Stories of how exceptional people acted as children help illustrate important principles. I can still remember the story of young George Washington with a new hatchet. He decided to try it out on one of the trees on his family’s property. When his father came home and began to question what happened, George willingly, “Father, I cut down the cherry tree.” This lesson of honesty is still taught to children in school. I am not sure if it is true or apocryphal, but I hope it’s true.
Today, I will tell you a story about young Tom Edison’s curiosity and his willingness to try new things. Al, as Edison was called as a child, had observed that a mother goose sits on her eggs before they hatch. One time, when the mother goose was not around, Tom decided he would try to get the eggs to hatch by sitting on them. It did not go well. Once he sat on the nest and gravity took over all he had was egg on his pants.
When the mess was found by his older sister Marion she told him, “It’s all right, Al, you did a very smart thing even if it didn’t work. If no one ever tried anything, even what some folks say is impossible, no one would ever learn anything. So you just keep on trying and maybe someday you’ll try something that will work” (From Edison Inventing the Century by Neil Baldwin, 1995).
This lesson on innovation stuck with Edison his entire life and is one reason he was able to succeed when others failed. He was always willing to try new things and move into areas others thought were impossible. This area beyond where others dare to tread is where innovation happens. You may crack a few eggs, but in the long run you will cook up something new.