If we did the things we were capable of, we would astound ourselves. – Thomas Edison
Thomas Edison (1847-1931) was one of the most influential men who ever lived. His contributions to our Human Experience were as enormous as they were profound. A complete detailing of his accomplishments – which include 2,332 patents, 1,093 of those in the United States – is probably unnecessary and is beyond the scope of this column besides.
We talk a lot here about making the most of the talents you were born with. Edison is a perfect example of this. He is a man who spent his life doing what he was meant to do. Now, Edison’s talent just happened to lead to accomplishments that ensure he lives down the ages. Not all of us will. It’s the way the world is built.
However, his lesson of doing what we were meant to do with our lives is one we can all heed, regardless of where our road takes us. Everyone has talent and can do something well, and there are those that can do some things really well and very few who do them better than anyone else. It’s up to us to get the most out of them, regardless of what they are or in what measure we were issued them.
Edison’s life also offers lessons on work, patience and perseverance. Failure never deterred him. Every one of us will fail far more often than we will succeed, including Edison, but he doggedly pursued his life’s work with diligence and courage until he reached his desired end. Edison shows us that the difference between success and failure is usually hard work.
Now, just because what we are meant to may not bring us fame and fortune, does that mean we don’t it? Of course it doesn’t. The well-lived life comes not from being rich and famous, but living the life you were meant to live, regardless of where it takes you. If you do this, if you follow your heart and trust your instincts, invariably you will end where you always wanted to go.
If Edison’s parents had never met, everything he did would have eventually been done by someone else. But Edison’s the one who did them. He did the things he was capable of, and I’ve always wondered if he astounded himself or whether he thought it was merely all part of the day’s work.
Our lives are blank canvasses where we can either astound ourselves or take a flier and pass a numbingly large amount of aimless days. Every day, the choice is ours.