Dan Woodward

Referencing Thomas Edison

I just had some ideas about how we are tought to persevere and most of the time its good, but its easy to get caught up in persevering just for the sake of persevering.

So good ol’ Thomas Edison persevered through over 3000 iterations of a light bulb filament. This is what we teach kids. This is what we think to ourselves when the going gets tough. Just stick it out a little longer. Like the motivational poster of the cat hanging from a tree: “Hang In There”.

Persevering can be bad. If you’re persevering purely because you have persevered for a long period of time its counter productive. I think we latch on to an idea and just keep pushing at it. Then after a year of labor, you’re still pushing. And you think, “I’ve already spent a year on this, If I give up now than that entire year is wasted”. Your motivation has just shifted from the idea to your wasted time. You’re now working on debt, which has zero connection to the idea. It’s dumb.

Now you’re chipping away at this massive amount of time debt that you’ve falsely created for yourself. You start to fall into a hole of indecision, every little decision now has false power to make or break your idea, you think every detail has the potential to relieve your debt. This is when you really start to suck. You start to fill this void of indecision by working nights, weekends, you start to ignore your your friend’s calls, your wife leaves you, you think about suicide, you’re eating out of dumpsters, you wake up with you clothes on, you find cereal boxes in the fridge. You now suck at life.

But in your mind you have a fantastical sense of accomplishment, you feel the project moving forward, I mean, you did just spend all that time working nights and weekends, things have to be going well.

This scenario is true with both money or time. In either case, we feel the need to persevere to substantiate the investment, which has nothing to do with the actual success of the idea.

Yes, Thomas Edison iterated thousands of times. But he felt strongly that the lightbulb, once perfected, would lead to the mass adoption of electricity in homes and businesses. Regardless of the details, he was not working on debt, his idea was amazing. The low barrier of entry in this flat world makes it too easy for the aforementioned scenario to manifest. Keep your wits about you and don’t work on dumb ideas for too long.