Business Lessons from Thomas Edison’s Light Bulb

Thomas Alva Edison and his Light Bulb - the Wizard of Menlo ParkThomas Alva Edison, also called the “Wizard of Menlo Park” by a newspaper reporter, is one of the most often cited personalities in history when it comes to dealing with failure and focusing on goals.  It is unclear how many times Thomas Edison failed in his tests before he invented the first practical, long lasting light bulb but it is widely accepted that he tried thousands of times before he discovered the best filament to use.

There are other inventors at the time who were also developing light bulbs but it was Thomas Edison who got it to the finish line.  His name is forever etched in history not because he was the first but simply because he was the most persistent, the most flexible, and possibly the most cunning as well.  As with many successful inventors, he too knows how to handle failure successfully.  Qualities like these define a true winner.

He too was a visionary, a trait displayed when Edison made the first public demonstration of his incandescent light bulb on December 31, 1879, in Menlo Park. It was during this time that he said: “We will make electricity so cheap that only the rich will burn candles.” – these words I often remember when I see expensive candle light dinners in first class restaurants.  LOL.

Finally, I think it’s worth saying that he did not invent the light bulb.  What Thomas Edison did was simply innovate, improving what others before him have already achieved.  Here’s an excerpt from Wikipedia that best shows Edison’s innovativeness:

In addressing the question “Who invented the incandescent lamp?” historians Robert Friedel and Paul Israel list 22 inventors of incandescent lamps prior to Joseph Wilson Swan and Thomas Edison. They conclude that Edison’s version was able to outstrip the others because of a combination of three factors: an effective incandescent material, a higher vacuum than others were able to achieve (by use of the Sprengel pump) and a high resistance lamp that made power distribution from a centralized source economically viable.

In summary, Thomas Alva Edison is a man with focus, persistence and determination.  He too knows how to handle failure, a visionary and an innovator.  Lastly, I think it is rightful to say that there’s a Thomas Edison in all of us.  We all have our light bulbs to create and we all have the obligation of lighting up the world one way or another.

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