On December 10, 1914 Thomas Edison lost much of his life’s work when a chemical explosion burnt his factory to the ground. He was 67 years old. He didn’t panic. He didn’t place blame. He didn’t stop inventing. He didn’t fold his business. He didn’t even layoff one employee.
Without despair or hesitation, he simply rebuilt. Somehow, within the ruins, he found perseverance. Out of the ashes emerged a triumphant Edison quickly turning devastation into profits.
Most identify Edison as an inventor. Not many recognize him as a stoic. A stoic, according to philosopher Nassim Nicholas Taleb, is one who transforms fear into prudence, pain into transformation, mistakes into initiation, and desire into undertaking. In May 2014, Business Insider published an article depicting Edison’s unflustered reaction to the tragedy as the epitome of stoicism. I was profoundly moved by this article which was fortuitously released just as I was on the verge of losing my life’s work to an analogous type of catastrophe.
100 years after Edison stood watching his research erupt into flames, I, too, saw everything I had been working on in recent years disintegrate before my eyes. The damage was incalculable as I measure the value of my work in hours and minutes – not in dollars and cents. Because each minute spent working is a minute missed of my children’s childhood, I go to great lengths to ensure that every undertaking stands to significantly benefit future generations. Every article I‘ve penned and every event I’ve produced during the past 5 years was done so with this goal in mind. My work was created with heart, and it was financed with time borrowed from my kids.
Hence, the loss was unbearable.
I could have easily given up and sank into a deep depression. I could have squandered my days wallowing in memories that passed me by.
I did not.
Instead, like Edison, I chose to rebuild. I found inspiration in new ideas, legislative progress and in emerging FinTech leaders. I reemerged smarter and stronger. I entered a heightened state of creativity and ingenuity. My ideas were bigger. Braver. More groundbreaking. I wrote like I never wrote before. I took on ever more meaningful projects. I’m privileged to now be working with a number of FinTech visionaries whose platforms will ultimately democratize America’s retirement infrastructure and shrink her harrowing wealth gap.
The day I created the Twitter handle, @tothestoics, I never looked back. Well, except occasionally – just to see how far I’ve come. Today was one of those days. I became reflective when I happened upon the following photo of Thomas Edison.
As soon as I read this, I started to cry. I realized that Edison wasn’t just a stoic. He was a stoic whose genius had been mistaken for a handicap. Had his mother not intervened, an entire planet may still be sitting in the dark.
So today, instead of writing about financial injustice, market bubbles, the demise of the small cap IPO, crowdfunding, P2P or how FinTech will change the world (which it will), I am just going to take this moment to honor all of the stoics as well as the moms who nurtured them.
If you’re looking for FinTech insight and occasionally some inspiration, feel free to follow @tothestoics on twitter.