Thomas Edison — Successful Failure

by Doug Vetting

Thomas Edison failed many times. But Edison, who was born in 1847 and died in 1931, was a great inventor. In fact, he gave us more than 1,100 inventions. So how could he have failed so often? Let’s look at his invention of the light bulb to answer that question.

When he first started working on his idea of making artificial light, he was unsuccessful. Edison had a big problem. He couldn’t find a filament or wire that would give good light when electricity flowed through it. Thomas Edison spent 2 years trying thousands of materials, looking for the right filament that would give off light and last a long time.

Just think, if you turned 10 years old today, you would be working on the light bulb until you were 12. And if you were like Edison, you would also be working up to 16 hours a day. You would be trying thousands of items— everything from blades of grass to wire made from platinum. He even used human hair. Each time, you would fail. Wouldn’t that drive you crazy?

But Edison didn’t go crazy. He just kept trying. Finally, he tried using carbonized thread, which is ordinary cotton sewing thread burned to an ash. It worked. On October 21, 1879, the first electric light bulb began to burn. It lasted for 45 hours. After years of failures, Thomas Edison had succeeded.

Thomas Edison was not afraid of failing. Instead, he learned from his failures. After each failed attempt, he knew he was closer to invent­ing the light bulb.

Do you learn from your failures? Maybe you got a bad grade on a spelling test. Was it because you were watching ALF on TV the night before instead of studying? Learn from your failures. Let them lead you to success.

Back to Bulletin Fodder