When Thomas Edison invented the phonograph in 1877, he became an instant celebrity. The idea of recording and reproducing sounds on a grooved cylinder was so startling that some people thought Edison was a magician. Others called him the greatest inventor in the world. He was just 30 years old.
Edison could have lived comfortably as the creator of the first recording device. That, however, was not enough for him. Edison went on to launch an industrial research laboratory and amass more than a thousand patents. Most notably, he invented the motion picture camera and the first long-lasting light bulb.
As a business owner, you may have reached a point in which your company is operating comfortably. Like Edison, however, you might not be satisfied just coasting on your accomplishments. You want to do more, to aim higher.
Here are four key qualities of successful entrepreneurs who are always envisioning and driving toward their next triumph:
Edison had a brilliant mind, but he was also a tireless worker. He is famous for saying, “Genius is 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration.” This philosophy can be applied to any field. Think of the people in your life who seem to pile up one big achievement after another. These are not always the smartest, most talented people in the room, but they all have one thing in common. They work hard. They are never satisfied with “good enough.”
Here is another Edison quote: “I have not failed. I have just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Inventing requires tremendous resolve because it is an experimental game of trial and error. Running a company also involves several false starts and ways that won’t work. Entrepreneurs who fear or avoid failure do not stay in business for very long. Those who are willing to attempt many different approaches until finding one that works will succeed in almost any pursuit. After all, the only time you really fail is when you choose to give up.
Relishing the Journey
One reason successful people keep on striving is because the satisfaction of a completed assignment is short-lived. The real joy comes from the journey rather than the destination. As a business owner, you may have many mundane tasks that you do not enjoy. When working toward your next goal, do not let those duties bog you down. Focus on what you love about your company, whether it is technology, the services you provide or the challenge of meeting customer needs. By making work more about your passions, the journey becomes gratifying and you might accomplish more than you expected. As Edison once put it, “I find my greatest pleasure, and so my reward, in the work that precedes what the world calls success.”
Perhaps the ugliest moment of Edison’s life was when he launched an angry campaign against other companies competing in the fledgling electric power market. His petty bickering got Edison booted from the company he founded, which today is General Electric. In contrast, Edison achieved some of his greatest innovations by encouraging and inspiring other inventors at his research lab in Menlo Park, N.J.
Thomas Edison could not go it alone. Neither can you. Building a team of people you trust can make up for your personal shortcomings and lead to greater success. Rewarding and valuing the people around you will make you a better business owner. Your company will be stronger and more innovative. Like Edison, you might open the door to opportunities you could not have imagined.