6 Secrets to Persistence from the Great Edison


The story is legendary that he tried 10,000 times before succeeding in creating his light bulb.

If it were not for Edison’s persistence, we might all be sitting in the dark right now.

But how did Edison do it? How can we practice his incredible brand of persistence to better our careers?

In this post, I’ll examine Edison’s 6 primary approaches to persistence so that you can apply these secrets to building your career and business life.

1. I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.

Here, we learn to congratulate ourselves on finding ways that don’t work. Why? Because with each failed attempt, we are closer to discovering what will work. The more failures, the better – ultimately leading to a climax of success.

Don’t beat yourself up over not getting a job, promotion or business opportunity. Instead, know that it is a necessary step on the road to ultimate success.

2. Unfortunately, there seems to be far more opportunity out there than ability…. We should remember that good fortune often happens when opportunity meets with preparation.

Edison, a man before his time, knew that busyness for the sake of busyness is pointless. It’s about results. And you’ll get those from proper planning. You won’t get them from mindless busyness. Persistence is not about being busy. It’s about following a well-thought-out step-by-step plan.

Don’t just apply for any job you see or any business opportunity that may come your way. Have a plan, and a back-up plan, and follow them.

3. When you have exhausted all possibilities, remember this – you haven’t.

Edison used the process of elimination to achieve his goals. He would try everything he could think of until there were signs of progress. He simply kept going until those signs appeared.

If your career goals are not being realized, change your approach and keep fine-tuning until you see results.

4. There are no rules here – we’re trying to accomplish something.

Many rules stifle innovation. When it comes to thinking and experimentation, it needs to be a wide open arena. In planning your career or building a business, remove the chains of conventional thinking and always ask, “what if?”

Don’t necessarily follow the conventional “rules” on resumes, interviews and business start-ups. Do what works for you.

5. I never did a day’s work in my life, it was all fun.

One of the keys to persistence is enjoying the journey. Most people give up way too early because they cannot find the joy in the search. Embrace the hunt. Own your problems. Love your difficulties. See challenge as an opportunity for growth and fulfillment.

Results, even small ones, will inspire you to keep going. Enjoy the hunt as much as the outcome.

6. Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.

That’s exactly what Edison did throughout his career. That one last time would bring results. Applying for a job? Apply again, using a different tactic. Is your product not selling? Change it until it does. If you have worked hard at something and made incremental progress, Edison knew that your success is literally around the corner. Many famous people labelled an “overnight success” had actually endured years and years of practice and trying.

Just try one more time.


Edison did not actually invent the first light bulb. That distinction goes to Humphrey Davy, a British scientist who produced an electric arc using a battery, wires and piece of carbon. Davy did this in the year 1800, 47 years before Edison was born.

However, Edison was the first to produce a commercially viable light bulb, at first lasting 40 hours, then a version that could stay lit for 1,500 hours.


Edison wasn’t perfect

While his persistence made him the most famous inventor in the world and a successful businessman, Edison had his faults.

He was extremely demanding and difficult to work for, often berating his employees. His workaholic ways left little time for family.

Edison also did not work alone, building his inventions with the help of 14 other engineers. However, he was an expert at self promotion, taking the credit for most of the work done by his team.

Despite all of this, Edison’s persistence is something we can emulate, to achieve our career and life goals.

About the top photo: The year was 1888. Edison is pictured listening to a wax cylinder phonograph (one of his more than 1,000 inventions) in his laboratory. Note the determined look on his face.

Source: Museum of Innovation and Science, Schenectady, N.Y.

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