Thomas Edison: the secret to his success

I do not partake of the view that modern scientists discover totally new ideas, but I do think that in each new age, thinkers are called upon to bring to good ideas the gifts they are blessed with, allowing those ideas to shine with particular brilliance.
This ability, to pick up on ideas and craft them to a particular point of clarity or beauty, is by no means a small task. We speak of "genius," "intelligence," "wisdom" to describe those rare, valued attributes that lead one to reach that plateau of clear vision.
And while there are no set directions as to how to reach this plateau, it is true that when reading about great figures in history, we can see that they share certain traits: like dedication, passion, focus - as well as that trait that has been popularised in our age: the acceptance of failure along the way.
I have always rejected "formulas for success" because I think that as with any quality learning, the execution of notions ultimately boils down to how we, as individuals, connect the dots: the picture will always come out different depending on who is connecting the dots, because the initial dots stem from our own, unique, constellation. We all ostensibly learn the same information, but what we make of it, how we internalise it and are able to use it, will be different. Give two children the same literature to read as they grow up, and they will still make different choices. Also, advice is rather like medicine: one man's milk is another man's poison.
But - and here I critique myself - it would be foolish to disregard the experience of others. We can save ourselves a lot of grief by learning from others' mistakes and successes. I sometimes overlook this because I can be stubborn. I am trying to work on this.
To this end, and after this long preamble, I wish to embark on today's post. Ten examples from Edison's life that may explain his success. See below the image.

Elements: graph and ledger paper and pink doily: pugly pixel
antique paper: mellowmint; embroidery and buttons: minitoko.

1. He taught himself how to speed read: "I practiced for a long time to become a rapid reader of print, and got so expert I could sense the meaning of a whole line at once. This faculty, I believe, should be taught in schools, as it appears to be easily acquired. Then one can read two or three books in a day, whereas if each word at a time only is sensed, reading is laborious." (How I would like this ability right now!)
2. He learned from experience to create only those inventions that served a demand. (One of his first inventions was a machine that would count votes in a minute, but this invention was rejected by politicians who praised the slow method of calling out the names of those present because it enabled filibustering.)
3. He let destiny guide him. (At one early point in his career, at the time when he was still a telegraph operator, he considered moving to Brazil, as did many of the Southern landowners who were dissatisfied with the results of the war. But on his way, he met an old Spaniard with "yellow, bony fingers" who warned him not to leave his native land. His two travelling companions who did decide to continue on died of yellow fever.)
4. He had a sense of humour. My favourite story so far is one he would cite to described his fearlessness, which he would compare to that of Sam Houston (for both of them had to return home late at night - Edison, between the graves of thousands of unhappily buried soldiers). One day, Emerson would recount, someone thought to scare old Houston, and hid behind a tree, wrapped in a sheet. When he jumped out at Houston, the latter said: "If you are a man, you cannot hurt me. If you are a ghost, you don't want to hurt me. If you are the devil, come home with me: I'm married to your sister."
5. He had a good business sense (which he had since he was a child and which, during his adolescent post as 'candy butcher' on the train, he developed to include the posts of interceptor of telegraphed news and news editor).
6. He had stick-to-itiveness and an almost obsessive dedication. The author of one of his biographies says he is best embodied by the song I Want What I Want When I Want It. For this reason, his stock room was like a museum - filled with everything, so that the moment he thought of any kind of experiment, he would have the material on hand with which to conduct it.
7. He believed there is always more than one way of doing something. This attitude kept him on his toes when it came to his competition - but a funny anecdote of his commitment to this idea is how he applied it to one of his employees who he had asked to solve an engineering problem. The engineer proffered three solutions, prompting Edison to ask: Are these the only solutions? The man said yes. The next day, Edison brought in 48 solutions to the problem, and put them on the engineer's desk.
8. He had an intense work ethic, which led him to sleep only up to five hours a night. He was known to sleep in his workrooms.
9. He was led forwards by his curiosity. He did not always know he would invent things professionally: he began by mostly tinkering with chemistry, not electricity; he even spent a large part of his earlier years working professionally in an only moderately related field: telegraphy. Who knew that the young telegraph operator would become one of the greatest figures of his age? It was his unquenchable curiosity that led him forwards. He got into quite some trouble along the way (blowing up the train car where he had set up his mini lab which he worked in when not selling candy and editing his newspaper; getting caught for his invention that would make it seem like he was doing his night job, while he was really sleeping - being exhausted from a day doing experiments). But through it all:
10. He persevered.

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