A lesson in failure from a champion paper airplane maker

I recently pitched for a scriptwriting project scripting videos for a massive YouTuber to broaden my skillset and earn some extra money.

Unfortunately I wasn’t successful, so I’ve repurposed my sample scripts as blog posts so they don’t go entirely to waste.

Here’s one of them – about failure, funnily enough. I hope you enjoy it…it’s in a slightly different style to my usual posts because I had to emulate the YouTuber’s enthusiastic way of speaking.

I challenge you to take one single sheet of paper and make it fly across the length of one and a half Olympic-size swimming pools…under its own steam. 

Unless you’re an engineering genius, or secretly a wizard, I’m 99.9% certain you’re going to fail.

But don’t be disheartened. If there’s one person who knows about failing, it’s THIS guy.

This is John Collins, otherwise known as the Paper Airplane Guy. After years of study in origami (Japanese paper folding) and aerodynamics (the study of moving air), he broke the world record for making the farthest-flying paper airplane in the world!

His paper airplane flew a distance of 266ft and 10 inches, which is even further than the length of one and a half Olympic-size swimming pools. It’s about the length of 44 Joe Bidens lying head-to-toe, if I’m going to be topical. 

But what’s so special about turning this…

into THIS?

The Paper Airplane Guy himself once said, “the record for paper airplane distance won’t have much impact on society at large. The way we did it matters more. If we hadn’t dared to fail, we couldn’t have prevailed.”

Making something this flat and rectangular glide like a graceful bird through the air is…well, it’s hard. 

It took John 3 years, 3 throwers (all professional football players), 5 practice locations, countless design tweaks and 2 attempts to finally break the world record. 

Imagine if you failed every day at your job.

How long before you gave up?

We NEED to fail

Making paper airplanes that actually fly is a long process of trial and error. John spent years perfecting his design.

Imagine if he had given up each time the plane crashed.

John says adults get so hung up about looking silly or dumb that they shy away from trying things. As children playing with paper airplanes, we weren’t afraid of failure or humiliation. The crashing was all part of the fun. Why should we lose that sense of playfulness as adults?

Today John talks to children and university students about paper airplanes. He believes the process of science is humanity’s best invention. Mastering the laws of physics to lift a physical object off the ground gives you an appreciation of how we are all connected to the universe. Every little thing we do matters.

Anybody can make paper airplanes, whether you are old or young. It is something that people can do together, and a skill that can be passed on to our children. 

Everyone can learn from the Paper Airplane Guy. And if you can’t quite master the art of flying, you can master the art of failing. See failure as an opportunity.

After all, you are never truly defeated until you quit.