We are presently in Ft. Myers and enjoying a whole new experience. For the past 9 years we’ve spent the winter on the East side of Florida but felt we needed a change. One of our first outings here was to the Edison/Ford Estates during the Christmas holidays. It was both a magical and enlightening tour. I bought a book of quotes by these accomplished men and was drawn particularly to Thomas Edison’s life and perspective.
Thomas Alva Edison was an amazing man. He was obviously motivated by some inner force that drove him during his long and fruitful life journey. He was married twice, had 6 children, held 1,093 patents on his various inventions, founded 14 companies and left this world in 1931 at 84 years of age.
To start, Thomas, the youngest of seven children, had 3 months of formal education. When his teacher deemed him addled of mind his Mother pulled him from school and resorted to home teaching. Her focus was seemingly philosophy, not the three R’s. He was already partially deaf, possibly as a result of a bout of scarlet fever. By 7 years of age he was earning money, built his first lab at 10, was selling papers at 12 and publishing a local news rag shortly after. Then he saved a life – that of three-year-old Jimmie MacKenzie who was in the way of a run-a-way train. By 19 he was a Telegraph Operator for Western Union and by 21 he had his first patent for the invention of an electric vote recorder. So began a life of achievement second to none. He invented the phonograph at 30 and the electric light bulb at 32.
His quotes give much food for thought.
“If parents pass enthusiasm along to their children, they will leave them an estate of incalculable value.”
In reading about Edison’s life and his relationship with his Mother it appears this is what she did. He certainly credits her with putting him on the right track, giving him a thirst for all that is possible in this life. She believed in him and in his potential, encouraged him to use his mind, find satisfaction in achievement and appreciate the power and beauty of nature.
“Because I readily absorb ideas from every source – frequently starting where the last person left off – I am sometimes accurately described as “more of a sponge than an inventor”.”
Edison was not a socially adept human being. For the most part he was pre-occupied with thinking, reading and research. His hearing problem contributed greatly to his ability to withdraw into his own thoughts. His wives kept his world somewhat orderly, cared for home and children and planned any entertaining necessitated by his position in the world. Have you ever done a renovation on an old home? It’s never simple. You go to replace a window and find the frame is totally out of alignment. You buy a new faucet to replace the drippy old one and discover it not only won’t fit but the entire supporting wall behind it is rotten. I think that’s how Edison’s mind worked. Every thought led to a question which led to his lab which led to a new and exciting idea.
“My philosophy of life: Work and look on the bright side of everything”.
Over 80 years ago someone actually thought and expressed what I have always believed. Every generation has its share of philosophers who have grasped this concept, written and spoken about it in every “feel good” book written but here is a living example of what this perspective can produce. I don’t think this man spent much time on feelings such as pain, self-pity, sorrow, remorse, or envy. I would wager he awoke every morning with a smile on his face ready to take advantage of every moment ahead of him.
“I never did a day’s work in my life, it was all fun.”
If only we could all feel that way about our life journey. That doesn’t mean we don’t expend energy, feel pressure, give 100%+ or push the limit of our endurance. What it does mean is that whatever work we do we give it our best effort and take pride in whatever level of achievement we attain.
“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
Simply said, picture the golf course where I believe there is no bad shot. The good ones make you feel so good you keep playing over and over again. The not so good shots demonstrate clearly what not to do and give you the opportunity to achieve at a higher feel good level.
“Time is really the only capital that any human being has, and the only thing he or she can’t afford to lose.”
Although this man of quite unbelievable talent made a lot of money in his lifetime from his patents and companies I think that fact was of little importance to him other than to finance his creative efforts. Money was not a motivator – nor was social stature. The thrill of success drove him and time was his partner.
“I owe my success to the fact that I never had a clock in my workroom.”
It’s hard to imagine what living with this man would have been like. Maybe he’d show up for dinner or maybe he’d spend time with company or maybe he’d disappear for days at a time. When he was on a roll with a breakthrough idea or just experiencing a mental adrenaline rush – time was irrelevant and so probably was sleep.
“The chief function of the body is to carry the brain around.”
Edison had profound respect for the brain and its capacity. He stated that from the neck up, a man is worth anything his brain can produce. He believed the brain like a muscle needed to be trained to think and thinking was the source of all progress and all success. He looked after his body but only to keep it fulfilling its function.
“Friendship is the leaven of life.”
Edison’s best friend was his wife. His other friends were men of like mind and habits – men like Ford and Burroughs who stimulated his thinking process. He did not have a lot of friends because he would not devote the time to developing those relationships and any other interaction with people was really only necessitated by business and his need to know. That need to know was critical to his understanding of the world he lived in.
Thank you Mr. Edison is all I can think to say.