Work Quotes and Misquotes: Thomas Edison

Well, Thomas Edison would know about hard work!


Thomas Edison has been misquoted as saying he tried 5,000 times to create the light bulb before succeeding. Sometimes the number has been reported as 10,000. But there is no evidence of him ever saying such a thing.

According to a publication from Rutgers University, The Edisonian – Volume 9 Fall 2012, the misquote may be based on the following statement he made in an  1890 interview in Harper’s Monthly Magazine

“‘I speak without exaggeration when I say that I have constructed three thousand different theories in connection with the electric light, each one of them reasonable and apparently to be true. Yet only in two cases did my experiments prove the truth of my theory. My chief difficulty, as perhaps you know, was in constructing the carbon filament, the incandescence of which is the source of the light. Every quarter of the globe was ransacked by my agents, and all sorts of the queerest materials were used, until finally the shred of bamboo now utilized was settled upon. Even now,’ Mr. Edison continued, ‘I am still at work nearly every day on the lamp, and quite lately I have devised a method of supplying sufficient current to fifteen lamps with one horse-power. Formerly ten lamps per horse-power was the extreme limit.'”

Another candidate for the misquote of the thousands of hours of work on the light bulb (again according to The Edisonian, and from Edison: His Life and Inventions) is:

“This [the research] had been going on more than five months, seven days a week, when I was called down to the laboratory to see him [Edison].  I found him at a bench about three feet wide and twelve feet long, on which there were hundreds of little test cells that had been made up by his corps of chemists and experimenters.  I then learned that he had thus made over nine thousand experiments in trying to devise this new type of storage battery, but had not produced a single thing that promised to solve the question.  In view of this immense amount of thought and labor, my sympathy got the better of my judgment, and I said: ‘Isn’t it a shame that with the tremendous amount of work you have done you haven’t been able to get any results?’  Edison turned on me like a flash, and with a smile replied: ‘Results!  Why, man, I have gotten lots of results!  I know several thousand things that won’t work!'”

Regardless of exactly how many experiments his lab did, it’s evident there were quite a lot.

So, my favorite quotation attributed to Edison is the simple one in the poster above. Unfortunately, I can’t find any evidence he said that either!

But I can find plenty of evidence that work is essential to success.  How about you?

A few words on formatting posts.

Quick Update

I’ve spent some time in developing some blogging resources for you mini- and micro-entrepreneurs out there who do your own WordPress blogs.

Many of us have discovered how difficult it can be to find and adapt themes to our own styles of presentation.  Themes and theme-builders can get expensive.  Plug-ins for making the themes do what we want add up the $$ too.  And most folks don’t have time to learn how to use complex themes or plug-ins, not to mention learning how to modify WP manually.

Like many others, I’ve found it difficult to get WP Post Formats (like aside posts, status posts, gallery posts, etc.) to work with my favorite themes.  And I really want some variety in the way my posts look.  So, what I’m doing now — again, as I used to do — is simply adding html to my new posts to create the looks I want.

You’ll notice that this post is styled a bit differently than the ones below. It’s an example of a subtle change that can create more visual interest and attention.

In the next few days, I’ll be showing you examples of ways to present your content differently and add variety to your post styles with a quick and simple code.

You’ll get both the demo of the style and the code for it from the article.

(Also, in other posts, I’m still going to be expanding the elements of performance and productivity that I promised in yesterday’s post.)

10 Essential Elements of Human Performance and Productivity

High performance and productivity have more elements and characteristics than you can shake a stick at.  The literature in the field is full of tips for improving your performance and productivity.

But you don’t want to spend months or years trying to figure out what works best for you.  So, from time to time those of us who spend a great deal of attention on these issues come up with handy little lists of essentials to help you focus on the more meaningful and helpful areas to work on.

Here’s one of my latest ones.  I’ll be taking each of the elements and expanding them in later posts.

But, don’t just wait for me! You can use the list to go out and research what others have already said.  And if you do wait for me, I’ll be including my favorite links in those future posts on the elements.


The List: 10 Essential Elements of Performance and Productivity


1. Energy — You have to have the physical and psychological stamina and drive to start, follow through and finish up.  We all have be taught to think about time management for getting things done, but the real work is in energy management.  You can plan and strategize and schedule all you want,  but if you don’t have the energy at the time you schedule the action or the stamina to go through all the steps to finish, the time doesn’t matter at all.

Continue Reading This Post! There’s Lots More…