1000 Ways to Make a Lightbulb
Lord help me. I just had my ARD meeting with my daughter's school-they work doggone hard for her and I'm so grateful. At the end of the meeting I shared my over the top frustration with the fact that RISD plays faux confusion when it comes to kids attention: " what do you mean this free tool makes it hard for kids to pay attention??!!" "There's gambling going on at Rick's???!!!" They see the issue and they're tired of being told the cupboard is bare when new baseball fields are being built but the same crappy LMS' are being used or teachers have to pay out of their own pockets to remove ads. They're not militant at all but they see the issue and they're not alone--they're a microcosm. This happens everywhere and it's wrong. All we can do is what we can do. I haven't gone to the Board in person yet-they really make it hard for a parent but good grief it's gotta be done. And once I go if they have stone ears I'll decide what to do next.
Elsewhere in this blog I've written about wasting time. And how I feel a drum beat oftentimes about not doing it. I had a chance to talk to a trusted advisor the other day who had a different and enlightening view that I thought I'd share. He said to not think of it as 'wasting time' but as figuring out what doesn't work. In a press conference Thomas Edison was asked how many light bulbs he had created to get the one in the press conference that worked and he said '1000'!! The assembled press said 'oh, that must have been miserable' and he responded saying 'no, it was wonderful, I learned 999 ways not to make a light bulb!' and with that my own light bulb went off, ha ha!
Sometimes-most times, maybe even all the time?? We have to wade through stuff that doesn't work long before we get to the stuff that does work. And we have to maintain our awareness, our composure, and our delight at learning through what might crush others not correctly focused. That is, not focused on the process, not focused on the joy of learning what works. Our society too easily tells us to focus on 'winning' or 'goals' or 'success' but the overwhelming majority of what we're really faced with this ambiguity and confusion and if we're unable or unwilling to tolerate this discomfort we'll too soon give up. We'll never get to attempt 1000. Maybe we'll get to attempt 445 and then we'll throw in the towel because it's too hard a problem to solve vs. saying to ourselves: 'Well, that way doesn't work either maybe I should try something completely different'.
So, maybe Edison felt like he was wasting his time around attempt 775 or maybe not. Maybe he knew he was learning a little bit more about how to build a light bulb every step of the way. There had to be dark times (ha! See what I did there!!) but he found ways to focus on learning. I'm going to choose to do the same thing.
Iain Michie, AKA Earnest Grasshopper.