Thomas Edison (1847-1931)
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Published: Mon, 18 Dec 2017
“Genius is one per cent inspiration and ninety-nine per cent perspiration.” Every phase of human life uses at least one of Edison’s inventions. Edison’s determination was important in his success as an inventor. His determination includes his work time, not giving up after so many failures, and setting goals, including keeping his word and having his mind set.
There are seven main points about Edison’s determination in which I wish to focus on. One of the most important points was his strong commitment and not giving up. Another important point was that he stuck to his plan, had his mind set on what he wanted to achieve and didn’t let other things bother him. Edison’s determination was so strong that he never let failures distract him or stop him. Unlike other people, his determination was so powerful that he focused solely on what he set out to do, which was to invent. Edison never let money get in his way. He invented whether he was penniless or had tons of money. Edison’s determination also affected another reason of why he succeeded; reading. Edison’s determination was the main reason of why he pulled through the days when he was a telegraph operator. He never let being fired so many times because of his experiments discourage him. Inventing was his true desire and he never let it go even if it meant not having a job. The most important and the base of all the other points is his time commitment. If he didn’t push himself to commit all that time into his work, he never would have been able to be as successful. Now I will describe each point in more detail. Thomas Edison is known for coming up with lots of inventions that changed our lives. The light bulb and phonograph are among the most famous. But if he had given up after he couldn’t find the solution from a few tries, he probably wouldn’t have invented anything.
For example, in December 1914 there was a huge fire at Edison’s factory buildings in West Orange, New Jersey. Tanks of chemicals and almost everything else was burnt up. At the time, he was 67 and could have easily given up and retired. But he said “I am sixty-seven, but I’m not too old to make a fresh start.” The next day, he was a bundle of energy. He directed more than one thousand men to clear away the debris. That showed something about the man’s determination and his passion for inventing. He stayed positive throughout this event. He got everybody to come see the fire because they will not see a fire this big again in their lives.
Another event also showed his determination and not giving up. When Edison worked on the Grand Trunk Railway, he sold papers and snacks to the passengers and eventually set up a chemical lab and his own printing press in a baggage car. But one day, a dangerous poison fell from a shelf and when exposed to air, it started a fire in the baggage car. The baggage-master rushed to the scene and became so angry with Tom that he picked up all his stuff and threw it out the door including young Tom. But Tom didn’t give up. He soon became very close with the baggage master and was working again.
Another example showed Edison’s determination. Once, he was really into using magnetic separators to extract low-grade iron ores. He even founded a mining town named Edison but it soon had to be shut down because of debts. Edison lost over one million dollars in this project but he stayed positive and said that he had a good time spending it. The biggest example of Edison not giving up would be when he invented the light bulb. He began with studying gas lighting and filled out two hundred notebooks containing over forty-thousand pages. He then filled Menlo Park from floor to ceiling with battery cells, chemicals, and instruments. Along with that he had fifty men at work with no sleeping and food brought to them. He tried for months with thousands of different filaments until he found that thread burned for about forty five hours. He then was determined to make it one hundred hours. In the end, his carbon filament burned for one hundred seventy hours.
Without doubt, Edison’s determination of not giving up had definitely been important in his success. As one of his famous quotes say, “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”
Edison was very focused and had his mind set to what he wanted to achieve. He always kept his word and stuck to his plan. He set goals for himself and achieved these goals.
An event which showed Tom concentrating and not letting other things bother him would be his hearing loss. Many experiences in his early life worsened his hearing. These include Tom suffering from scarlet fever when he was a boy, the baggage master boxing his ears when he started that fire on the baggage car, and a conductor lifting him by his ears to try to help him get on the train one day because he was late. Tom became about eighty percent deaf in the end. But he stayed positive and said that this contributed to his success because he could concentrate better when not hearing any noises.
An example of his goal setting would be when he bought an invention factory in Menlo Park, New Jersey. When he bought that land and built his invention factory on it, he set a goal to himself that he would bring out a minor invention every ten days and a big thing every six months or so. And he achieved that by improving the telephone, inventing the phonograph and inventing the light bulb there.
One of the examples of how Edison set his mind to things was his schooling. He never did well in school. At that time, schools taught by having students memorize things. But Thomas’ mind was too imaginative to memorize things and liked to find out things for himself. One day, Tom happened to hear the school master call him “addled.” Tom knew the definition of that word and became furious. So he ran home and told his mother. At that time, he promised to himself that he would never step foot in a classroom again. His mother decided to home school Thomas and it was a good decision. Tom vowed that he would not let his mother down and he became a rapid reader. He read Charles Dickens, Shakespeare, and Victor Hugo. But his favorite was a science text book titled Natural Philosophy, which he read at the age of nine. He quickly tried all the experiments in the book and was fascinated by chemistry and physics. Making goals and setting his mind on things had surely aided Edison in his success.
Edison never saw his failures as failures. He saw them as learning opportunities and discovering another way that something won’t work. He had tried thousands of ways and used numerous materials to make workable filament. Edison was once asked why he kept trying if he failed so many times. His response was “I have not failed but I have successfully discovered six thousand ways that won’t work.” Tom didn’t give up when his first patented invention failed. When he invented the vote-recorder, it was his first patented invention. He hoped that the lawmakers would use his invention. But it never got further than the patent office because it put an end to old delaying tactics. He was crushed when he learned the news but he didn’t give up. He learned an important lesson here: only invent products in which there was a demand for. After this incident, he went on to improve the stock ticker, which was successful. Edison believed that failures were very important. Failures were what led him to success.
