If you are a product of the American education system, you are likely sure that Thomas Edison “invented” the light bulb. The fact is, though, that’s not entirely the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Don’t get me wrong… I’m not trying to take anything away from Edison. He was, no doubt,  a genius in his own right, and he was also a very successful business man. And the reason he accomplished all that was because of his ability to do two things: Think differently, and be persistent….two qualities that are worthy of admiration.

But…”invent” in the strictest sense of the word isn’t what happened regarding Edison and the light bulb.

Most people don’t know about Sir Joseph Swan, a British scientist who demonstrated the operation of the first light bulb in December of 1878. He is actually credited with “inventing” the incandescent light bulb before what is described as Thomas Edison’s “independent invention” of the the same product. The bottom line on Edison is that he contributed immensly to the process of getting the world electrified and ushering in the industrial revolution because he worked tirelessly to improve upon Swan’s original invention… which allowed his home in England to be the first in the world to have light via an electric light bulb, though not as practically as it wound up to be after Edison got involved.

The lesson here is a simple one.  Like the title of this post says: You don’t need to re-invent the wheel. In your everyday dealings in your job or your business there are “inventions” that somebody came up with before you came on the scene, and, the fact of the matter is, these systems, processes, or whatever they are, often remain in place because “…that’s the way it was set up” or “…that’s how it’s always been done, and it seems to work OK”.

Edison didn’t accept that status quo approach that can easily become so common. He had the ability to see things differently, and once he decided on what he needed to do, he stuck with it. And he succeeded. And, if you think you may not posess the ability to do Edison-like things in your career, consider this other little-known fact about him.

Very early in his formal education experience, he was sent home with a note from his teacher. It said, “This child is addled and cannot learn.”

Learn from yesterday….Live for today….Look foward to tomorrow.


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