With all due respect, Mr. Edison

"Genius is 1% inspiration + 99% perspiration"     - Edison

I might have heard this saying first at least 10 years back. It has been on my mind ever since and I have been trying to find examples that prove this. At first glance we see hundreds of examples which show us how a person got inspired from an event or something in nature for e.g. Newton being inspired by an apple falling on his head, then how by putting in enormous effort he comes up with "a work of genius", in this case, theory of gravity. There are similar examples in business and success stories everywhere you look. Most book stores and libraries are loaded with books dealing with this topic.

But, I have never agreed either with Edison's quote or the numerous examples that (supposedly) prove it. Until now I wasn't even able to summon the courage to speak this up. Whenever I tried, I was told who are you to criticize Edison? As if Edison is supposed to be a revered religious figure as opposed to a great inventor and an astute businessman. Firstly, Edison always will be similar to all the other people who have and will come on this planet- a person's achievements are not the only basis for judging his personality.

Secondly, and more importantly, perspiration here gives a very negative feeling to something that actually means self motivated effort. I think there is a huge difference between sweating to study for an exam and creating something (music, drawing, writing, poetry etc.) out of self motivation, genuine inspiration and passion. As Einstein's anecdote goes," when you sit on a hot stove, 5 minutes feel like 1 hour, when you sit with a beautiful woman, 1 hour seems like 5 minutes". This is the difference between doing something you have to do or are forced (externally or internally) to do and something that you do out of your own interest. I think this is a big difference and this might be the ONLY characteristic of a Genius (in work's context).

Toiling on something that has no meaning to you, or has financial reward as the only benefit is discouraging and in the long run leads to burn out and eventually loss of all interest in the activity. Doing something out of a passionate curiosity or genuine inspiration provides the fuel for moving ahead at full throttle without worrying about failure or adding hours to the clock. When you do something from this reason you have nothing to prove to anybody, you have nothing to gain except your goal, you don't need long vacations – you need small time outs, there is no question of burning out as you are doing something that gives you immense satisfaction, thus happiness. This is thus the only difference between the segment of society that creates, those who monetize or manage the creation and those who consume/enjoy it. Creators have always been scarce.

The basic idea is that if inspiration is genuine and it's context is fully understood, the perspiration part is irrelevant and can be (for all practical purposes) overlooked. Trying to bring the effort angle in this is as irrelevant as telling someone that we are alive because we are breathing.

Hence, Edison's quote can be modified to:

"Genius is 100% genuine inspiration "

Comments

Popular Posts