With only three months of formal schooling, what was the success secret that led to Thomas Edison becoming one of the most prolific inventors in history? His 1,093 U.S. patents include the phonograph, the motion picture camera, and of course the electric light bulb.
What can this genius teach us to help us in achieving our own goals and dreams? I don’t know about you but I’d be happy with just 1% of his inspiration.
Well just one quotation from Thomas Edison reveals so much about the philosophy which made him such a success:
“The first requisite for success is the ability to apply your physical and mental energies to one problem incessantly without growing weary.”
Edison meant the word ‘problem’ in its wider sense. We could easy substitute goal or challenge.
It is quite a big ‘requisite’ so let’s break it down:
“Apply your physical and mental energies”
This is about effort and commitment. It’s not about a half hearted effort but devoting your whole being to the problem or challenge. As he once said “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”
This is key – the power of focus. Although Edison achieved so much he only applied himself to one goal at a time. Once he became more successful and had a whole a team working for him who could undertake more projects, but in early days it is more important to focus.
There is a lot we can learn from this. How easy is it to get distracted with too many projects? I know I have been there. Trying to do too many projects at once and making very slow or no progress.
It is far better to pick one goal or business project and concentrate on getting that completed or up and running before starting the next one.
This implies total devotion and persistence. He would work on projects continuously without interruption to complete them. It is often far more productive to work on a project solidly for a few intensive days rather than just a few hours here and there. He once famously commented, “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”
“Without growing weary”
This was one of Edison’s most famous strong points. Who can forget the story of the light bulb? – “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” He really did not know the meaning of giving up.
“Nearly every man who develops an idea works it up to the point where it looks impossible, and then he gets discouraged. That’s not the place to become discouraged.”
So in a nut shell Edison’s winning formula for success was hard work, focus, commitment and persistence – all to an extreme level.
But how do you keep that level of energy up over a long period of time?
The answer to that is in his other ingredient of success – a high degree of passion and enthusiasm for what you do.
He was not focused on the end result but on the love of the process. “One might think that the money value of an invention constitutes its reward to the man who loves his work. But… I continue to find my greatest pleasure, and so my reward, in the work that precedes what the world calls success.”
When you find your passion you’ll be able to say the same as Edison:
“I never did a day’s work in my life. It was all fun.”
Now that is true success.