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Then Difficulties Arise

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Thomas Edison, who was born some 171 years ago yesterday, once explained that, in inventing, “the first step is an intuition—and comes with a burst—then difficulties arise.” What set Edison apart from other inventors was tolerance for these difficulties, his willingness to tackle the kinds of problems that are endemic to the process—not exceptions to it—and the steady dedication with which he applied himself towards solving them.

This idea connects to Stoicism in two ways: First, we must not let ignorance make these difficulties more difficult. By expecting and anticipating the troubles that inevitably attend to any worthwhile endeavor, we are more likely to be able to push through them. Second, Edison was saying, as the Stoics do, that passion is not sufficient. That burst of energy is great but real success and real power does not come from being whipped up by enthusiasm. Instead, it’s pushed forward by sustained effort and discipline.

Let others get giddy today—while you yourself are gritty. Develop and articulate a real purpose and practice for yourself, leave passion for the amateurs and the narcissists. Don’t expect things to be easy, know that they will be hard. Be ready for that, look forward to it even.

It’s a powerful combination.

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