On the 10th of December, 1914, ten buildings in legendary inventor Thomas Edison’s plant were engulfed in flames following a massive explosion. The chemical-fueled inferno was too powerful for the firefighters and all of Edison’s works were destroyed. Later, at the scene of the blaze, Edison was quoted in The New York Times saying, “Although I am over 67 years old, I’ll start all over again tomorrow.” He also started that along with his work, all his mistakes have also been burnt.
According to a 1961 Reader’s Digest article by Edison’s son Charles, Edison calmly walked over to him and stated in a childlike voice, “Go get your mother and all her friends. They’ll never see a fire like this again.” When Charles objected, Edison said, “It’s all right. We’ve just got rid of a lot of rubbish.”
Ryan Holiday, whose book, ‘The Obstacle Is The Way’ is part inspiration for today’s newsletter writes, “to do great things, we need to be able to endure tragedy and setbacks.”
After thoroughly surveying the damage, Edison determined that he’d lost $919,788 (about $23 million in today’s dollars). The plant’s insurance covered for some of the damage, Edison had lost years of invaluable records and prototypes. But after just three weeks, with a sizeable loan from his friend Henry Ford, Edison got part of the plant up and running again. His employees worked double shifts and set to work producing more than ever. Edison and his team went on to make almost $10 million in revenue the following year.
Ryan writes, “the perceiving eye sees more than is there, but the observing eye sees only what is there.” – He goes on to say that the Greek’s had a word for this called, Apatheia – a calm equanimity that comes with absence of irrational or extreme emotions. Not the loss of feeling altogether, just the loss of the harmful, unhelpful kind.
Often our emotional stand towards an adverse situation defeats our logic, however, taking a moment to observe a situation for only what it is may help us bring perspective into how grave the situation actually is (or isn’t). In more lucid terms, focus on the process and not the outcome.
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Until next time!
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