Welcome to Mentor Thursdays, where we explore individuals who are striving or had strived to become better versions of themselves.
Today’s mentor is Thomas Edison.
Thomas Edison’s Background
Thomas Edison was born on February 11, 1847, in Milan Ohio. At an early age, Thomas Edison was known for having an inquisitive and active mind, but due to his inquisitive and active nature, teachers found it too difficult and distracting to teach him.
Due to the difficulties that Thomas faced at school, Thomas’ mother withdrew him from formal education and taught him through homeschooling. Not only did homeschooling unlock Thomas Edison’s love for self-study, but it also cultivated his thirst for innovations, which led to inventions and patents that are widely used today.
What did he do?
Thomas Edison has over 1100 patents and inventions, which makes him one of the greatest inventors of all time. The two main inventions commonly associated with Thomas Edison include the phonograph and the light bulb.
What makes the phonograph so special? The phonograph is the first device to record sound and play sound back to the listener. Surprisingly, the first message ever recorded was ‘Mary had a little lamb’, which amazed both Edison and his staff.
Contrary to popular belief, Thomas Edison did not create the light bulb, but he helped optimize its efficiency and practicality by increasing its duration by a couple of hours.
What can we learn from Thomas Edison?
“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” – Thomas Edison
Dropping out of school may have been viewed as a failure for Thomas Edison and the wider community, but due to his homeschooling opportunity, Thomas Edison was able to lighten up the western world with his creativity. Through Thomas Edison, we are able to see that failure can be seen as a redirection of something greater.
In 2007, I nearly dropped out of my university degree in Sport and Exercise Science where I failed two subjects in my first semester. I felt like a loser, with no talent and I often compared myself to students in the course.
After the initial shock of failing, I realised that I didn’t have the work ethic to perform at a university level. I was fortunate to make it to university, as the majority of my time was focused on playing video games throughout my final year of high school.
My failings ended up being the motivation for me to push myself to another level, where I knuckled down with my studies and focused on improving my work habits. I started aligning myself with people that were smarter than me, attended my lectures and tutorials, and completed my recommended readings.
“We often miss opportunity because it’s dressed in overalls and looks like work.” – Thomas Edison
The hard work paid off and I was able to achieve a distinction and a credit. Despite putting in the hard work and time, I still failed a subject. Even though I was discouraged, my stronger work ethic became the driving force for me to become a better university student.
“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” – Thomas Edison
Following that semester, I was able to complete my bachelor degree in Sport and Exercise Science without failing another subject. It is due to failing in my first year of university that I was able to realise the importance of hard work and how failure can be a redirection to something greater. It all comes down to how you view failure. The choice is up to you.
- What is my greatest fear?
- What is one thing that I can do to face my greatest fear?
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