families will return with a totally different and maybe even slightly shocking change of pace. Till then :- "may the cycles always bring you good fortune".

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Washington DC - A Dream Half Realised - 'Life Cycles' And The Career Of Peter 'LEnfant

A couple of years ago I visited Washington and was most impressed when our guide explained the height restrictions on all buildings. He said the original notion was that no buildings be taller than Capitol Hill, because this symbolised freedom and no idea was above freedom. I'm told that currently there are now four buildings that are higher, but we're not here to split hairs. Washington is also based on Jefferson's memories and desire to see a recreation of Paris and other European cities, with low buildings and wide boulevards. It certainly looked like this to me. Indeed both countries having revolutions at a similar time fomented an exchange of ideas and the most tangible of all gifts - the Statue of Liberty. However, Washington DC was also a gift from a Frenchman, who came to America and fought in the Revolutionary army of George Washington. A man called Peter (not Pierre) L'Enfant (who is pictured below). This is his story told from the always unique angle of 'Life Cycles'.

Peter L'Enfant was born Pierre Charles L'Enfant in Paris, France August 9th. 1754, the son of a painter of good repute in the service of King Louis XV. Thus he had an aristocratic upbringing and was educated at the Louvre and the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture in Paris. In 1777 he was recruited through a French courtier to join the American War of Independence. Soon after this he joined the army of George Washington and fought with him at Valley Forge. After the war he ran a very successful civil engineering business and gained a reputation as an architect by redesigning the City Hall building in New York. He had also changed his name to Peter and was totally committed to the new America.

This brief summary is simply by way of understanding events in the first half of 1791 - the single most important career and life-defining year in his total of three score years and ten. I mean, I can't just lurch in and say he designed Washington DC without so much as a by your leave. Those who didn't know, might think he was just some uppity Frenchman, who came over because of an invitation from a grateful, fledgling American Government. No, he was a French/American, who came cap in hand to his former Commander-in-Chief - President George Washington. (who is pictured below at Valley Forge)

Now how good is your maths? If you add the single most important year in 'Life Cycles' to his first 12 months what do you get? Don't know what I'm talking about? Anyone who has read one of my many, many profiles and in-depth analyses could, I hope by now, enlighten you. Yes, it's the central, mid-life, often career and life-defining age of 36, which is called by me, the age 36 'Year of Revolution'. I've been banging on about this for years and it's so simple even the most limited mind could grasp it. So when was Peter L'Enfant 36? Just add 36 to his date of birth. That's the birthday to birthday 12 month period, which in his case is.....come on add 36 to August 1754 and what do you get? That would be the second half of 1790 and then the first half of 1791.

This period defined Peter L'Enfant's whole life. In 1789 Congress gave authority to the establishment of a new national capital. This prompted L'Enfant to write to President Washington asking for a commission to plan the city. This was on hold till July, 1790 when the Residence Act set the site of the new federal district and national capital to be on the northern and southern shores of the Potomac River, at a site to be determined by the President. So, this was almost in line with the ushering in of L'Enfant's age 36 'Year of Revolution'. He would have, no doubt, been even more motivated by this news.

However it was not until March, 1791 that L'Enfant was appointed by Washington to plan the new Federal City (later named the City of Washington) under the supervision of three Commissioners. Thomas Jefferson, who worked alongside Washington, sent L'Enfant a letter outlining his task, which was to provide a drawing of suitable sites for the federal city and the public buildings. Though Jefferson just wanted a suitable site and had modest ideas for the Capital, L'Enfant re-interpreted the task as far more grandiose, believing he was not only locating the capital, but also devising the city plan and designing the buildings. (An early painting of Washington in 1833, which hangs in the White House, is pictured below)

This re-interpretation of a commission reminds me in a curious way of what an ambitious 24 year-old Charles Dickens did when he was told to just add a few lines of text to the famous illustrator Robert Seymour's work. Instead he usurped the process and went on to make his name by writing 'The Pickwick Papers'. Also it should be noted that L'Enfant had a difficult and argumentative nature, which meant he alienated most people over a period of time.

There is no doubt though, that despite being watered down considerably, L'Enfant's original vision was the guiding inspiration for the magnificent city you see today. On June 22nd 1791, L'Enfant presented his first plan for the federal city to the President. This was his highest point of achievement in his 'Year of Revolution', the culmination of his dream. It is believed that some time prior to August 19th. he also appended a survey map to his plan (which again most probably lies within his age 36 year).

