Edison’s path to success was called “trial and error.” Too often we assume that going through trials means we are doing something wrong, that error is failure, and that failure is final. Success is an achievement, the result of grueling effort. Olympians are not merely gifted humans, they are persistent, disciplined and talented. Edison attributed his brilliance to hard work.
– A single bright idea looks so easy. –
We know that Edison said, “Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.” Many do not know, however, how terribly inefficient Edison’s “perspiration,” or hard work, was. Learn the five ways hard work and willingness to fail can lead to brilliant inspiration…
1. Start with Bad Ideas
If practice makes perfect, then perfection is far from automatic. We should not expect perfection from ourselves! Start making ideas – make bad ideas! Coming up with ideas at all – good or bad – is hard work. Once we have mastered the art of producing ideas we can move on to improving them.
2. Let Your Ideas Fail
Edison kept thousands of chemicals in his Menlo Park laboratory so that he could act on his ideas. Unless you give your ideas a chance to fail, they will never have an opportunity to succeed. A gentleman walked into Edison’s office to see the great inventor amongst hundreds of failed battery experiments. When the man learned that Edison and his team had tried over 9,000 failed experiments to improve the battery, he lamented the lack of results. “Results!” Edison retorted. “Why, man, I have gotten lots of results! I know several thousand things that won’t work!”
3. Keep Notes
Without journaling, Edison would have lost these results. Edison was right – failure can teach us valuable lessons. While 9,000 unique failures can each have value, repeating the same mistake 5 times is either lazy or just plain stupid.
I took piano lessons as a child, and although I liked playing the piano I was a poor practicer. Because I only wanted to play the song through without giving special attention to the tough measures, I practiced the same mistakes into my songs over and over again. I never became a great pianist!
4. Make Changes
After identifying the little decisions that have led to our mistakes, we are faced with another choice. We can repeat the past or we can do something differently and get another result. Reading books and blogs such as this one with creative solutions or learning from a mentor can help us to make intentional, intelligent changes.
5. Never Give Up
You will make more mistakes – gobs of them. Edison never gave up on inventing although he made tens of thousands of mistakes. Stubbornness is repeating my failures to prove I’m not wrong; resolve is changing my approach so that I can be right.
Edison was perhaps the greatest inventor of all time because he was willing to be wrong but unwilling to give up. His relentless pursuit of solutions led him through more failures to more successes than his competitors. Edison’s resolve was qualitatively different from blind stubbornness and produced legendary results.
Successes are merely peaks on a journey through the mountains and valleys of life. Climbing the mountains is difficult and crossing the valleys can be discouraging. Yet we spend 99% of our time not at the peak of success, but rather climbing toward it.
Often, we incorrectly perceive “bright people” as flawless like the single yellow brick shown above. But brilliance in context looks like a bright idea among dozens of duds, rightly showing us that we can all be “bright people.”
– Brilliance. –
The globe’s most prolific inventor was right – genius is all about work. Those that do the work of consistently producing ideas – any ideas – are more likely than others to come up with a “brilliant” idea. If you are not habitually investing in your imagination, start now.
Now go try another idea!