Words to Lead By: Thomas Edison

American inventor and businessman Thomas Edison was no stranger to tenacity. Throughout his prolific career he was the living embodiment of his own now famous words, “genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration.” And, just as much as his legacy is emblazoned by a litany of inventions and technological advances, his tireless work ethic was equally lauded. In fact, many of today’s most innovative thinkers often draw comparisons to Edison and his methods. Steve Jobs’ legendary knack for putting the right people in place to bring his vision for products like the iPod® and iPad® to fruition harkens back to how Edison pioneered technology that led to innovations including the phonograph, motion picture camera, and perhaps most famously – the light bulb.    

Here are a few of Edison’s most famous quotes to help you spark a new idea, get past a roadblock, or inspire your team to not only reach for, but achieve what was once thought impossible.  

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
Failure is a state of mind most aptly illustrated by the age old conflict between the glass being half empty or half full. Instead of letting failure define you, it should instead inspire you. And though it can often feel like a heavy-handed punch to the gut, it’s how you react the moment after you catch your breath that lets you know the wherewithal to succeed still resides inside you.

“There’s a way to do it better – find it.”
Never let well enough alone. The most innovative companies in the world are driven by leaders who never settle for passable results. Instead, they are constantly asking “what if” or “why not. Your team can’t think outside the box if you refuse to open the top. Don’t be afraid to take a risk or act on a whim. It could very well lead to something amazing.

“If we did all the things we are capable of, we would literally astound ourselves.”
Don’t sell yourself – or the people you lead – short. Whether it’s a new employee wanting to take on more responsibility or an older veteran looking to make a career change and try something new, if true conviction to achieve is present, the smart bet is on their success.

“I never did a day’s work in my life. It was all fun.”
According to a study by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) one of the top contributing factors to job satisfaction is “opportunity to use skills and abilities.” Everyone does work they don’t like from time to time, but when it becomes the norm, just getting out of bed to go to the office each morning becomes a monumental task in and of itself.

Do you have a favorite Thomas Edison quote that inspires you? Or maybe there’s another legendary leader, business professional, or cultural figure that motivates the way you lead your team? Share it with us in the comments section below.

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