EdisonThe title screen opens and you see, “The Man. The Myth. The Legend.” Sweeping music floods your ears and you are swept away to a shot of a tall man looking out over the expanse, as the sun rises. There is satisfaction in his eyes and a trace of a smile around his mouth. He stands poised, as if he is about to act … He is powerful and you know it by the way the camera lingers on his eyes (intently observing events as they unfold). He is a man that listens, watches, waits and then strikes. The camera narrows and then widens our view of the man. We feel his energy, his quick movements and his poise as he stays his hand…

When we think of inventors and great men of history, we tend to make them larger than life. They become “those people” who have that “special something” that we, mere mortals that we are, can’t possess nor fathom.

We don’t envision a man who slept in his clothes in his office, most nights, with tobacco spit on the floor and papers strewn everywhere. We don’t imagine what he looks like when it was test 1,999 and he still hadn’t figured out how to make that darn light bulb give a steady glow for more than a few seconds.

We want to believe that he is other worldly. That he had some secret that if he would only share it with us, we could do great and amazing things like he did. Well, he did have a secret and he learned this secret the hard way: through many nights of having nowhere to sleep and nothing to eat and trying to figure out how to get his next job so he could buy more materials to “play” with. He went through those trials, because he wanted to experience something he loved on a consistent basis.

How can one man have had his hand in so many inventions? He possessed an insatiable curiosity to understand, to learn, to adapt, to apply and to grow, and the belief that if he kept working, he would get to the answer. Setbacks didn’t deter him. They drove him to find an answer that would work.

What kind of love would drive you to suffer every sort of discomfort in order to get it, keep it, nurture it, and watch it grow?

Just take a look at Edison’s highlight reel below! You’ll be surprised that he not only invented the light bulb and the first research lab, but his influence and contributions to science and industry were far reaching. I was shocked that while we learned about Edison in school, we really didn’t learn what was most important about a guy who just didn’t know when to call it quits:

  • 1869 Stock Ticker
  • 1874 Quadruplex Telegraph
  • 1876 Menlo Park Research Factory
  • 1877 Phonograph
  • 1879 Incandescent lamp
  • 1882 Pearl Street Station Electricity Plant
  • 1883 Vacuum Tube
  • 1888 Motion Pictures
  • 1889 Electromagnetic Ore Separation
  • 1889 Storage Battery (autos)
  • 1915 Naval Research Laboratory
  • 1923 Search for Alternative Sources for Rubber

How can one man have had his hand in so many inventions? He possessed an insatiable curiosity to understand, to learn, to adapt, to apply and to grow, and the belief that if he kept working, he would get to the answer. Setbacks didn’t deter him. They drove him to find an answer that would work. What’s his secret sauce? This is what he had to say about it:

Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time — Edison

He learned that if he just didn’t giveup, if he just kept at it, a solution would eventually present itself. Here are my key takeaways from Edison’s fascinating story:

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  1. His mother loved his very presence and “implanted in his mind”  the love of learning. Moms, you have more influence than you know.
  2. The necessity of having to make his own living caused him to manage risk effectively. Do you know what your risk profile in life is? Does it serve you?
  3. The experiences of being without money time and again, made him conclude that, eventually, you can get more of it. If you believed that you could  always figure out how to get more money, what would you try?
  4. You win or you learn what doesn’t work … there are no failures. What would happen if you believed that you could never really fail? What would you try first?
  5. You throw out the rule book and work solely from experiments and observations to get results faster. What assumptions are you willing to give up?

The best quote of the book came when he was asked by the US Navy to help in the war effort on submarine detection.

I made about 45 inventions during the war, all perfectly good ones, and they pigeon-holed every one of them. The Naval officer resents any interferance by civilians. Those fellows are a close corporation – Edison

What I loved about reading a book like this was how it reminded me that hero worship gets in the way of recognizing that struggle is part of the process, and it is in that very struggle, that the seeds of our successes are born.

So the next time you think it is time to call it quits, think of good ole Tom Edison, and ask yourself, “What else can I try that could solve this darn thing?”

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Thank you so much for reading and until next time,

Make the most of the time you have!

With love,

Coach “Try One More Time”