Thomas Alva Edison (February 11, 1847 – October 18, 1931) is one of America’s greatest inventors and businessmen. He’s responsible for developing and marketing the phonograph, motion picture camera, and the light bulb, among other things. Edison was known to be hardworking and resourceful. Here are 20 quotes credited to this American genius that still hold true today:
1. “Our schools are not teaching students to think. It is astonishing how many young people have difficulty in putting their brains definitely and systematically to work…”
Millennials are given a lot of flak for feeling entitled to success without putting in the work. This isn’t anything new. Edison noticed the same phenomena in his day and attributed it to our education system. To stick out, all you have to do is stick it out.
2. “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time…”
Every winner loses, but not every loser wins. You can’t succeed without taking a few losses. You may be starving and struggling, but as long as you keep pushing, you’ll eventually make it.
3. “Just because something doesn’t do what you planned it to do doesn’t mean it’s useless…”
Potato chips, plastic, Teflon, Play-Doh, super glue, corn flakes, velcro, post-it notes…all of these were invented on accident and are now indispensable parts of our society. If you create something that doesn’t work, find another use for it.
4. “I never did a day’s work in my life. It was all fun…”
Edison enjoyed what he did. He followed his dreams. Because of this, nothing seemed like work anymore. When you love your job, you’re much more likely to work harder at it.
5. “I am not overly impressed by the great names and reputations of those who might be trying to beat me to an invention…. It’s their ‘ideas’ that appeal to me. I am quite correctly described as ‘more of a sponge than an inventor…”
If Thomas Edison were alive in the internet age, he would be on the side of Wikileaks and Anonymous. Information is our greatest resource as a race.
6. “Of all my inventions, I liked the phonograph best…”
Much like Steve Jobs’ love for Pixar and the iPhone, Edison was most proud of the invention that brought the fine arts to the masses.
7. “Until man duplicates a blade of grass, nature can laugh at his so-called scientific knowledge…”
People are capable of creating a lot of innovative stuff. We can’t create something as beautiful and efficient as a simple blade of grass.
8. “The doctor of the future will give no medicine, but will interest his patients in the care of the human body, in diet, and in the cause and prevention of disease…”
I so wish this were true. The pharmaceutical industry pumps a lot of money into the medical industry. Pills are the answer to all modern life’s ills. I sincerely hope one day humanity as a whole figures out the benefits of diet, meditation, and positive thinking.
9. “Discontent is the first necessity of progress…”
Nobody ever accomplished something great because they were happy. It’s necessary to have opposing viewpoints, discomfort, and obstacles in life. Rather than get upset or frustrated when life throws you a curveball, appreciate the pitch, take a swing, and round the bases.
10. “Everything comes to him who hustles while he waits…”
Idle hands are the devil’s playthings. Even when I look like I’m lazing around, I’m doing something. The people who get ahead are the ones who are constantly putting in long hours of hard work.
11. “Hell, there are no rules here – we’re trying to accomplish something…”
The more rules you put in front of you, the harder it is to get anything done. Look at football. Running 100 yards takes 10-20 seconds. If not for all the rules, full length football games would have scores in the double digits.
12. “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work…”
If you come across a door, there are only a handful of ways to open it. Try pushing. If it doesn’t open, there’s one less way you have to worry about. This simple perspective will get you through a lot of annoying times in life. Don’t give up when you fail, just take a break and try again later from a different angle.
13. “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work…”
Eminem says you only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow. The reality is that you’ll never run out of opportunities. The trick is to treat each chance like it’s your only, and go all out toward it. Overnight success exists, but it takes years of hard work to achieve.
14. “Non-violence leads to the highest ethics, which is the goal of all evolution. Until we stop harming all other living beings, we are still savages…”
Edison was keen to notice how all our technological advances and education don’t stop us from fighting among each other. Until we learn to walk a path of nonviolence, humanity will always be in danger of self destruction.
15. “The thing I lose patience with the most is the clock. Its hands move too fast…”
Time is the most valuable resource you have. You can spend it, but never earn it. Our lives aren’t long enough to sit around waiting and wishing. If you want to experience everything, take action.
16. “Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration…”
Everyone comes up with ideas. I have thousands every day. That’s the easy part. The hard part is implementation, and THAT is where real geniuses thrive.
17. “Personally, I enjoy working about 18 hours a day. Besides the short catnaps I take each day, I average about four to five hours of sleep per night…”
I can’t emphasize enough (nor could Edison) how important it is to put in the work to succeed. I enjoy my work, so I consider myself working 24 hours a day.
18. “Your worth consists in what you are and not in what you have…”
Seems like I can’t go an entire day without hearing someone talk about their lottery dreams. I used to have them myself. Now I know how to be happy without any of it. It’s nice having material things, but if you’re not happy sitting in an empty room, nothing you add to it will make much of a difference.
19. “Maturity is often more absurd than youth and very frequently is most unjust to youth…”
When someone says “this isn’t high school,” I can’t help but smile. Life is exactly like high school. There’s no imaginary line you cross where you suddenly wake up a mature adult. Maturity is a process that comes with time, and far too often during that process, adults forget how intelligent and resourceful kids can be.
20. “Time is really the only capital that any human being has and the thing that he can least afford to waste or lose…”
You may not have money, but you have time to make it. There’s nothing in life you can’t accomplish, see, do, or experience if you dedicate your time to it. I never understood people who see their work and personal life as two separate things. Why spend 2000+ hours a year doing something you hate?
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