Thanks very much to Jim Adams and his “New Epic Author” site for nominating me to do this “guest” spot for 3-2-1-Quote Me ! The topic I was asked to write about is a good one, one at the core of pretty much all that we do … Success!
“Success is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration.” So quipped someone who knew a thing of two about succeeding, Thomas Edison. The older I get, the more I think it true.
Sure, “Mr. Invention” was a success like few before or after him. There was the light bulb, of course, as well as the record player, movie cameras, the first movie studio, the telegraph machine (the rights for which Western Union bought from him for $10 000 back in the 19th Century)… and well over 1000 other patents. Each one of those innovations came easily to him through that spark of genius and imagination that he seemed to have an bottomless well of..
Unfortunately, this is not at all true. For the lightbulb, for example, he had the idea then spent at least a year trying all sorts of things which didn’t work – Rutgers University put the number of failed attempts at a minimum of 2774. Eventually he came up with a bamboo filament, which still needed to be improved upon to get the common tungsten-filament bulb we grew up with. It led Edison to famously quip, “I haven’t failed. I just found 10 000 ways that won’t work!”. About 20 years later, he lost much of his wealth trying to create an inexpensive machine to separate iron ore from other rock. He never found that one way that did work. As Smithsonian note, he “was not a guy that look(ed) back or spend a lot of time wringing his hands.” There was always another idea, another experiment that was more important than wallowing in self-pity of the defeat.
It’s obvious to see but difficult to live. Those who succeed don’t give up. This month the St. Louis Blues won their first Stanley Cup (hockey championship) in their fifty-plus years. Which is noteworthy mainly because on Jan.3, about midway through the season, they were dead last in the league. Thirty-first in a 31 team leauge. They ended the 2018 calendar year with 15 wins and 22 losses. Soon they’d go on a winning streak and win two thirds of their remaining 45 games before grinding through four series in the playoffs, three of which they were underdogs in, to finally win it all. Ten percent inspiration : “hey guys, we’re really better than that scoreboard shows. We could really be good!” Ninety percent perspiration. Putting in that work, the extra practises, the belief from the management down to the lowliest of bench warmers.
It’s darn near a universal. I’m not saying you can do anything you set out to do. If you’re a 70 year-old born in Brazil, you are not going to find yourself the President of the United States come November of next year. But you might just be able to affect the outcome more than you would expect if you set out to “Edison” on what will work. Finding that new girlfriend/boyfriend, making the relationship with the one you already have spectcular, that promotion at work… they can be yours if you are willing to “sweat” a little once you understand what it is you want.
If you don’t think so, consider how many people in the arena last New Year’s Eve besides the players themselves, believed the Blues could be drinking from the Stanley Cup six months later. What mattered was the players believed and like Edison, worked to keep finding new ways to win once they found the ways which didn’t. It’s advice I need to put to work myself. I, like so many other artists and bloggers, have a manuscript for a novel on my laptop. I edit and re-edit and think it’s quite good frankly. That’s the 10%. Now I need to put in that 90%, the perspiration to get it from my desk into other people’s hands and minds.
The challenge asked that I use two quotes on the subject, so I add another one that I think is even more important to take to heart than Thomas Edison’s:
“Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, liking how you do it.” – Maya Angelou
That kind of sums it all up, doesn’t it? Maybe you’re a greeter at a superstore, wearing a corporate smock and making nine bucks an hour. Maybe your relatives nag you and say you could be the store manager if you buckled down. Maybe your ex says you should never have stopped playing bagpipes – you could’ve been the Celtic highlander equivalent of Eric Clapton by now. All that matters not one whit… if you’re happy. If you like your job, your role, the situation you are in, don’t let anyone else tell you it’s not good enough. You’re succeeding.
But if you don’t like that job, that situation… then you need to get working to make it right. Maybe it’s putting in for that promotion. Maybe it’s applying elsewhere. Maybe it’s asking that cutie on cash for a date. Maybe it’s picking up the bagpipes.
All in all, maybe that’s the answer to the meaning of life. Figuring out just what you are happy with, what could be better and then being like Edison, finding the way to make it so, even if it means finding 10 000 ways not to.
PS- the answer probably isn’t bagpipes!