Normally, money was one of the most important parts of people’s lives but it wasn’t really a big part of Edison’s life. He had a money will take care of itself attitude. He focused only on inventing and not on wealth. When he found out he needed money to buy chemicals when he was young, he was determined to get a job on the train selling papers despite his mother telling him of the dangers. Thomas used it all on equipment for his experiments. He didn’t spend any on leisure. He also found out that whenever he got the money, the next moment it would be all spent on equipment. He once got one hundred thousand dollars for a transmitter he improved but he knew that he would have this problem so he asked that he got six thousand a year for seventeen years. When he went to England to show his telegraphy system, England adapted his system but he got no money for it. He didn’t complain. During the period when he was roaming the states looking for jobs as a telegrapher, he had a number of pretty good pay jobs. But he always left to grow and get somewhere in the world. He wanted experience, not wealth. However, even though he didn’t put much emphasis on money, his patents had a total value of $25,000,000,000 by death. By putting money aside and focusing on inventing probably saved Edison a lot of time and worries.
Reading had definitely helped Edison succeed and was probably his favorite hobby. Edison was reading classics such as Dickens and Shakespeare by the age of nine. His determination came in when he worked on the railway. Because he worked on the morning train to Detroit and evening train back, he had six hours of time to spend in Detroit. He spent the time at none other than the Detroit Public Library. With the combined force of determination, curiosity and interest, he read the whole library. He started with the first book on the bottom shelf and one by one, he finished the top shelf. The knowledge in that library was a lot and Edison pretty much devoured it whole. Later in his life, reading became very important. He always had a book in his pocket. He read two or three lines at a time and read three books a day by habit. In total, he had read more than ten thousand books, that all started when he was determined not to let his mother down upon deciding to home school him.
During the days when Edison was a telegraph operator looking for jobs around the states, one of the big reasons why he had to change jobs was because he got fired a lot. He got fired a lot mainly because of his experiments, either blowing things up or not staying on task. When he was the night telegrapher in Stratford, Ontario, there was a rule that every half hour operators had to send the signal six to the control room so as to not be sleeping. Tom, however, didn’t give up because he didn’t like this rule but he outsmarted it. He invented a mechanism that sent the appropriate signal at the appropriate time so he could nap or read as he wished. When his boss found out about this, Tom was fired. There were many other times Tom was fired because of reasons similar to this but he never gave up. He always went in search of a new job and grew from his experiences. Edison could have easily returned home but he never did except for brief visits. That was a big reason why he grew into such an unbelievable inventor.
The most important part of Thomas Edison’s determination was his time commitment. It was all those hard working hours that allowed him to create his inventions. He had been very committed and spent long hours ever since he decided to become a telegrapher.
An example of his earliest time commitment would be when he first connected his friend’s house to his with wires. At that time, Edison became very interested with telegraphy and knew that he needed lots of practice at it. So when he got home from his train job at around ten in the evening, he had already spent fourteen hours outside. But he still practiced telegraphy with his friend until around midnight. This was when he was twelve. When he was training to become a top flight operator, he spent eighteen hour days to practice. He worked very hard at what he wanted to master and spent lots of time on it. This showed commitment and determination.
His hardest working days would be when he ran those invention factories. This was what a typical day looks like for Edison when he was in his invention factory at Newark: After breakfast, he would read several newspapers, science magazines and the mail. He then was at his Newark workshop by the afternoon and started working by late-afternoon. Around midnight, he had a small meal. The midnight meal would usually just be a glass of milk and a piece of cake or pie. Then he would continue working for several more hours. Edison liked to tell people that he didn’t sleep but he often lay down on a workbench, fully clothed and took long naps. He would go to sleep anywhere, anytime, and on anything. He was not an easy person to work for. He always wanted his employees to work as hard as he worked, which usually meant working weekends and long weekdays. But he also would never let his employees do something that he wouldn’t do. When he was on to something big, like finding filament for the light bulb, he would not sleep for days and would have food brought to him. Such as when the thread filament burnt for forty-five hours, he just stared at it the whole time. When he was drafting his cement mine, he drew for twenty four hours straight. Later the mine became a success. Once, he had forty-five inventions going and two hundred fifty men working for him at the same time. In fact, he took his first real vacation at the age of thirty-one but even that was a trip to test his tasimeter. Edison wouldn’t have been such a special inventor had he not committed so many hard working hours.
Edison had never led any armies into battle and had not conquered any new lands yet he had contributed to mankind more than any warrior can. Edison’s determination was made up of many parts. Edison does not give up, no matter how hard the task. Edison always set goals and set his mind to his goals. He never let other things distract him once he had his mind set. Edison never treated his failures as failures and never let his failures discourage him. Edison set his mind to one goal, which was to invent. He didn’t let financial problems bother him and felt that money would resolve itself. Edison’s determination made him read the complete Detroit Public Library, which greatly helped him invent. Tom was never let down when he was fired from a job and went looking for a new job which was a new opportunity to grow. Edison spent eighteen long hours every day inventing which showed his amazing determination and huge time commitment towards his inventions. It was all of these determination parts which put together the great, determined Thomas Edison. If everyone had even half the determination and work ethic of Edison, then there wouldn’t be any homeless people or anyone who doesn’t do their part in society, which would make the ninety percent of us not have to take care of the ten percent who slack off. This man had experimented for seventy-two years and was granted 1093 patents for his inventions. All of this was done through sheer determination, which was why he is known as the Benefactor of Mankind.
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