His plan specified locations for the Congress House (the United States Capitol Building), which would be built on Jenkins Hill (later to be known as Capitol Hill), which he described as a "pedestal awaiting a monument". The President's House (later known after its 1815-1817 rebuilding and white-washing, as the famous White House) was to be at a northwest diagonal from the halls of Congress along an unusually broad Pennsylvania Avenue. L'Enfant envisioned the "President's House" to have public gardens and monumental architecture. Reflecting his grandiose visions, he specified that the "President's House" (occasionally referred to as the "President's Palace") would be five times the size of the building that was actually constructed, which would have become the largest residence then constructed in America.

The plan specified that most streets would be laid out in a grid. To form the grid, some streets (later named for letters of the alphabet) would travel in an east-west direction, while others (named for numbers) would travel north-south. The diagonal avenues intersected with the north-south and east-west streets at circles and rectangular plazas that would later honor notable Americans and provide open space.

L'Enfant laid out a 400 feet-wide garden-lined Grand Avenue, which he expected to travel for about 1 mile along an east-west axis in the center of an area that would later become the National Mall (which is pictured below). He also laid out a narrower avenue (Pennsylvania Avenue) which would connect the "Congress House" with the "President's House". Additionally he laid out a system of canals (later designated as the Washington City Canal), that would pass the "Congress House" and the "President's House".

His plans may have been inspired by his native city, Paris, and other European cities, but he also had a uniquely American theme of making the "Grand Avenue" accessible to everyone in the new spirit of democracy (today this is reflected in the wonderful museums and institutes that line both sides and have free admission). I wish this story was one of L'Enfant's personal triumph and "the ushering in of his Golden Age" (which is the phrase I often use). But this grand vision did not go on to have a happy ending. His headstrong temperament and his insistence that his city design be realised as a whole, brought him into conflict with the Commissioners, who wanted to direct the limited funds available into just the construction of the Federal buildings. In this, they had the support of Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson. By Feb. 1792 L'Enfant was dismissed by Washington and Andrew Ellicott continued the city survey in accordance with a revised, more modest, plan.

The remainder of his life is, unfortunately, also tinged with sadness. L'Enfant was initially not paid for his work on his plan for the "Federal City". He fell into disgrace, spending much of the rest of his life trying to persuade Congress to pay him the tens of thousands of dollars that he claimed he was owed. After a number of years, Congress finally paid him a small sum, nearly all of which went to his creditors. This is a salutary reminder that our ultimate fate is always in our own hands.

His dismissal revolved around a key incident in which he refused to give Andrew Ellicott (who had been surveying the District of Columbia and the "Federal City" under direction of the Commissioners) a copy of his original plan. Ellicott then worked on without it. With the aid of his brother, Benjamin, they completed a revised plan, despite L'Enfant's protests. Shortly thereafter, having along with Secretary Jefferson (who is pictured below in 1791) grown increasingly frustrated by L'Enfant's unresponsiveness and headstrong ways, President Washington dismissed the architect. He had managed to alienate even Washington, who had been his strongest supporter. In common parlance he had "pissed off the boss" and you know you just can't do this. Please see the beginning of my post on Erin Brockovich. You will then see that I classify him as an 'N' Factor (which is something I used to be all too familiar with in my business of Outplacement).

But when you make a tour of discovery in the magnificent city of Washington, as I did some two years ago, and you see the grandeur of Pennsylvania Avenue (America had never heard of Avenues before this) and the Congress Building on Capitol Hill and enjoy visiting the excellent museums for free along National Mall (I'm told you probably need a week to really do them justice) and see the White House for the first time.....spare a thought for the man behind all this. A man who truly loved America and who is remembered for one thing the L'Enfant Plan For Washington. A man who should have enjoyed a "Golden Age" of success and recognition for his lasting contribution to his adopted country....but who was brought low by his own temperamental flaws.

Also spare some more time to use your imagination and try to envisage the Washington Peter L'Enfant saw....a White House of epic proportions. Five times it's current size. To be quite honest when I finally visited it, I felt a bit underwhelmed by it's relatively small stature, but figured that's how they did things back then. But imagine a Presidential Palace complete with sweeping ornamental gardens and architecture and linked to Capitol Hill by a system of canals...the Versailles of the New World....a palace fitting the importance of your country. And if you look really deeply you can almost see the spirit of L'Enfant....his head bowed in discontent for a dream which never materialised....His Washington - a dream only half-realised.

I hope you enjoyed this post in which I found myself, somewhat unusually, compelled to wax lyrical, because I write as I feel and nearly everything is in one take. 'Life Cycles' will return next month with a whole new theme and a new twelve month cycle of posts. Until then :- "may the cycles always bring you good fortune."