April 19 – Inspiration, perspiration and genius

“Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.” (Thomas A. Edison)

This quote has been in my consciousness since I can remember. Thomas Edison is generally regarded as one of the most prolific and significant inventors in history (personal, I think Nikola Tesla is short-changed in that discussion, but that’s another topic for another day). The idea of this quote tells me that to be successful, to have results like a genius, there is far more sweat involved than brains.

The examples in history are numerous. The Great Pyramids are considered to be an engineering and artistic marvel, but the math and architecture to bring them about is a small effort compared to the thousands of people who broke their backs in the desert to build them. Landing on the moon in 1969 was certainly a direct result of President Kennedy’s inspiring exhortation, but it took a decade and thousands of engineers, builders, testers and astronauts to make it happen. Edison’s own idea for the incandescent light bulb started with an inspiration to use the glowing of a filament, then took months of laboratory tests before it was perfected and ready for use.

In my own life I know that I can be inspired to do things that are amazing, but until I invest my own sweat equity in them, they remain nothing but dreams. I have had far more inspirations than results because I do not always have the time or energy to take them from dream to reality.

Those things that I have produced that even approach something that might be called genius status all share in common that I worked hard at them to make them reality.

Right now I am on a journey toward better health. I am watching my weight, exercising more and making good choices. All of this is inspired by a particular person in my life who showed me the power of his resolve in making healthy, correct choices. That inspiration came to me back in February. March 1 I embarked on my journey. But if all I had was inspiration, I would still be tipping the scales at 345 or more. What has turned this from inspiration to the beginnings of reality has been the sweat – both literal and figurative – that I have expended on the path.

The title of the book from which I have been taking these quotes for my daily reflection is “Inspiration 365 Days a Year.” Zig Ziglar’s idea with this book was to provide a daily inspiration to his readers. His intent was to share the thoughts and quotes that inspired him in life as a way to inspire others. Of course, Ziglar didn’t stop at just finding inspiration in his life. He spent a lifetime working hard to give those moments of inspiration life. Were it not for his hard work and 99% perspiration, his inspiration would have been meaningless.

The key to this book, and the key to its effect on my life is what I do with the inspiration. If they are not more than words on a page, then the book might entertain me, but not make a difference. And, no amount of reading, whether it be inspirational books, The Bible, great works of literature, or anything else will ever make a difference if I am not willing to put my shoulder to the wheel and expend some sweat.

When I took the Dale Carnegie course back in 2000, the thing that set that class apart from all others I had ever taken was the practical applications that were included. Over the course of 12 weeks I took the weekly lessons and actively applied them in my life. Each week included some aspect of reporting on previous challenges, and setting new ones. It was that effort, far more than the words on the pages of Mr. Carnegie’s books, or the activities expertly directed by the instructor in the class, that made the difference for me. Some say taking that class is life-changing, and I have certainly seen that time and again. But it isn’t the class that changes their lives, it is them. It is the fact that they take the inspiration inherent in the setting and apply it to their lives in an active and intentional way.

Today’s is one of the quotes in this book that affirms what I already believe and try to practice. I do not pretend to be a genius, so it isn’t that which the quote inspires. What I do try to be is the best Bob that I can be, and to do that takes far more work than brains.

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