Quote of the moment: Thomas Edison, on how to succeed at anything

February 11, 2013

Edison on cover of 2012 Time history issue

Thomas Edison on the cover of Time Magazine history issue, July 2010.

Stolen in its entirety from Maria Popova’s Explore (well, she Tweeted it):

You do something all day long, don’t you? Every one does. If you get up at seven o’clock and go to bed at eleven, you have put in sixteen good hours, and it is certain with most men, that they have been doing something all the time. They have been either walking, or reading, or writing, or thinking. The only trouble is that they do it about a great many things and I do it about one. If they took the time in question and applied it in one direction, to one object, they would succeed. Success is sure to follow such application. The trouble lies in the fact that people do not have an object, one thing, to which they stick, letting all else go. Success is the product of the severest kind of mental and physical application.

Thomas Edison, born on this day in 1847, on the secrets of success

Maria Popova’s post at BrainPickings explores Thomas Edison’s unusual preoccupation with sleep.  I’ve usually considered him a model for some behaviors — he kept cots in his office for naps — but it becomes clear he was probably chronically sleep-deprived.  With the knowledge we have now on how sleep deprivation hampers daily activities, Edison’s accomplishments become all the more fantastic.  Imagine what he could have accomplished, had he had enough sleep!

Edison was born February 11, 1847, when Charles Darwin and Abraham Lincoln were both 38 years old, Darwin working in experiments with animals to disprove the evolution operations he had observed (he didn’t disprove them), and Lincoln in the middle of his sole term as a U.S. Congressman, during the Mexican-American War.  (Both Darwin and Lincoln were born February 12, 1809.)  In 1847 Brigham Young was leading Mormons across what Lewis and Clark had called “the Great American Desert,” the Great Plains, into the Valley of the Great Salt Lake (more desert than Lewis and Clark could have imagined).  Famously, the main body of the Mormon emigration wagon flotilla would enter Salt Lake Valley on July 24, 1847.

Edison would probably agree:  Overnight success takes years of preparation and practice.

More:


Educating for a creative society

June 29, 2010

Just as a reminder about what we’re doing in education, I hope every teacher and administrator will take three minutes and view this video (that allows you some time to boggle).

Surely you know who Tom Peters is.  (If not, please confess in comments, and I’ll endeavor to guide you to the information you need.)

Technically, Texas’s early elementary art standards are not so bad as Peters describes them.  But, check this document, from the Texas Education Code (§117.1. Implementation of Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills for Fine Arts, Elementary).  Do a search of the Texas standards and count how many times students are expected to stay “within guidelines.”


Quote of the moment: How to succeed in business

November 4, 2007

Several years ago I found a quote attributed to business consulting guru Tom Peters, that ascribed success to hard work — if a lot of other things didn’t get in the way. I lost the quote, and the citation, and have sorely wanted to have it a hundred times since then when I found executives and administrators admonishing people for their failure to soar when the bosses themselves had anchored their employees to the ground.

Ah, the Glories of Google! I have found it again. Turns out it’s not Tom Peters after all; he quotes a passage from novelist Ann Beattie’s novel, Picturing Will.

It’s still worthy of noting; here is an excerpt from a Tom Peters column in 1990 featuring the passage:

Do everything right, all the time, and the child will prosper. It’s as simple as that, except for fate, luck, heredity, chance, the astrological sign under which the child was born, his order of birth, his first encounter with evil, the girl who jilts him in spite of his excellent qualities, the war that is being fought when he is a young man, the drugs he may try once or too many times, the friends he makes, how he scores on tests, how well he endures kidding about his shortcomings, how ambitious he becomes, how far he falls behind, circumstantial evidence, ironic perspective, danger when it is least expected, difficulty in triumphing over circumstance, people with hidden agendas, and animals with rabies.”

The quote is from Ann Beattie’s latest novel, Picturing Will. It speaks directly to an increasingly important corporate issue — the peril of overestimating our ability to influence outcomes. In short, the way we recruit, organize, plan and act very much depends on how much we feel that we are in control. The problem is ageless, though as the world becomes less predictable the consequences of personal or corporate hubris are increasingly severe.

Systematically review a stack of annual reports. Without fail, a good year is explained as “the fruits of the strategic planning process your management put in place five (three, seven) years ago.” A bad year, however, is invariably the result of “the unanticipated rise in interest rates (unexpected foreign competition, etc.) which upset our planning assumptions.” But our corporate chiefs are hardly alone. A sizable branch of psychology, called attribution theory, examines the way human beings explain events to themselves. In short, we attribute good outcomes to skill and hard work; bad ones to bad luck.

For centuries, Cartesian cause and effect thinking has dominated our science — and management — paradigms. The causeless, effectless, probabilistic world of quantum mechanics that informs today’s scientific thought has still not permeated our psyches — or our approach to making corporate strategy.

Beattie’s novel is listed as an academic selection now, by Random House.  Do you, or does anyone at your school, use this book?


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