Thomas Edison’s Secret

How much failure are you willing to take?

That is the question you are very likely to be faced with as you move forward with whatever it is you want to do, be it a new diet and fitness program, idea, business, or what have you.

Because failure is likely to be a close companion—especially in the early stages of something new.

Sometimes I think my greatest talent is being willing to fail. To fail often, and to fail— at times— spectacularly!

I’ve actually been surprised by how often failure comes, and it seems to be some kind of a test, to see if I have the inner motivation to move forward anyway in the face of it.

Edison the Failure

As we know, or at least should know (I know teaching the accomplishments of white men isn’t in vogue these days), Thomas Edison was the driving force behind such innovations as the phonograph, the incandescent light bulb and one of the earliest motion picture cameras.

In his lifetime, Edison acquired a record 1,093 patents (singly or jointly).

He was also a highly-skilled manufacturer, businessman, and marketer.

He also failed—a lot.

Responding to a question about his failures, Edison famously said,

“I have not failed 10,000 times—I’ve successfully found 10,000 ways that will not work.”

I often think of that quote when I’ve hit my head against the wall again. I find it somehow comforting.

Of course, one of the keys to “succeeding at failure” is knowing what to stick with and what to drop. You’ve heard of the principle of “failing fast,” and it can save a lot of time to “know when to hold ’em and know when to fold ’em,” as one of my favorite artists sang.

And that can sometimes take a bit of soul searching.

My Business Journey

In starting and running my business, Old School™, I have had to make adjustments, just as I learned and adjusted from past ventures. I have had to pay attention to what my strengths are and are not. To see what excited or didn’t excite me, to see where I could benefit people.

What I’ve come back to (it never really left), is that I’m a communicator at heart. That I’ve always been interested in health and fitness, and I’ve always been passionate about helping to preserve—or bring back—the simple, relatively innocent, adventurous culture I grew up in.

Old School.

It’s such a shame that so many today are growing up without fathers in their lives, and therefore are without identity, drive, and direction. I do understand their plight, as I was not close to my own father, which left deficits in those areas.

It’s one of the reasons, I believe, that as adults, we are required to eat so much failure—not being in close touch with our true identity causes us to move away from “our zone.”

Don’t Dwell On It

Edison—though he experienced a ton of failure—refused to dwell on it. Leonard DeGraaf, author of the book, Edison and the Rise of Innovation, said, “Edison’s not a guy that looks back. Even for his biggest failures he didn’t spend a lot of time wringing his hands and saying ‘Oh my God, we spent a fortune on that.’ He said, ‘we had fun spending it.’”

That’s good advice for anybody.

Education

Having an amazing formal education was NOT one of Edison’s secrets. He attended school for only a few months, and was instead taught by his mother. Much of his education came from reading R. G. Parker’s School of Natural Philosophy and from enrolling in chemistry courses at The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art.

I’ve always felt that formal education can sometimes be a hindrance to true education, because education is not about learning “facts,” it’s about exploring and learning from your own observations and interactions.

Note the educational background of Steve Jobs, whose creativity and influence on his world would rival Edison’s. Jobs was adopted, which is a whole ‘nother story, perhaps for another time. My point here, is that his stepfather built a workbench in his garage for little Steve in order to “pass along his love of mechanics.”

Jobs later said, “he knew how to build anything. If we needed a cabinet, he would build it. When he built our fence, he gave me a hammer so I could work with him … I wasn’t that into fixing cars … but I was eager to hang out with my dad.” That says a lot about education, and about the importance of the relationship between father and son, even when the father is a stepfather (which is not ideal, of course).

By the time he was ten, Jobs was deeply involved in electronics and befriended many of the engineers who lived in the neighborhood. So there’s Steve Jobs’ education in a nutshell, other than terrorizing his third-grade teacher!

Failing Till We Succeed

So how much failure should you take?

As much as is necessary, if you believe you are on the right track. History is filled with stories of those who had an inner belief in what they were doing, even in the face of countless rejections.

If you see you’re on the wrong track, then “fail fast,” and find the right track.

The key is finding the right track, and staying on it. That has been a challenge for me. But the more I learn about myself, the more I see which track to be—and stay on.

Thank you, Thomas Edison, for blazing the path of failing until you succeed.

Speaking of which—if you have failed in your journey toward health, as someone who has “been there and done that!”, I can help. For a limited time, you can purchase a 30-minute Health & Fitness Consultation for just $25! I will consult with you via phone or Zoom (available worldwide). I know how to help you get healthy and fit—without having to run yourself into the ground to do it.

I have coupled this offer with another one for Christmastime!

You can buy an Old School™ Gift Card of from 1 to 12 Sessions ($25 to $300) for a great Christmas Gift for a friend or family member!

Let me know if there’s any questions I can answer for you. And feel free to comment on this article. Are you willing to fail until you succeed?

 

Patrick Rooney is the Founder of OldSchoolUs.com. Its focus is natural health and independent living. Patrick is the author of GREEK PHYSIQUE: The Simple, Satisfying Way to Sculpt Your Body—Even if You’re Old, Weak, or Broken Down; and is also the creator of Greek Yoga™ and the Greek Yoga for Beginners video. He offers health and fitness consulting in-person in Middle Tennessee and worldwide via phone, Zoom, and Skype. To reach Patrick, email him at [email protected].

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2 thoughts on “Thomas Edison’s Secret”

  1. Most people cannot get through the 10,000 FAILS it takes to succeed because the emotional stress on them for not succeeding would create so much pain it’d kill them long before they were through an era of it. They instinctively give up before it does, moving onto something else less threatening. That’s a life of mediocrity.

    The only way to overcome over the negative price of failure is to not resent it each time failure comes. If you can do that, you can endure a seemingly never-ending series of false starts, until one day . . . UREKA! 🙂

    A very good piece Patrick! I love Edison.

    Dan

    1. Agree 100%, Dan. If you can take a lickin’ and keep on stickin’ (old commercial reference—us older folks get it!), then you’re right, you just keep getting off the floor like Rocky until you win!

      And yeah, I Edison is an inspiration!

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