Much of Thomas Edison’s life caught fire when his factory in West Orange, NJ, caught fire in 1914. As the fire raged, Edison’s 24-year-old son Charles frantically searched his father. He found him at last, gazing calmly into the fire, his face shining in the reflection, his white hair billowing in the wind.
Charles’ heart ached for his father. Edison was 67 at the time and everything was gone. When he saw his son, he shouted, “Charles, where is your mother? Then he said, “Find her. Bring her here. She will never see anything like this in her life.
The next morning, Edison looked at the ruins and said, “Disaster is of great value. All our mistakes are burned away. Thank God we can start over.”
Leaders always look for the positive, even in the worst of circumstances. This Edison story from Bits & Pieces magazine is a great example.
As daunting as it may seem, you can start over. It doesn’t have to be a fire, and it doesn’t have to be the start of a new year. Think about what you really want. Some things are hard to let go, to leave behind. But letting go doesn’t have to be the end of the world. Instead, think of it as an opportunity you can’t pass up.
Author Marsha Petrie Sue said, “Every day is a new beginning. Treat it that way. Walk away from what could have been and look at what can be.”
The world is full of people who have changed their lives or embarked on a new career and started over.
Reid Hoffman began his professional life in academia, but quickly caught the entrepreneurial bug. After working for Apple in the 90s and trying to set up a social network for the company, he created another social networking platform called SocialNet in 1997. After that company went bankrupt, he applied all knowledge to what has become the world’s premier career platform. network: LinkedIn.
Brad Pitt at one time drove chauffeured strippers to and from bachelor parties. He also worked as a furniture mover and dressed up as a giant chicken mascot for the restaurant chain El Pollo Loco. He enrolled in acting classes with the dream of a film career. Within seven months, he signed with an agent and is now one of the most famous and recognizable superstars in the world.
Pope Francis went from bouncer at a Buenos Aires nightclub and daytime janitor to pontiff (admittedly, with a few stops in between). But he proved that even unusual or nearly impossible big leaps are worth taking.
Tim and Nina Zagat’s husband-and-wife team behind popular restaurant surveys were corporate lawyers when they started printing their Zagot restaurant guides. The guides became so popular that the couple quit their already prestigious jobs.
Bernie Marcus was fired in 1978 as president of Handy Dan Home Improvement Centers. I learned while interviewing Marcus for my book “We Got Fired…and It’s the Best Thing That Ever Happened to Us” that the following year he and Arthur Blank decided to open a huge hardware store called Home Depot. Today, of course, Home Depot is the largest home improvement retailer, with over 2,300 stores.
From inauspicious beginnings to dreams come true, these stories are repeated every day around the world. There’s no reason the next big story shouldn’t be about you.
Mackay’s Morality: Starting over is the beginning of a new you.
Harvey Mackay is a businessman from Minneapolis. Contact him at 612-378-6202 or by email at [email protected]