The Worst Thing to Happen to an Inventor

Thomas Alva Edison

Thomas Alva Edison

When Thomas Edison was asked about his failures while trying to develop a practical light bulb, his reply was, “I have not failed 10,000 times. I have successfully found 10,000 ways that will not work.”*

Inventors are driven to ask why; to find out what comes next. So are they happy when they get everything just right?

For inventors, the thrill of the hunt is the chase, not the kill. When all the challenges are met, all the goals achieved, it’s time to either take it apart and try something different, or else immediately find a totally different challenge.

Our minds tell us, “I’ve successfully found out how to do this; now in order to learn I need to try something new.”

* The World Bank. 1994. World Development Report 1994: Infrastructure for Development. New York, N.Y.: Oxford University Press…” (via Google)http://darwin.nap.edu/books/NX006728/html/35.html

One response to “The Worst Thing to Happen to an Inventor

  1. Steve, try this for a paradox: Everything you say is true, yet I still respectfully disagree with you. Visionaries don’t care about failures, or successes, or about what comes next…or rest, sleep or energy. Their gift from God is that they are endowed with an ability to “see” a need…then they solve for “X” (the unknown or uncertain) until they fill that need.

    Genius, like that of Edison, is not especially clever…it is simply curious. Genius is the ability to reduce the complicated to the simple. There is a point, simply reached, where the simplest facts end in mystery, even as they begin in it; just as each day lies between two nights. Life is simple, not easy. Life, living, being, and doing can and must be reduced to its lowest and most simple common denominator, just like a fraction problem in math. Knowing how to make things simple makes us all potential geniuses: There is no problem we cannot solve, and no answer we can’t find.

    Here’s something highly pragmatic that is common to all of us and achievers: When we want something done…ask a BUSY person to do it! Busy persons will always say YES. They will always find the time. They are always the most willing. That’s why they are busy. And why they are successful.

    And there’s one giant last thing. While our schools today are “busy” taking God out of our students’ minds and hearts, and figuring out why “not” to call them “boys and girls”—inventors, visionaries and geniuses, like Edison, were “dreamers” in their schools-of-old. They studied with their dreams in mind. I hope parents and adults, like us, are noticing that our students today no longer dream about who they wish to become in their future.

    People today—especially progressives—do not believe in old-fashioned dreams…because they say dreams-becoming-reality cannot be proven according to empirical scientific standards. Well I’ve thought about this for years and have arrived with at least an answer.

    We all believe a scientist is a realist. So, in the same way a scientist believes in a hypothesis, a dreamer believes in a vision (a goal). Both scientist and dreamer must believe something to be true BEFORE “knowing” it is true. Thus, dreamers are realists too, and successful persons are big dreamers…in reality.

    What Edison did was no accident. He first saw it in his mind’s eye BEFORE it became reality for the rest of us. So, we can’t achieve unless …we can dream it. If we dream it, we can do it. And if we will it…it is no longer a dream.

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