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How Determination Breeds Success

Guest post by Russell Bishop, author of Workarounds That Work.

Commitment and determination enabled Thomas Edison to keep moving forward in the face of “adversity.”  However, it is also important to note that he began with a working vision of success.  With the end in mind, and a reasonable expectation of success, his determination allowed him to keep moving forward in the face of adversity.Commitment and determination are often cited as key components to success, whether in business, sport or personal life.  Merriam-Webster defines determination as a “firm or fixed intention to achieve a desired end.”  Indeed, a clear focus or intention to achieve a desired outcome is the first requirement in any successful workaround situation.  A clear focus on the desired outcome and a burning desire to succeed help breed the determination and commitment to do the work necessary and can help support you through the challenges you may encounter along the way.

The story of Thomas Edison and the light bulb is a classic example of the commitment and determination required to achieve an outcome.  In 1878, Edison attended a scientific exhibition where he witnessed an invention called the arc lamp. A simple but inefficient invention, the arc lamp produced a bright, glowing light lasting but a few seconds before the thin copper wire burned up.

However, those few moments of glowing copper caused Edison to imagine a longer lasting light bulb and he committed himself to the outcome.  After months of experimenting and testing, on October 21, 1879, Edison demonstrated the carbon filament lamp, the predecessor to today’s tungsten light bulb.

Once the light bulb became widely available, he was interviewed by the science editor for a major New York publication.  Edison had experimented with thousands of combinations of filament and gas before he arrived at the carbon filament lamp, which led the editor to ask how it felt to have failed so many times.  While the transcript is long sense lost, oral history tells us that an incredulous Edison replied, “Fail?  I give you light bulb!”  The editor  persisted, “but look at all your failures along the way!”  To which Edison simply pointed out, “Had I thought of these steps along the way as failures, we would be having this discussion by candlelight.  The light bulb required thousands of steps and when I started, I just didn’t know how many steps it would take.  However, I was committed to the outcome, determined to succeed, and undaunted by the process.”

Commitment and determination enabled Edison to keep moving forward in the face of “adversity.”  However, it is also important to note that he began with a working vision of success (the arc lamp) that sparked a larger vision; with the end in mind, and a reasonable expectation of success, his determination allowed him to keep taking micro steps, learning along the way.  Much like the story of Michelangelo creating the David by simply chipping away all the marble that didn’t look like David, Edison simply plowed through the combinations that didn’t work until he found the ones that would.

To the Edison’s of the world, determination means three key things:

  • Staying resolutely focused on the outcome
  • Being mindful of obstacles and feedback
  • Choosing to keep moving forward in the face of apparent setbacks

Whereas this may seem simple, it clearly isn’t easy.  The tricky part is being able to tell the difference between progress and a dead end.  Now what if you’re only 500 steps from the next light bulb?

Russell Bishop is an internationally regarded speaker, educator, coach and consultant. His corporate clients include Fortune 500 executives in aerospace, healthcare, information technology, and telecommunications. He is also an editor and frequent columnist for the Living section of The Huffington Post. A recognized expert in personal and organization transformation, Russell has coached thousands of individuals around the world.

 

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Russell Bishop is an internationally regarded speaker, educator, coach and consultant. His corporate clients include Fortune 500 executives in aerospace, healthcare, information technology, and telecommunications. He is also an editor and frequent columnist for the Living section of The Huffington Post. A recognized expert in personal and organization transformation, Russell has coached thousands of individuals around the world.


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