Are you good at making New Year’s Resolutions full of SMART goals and paired with Stop Doing Goals? Already drafting your top 10 list for 2013? Great. Let’s go back over that list and make it social (and a little shorter too).
Do you know about Lewis Latimer, the African-American inventor of the mass production light bulb? Fortunately his patent ended up with the same firm that owned the Edison bulb or we would have had to wait a while longer to stop burning down our houses with gas lights. As it was, Edison Co. had to merge with an English company to commercialize their product, and merged again to be General Electric all before the original Edison patent had run out.
Ben Franklin never patented anything he invented, writing in his autobiography, “As we benefit from the inventions of others, we should be glad to share our own… freely and gladly.” The Franklin Stove was perfected by someone else later, but Franklin gets all the credit because it was better to use his name. Meanwhile the stove industry developed unimpeded.
Edison had only so much time to make his invention commercial. He made the most of it by starting out with a team, and then adding anyone who could give value. By the time he was done his name wasn’t even on the product, but the money was in his pocket. Franklin didn’t expect to protect his invention, but it was pretty cagey to make sure his name lived forever through the work of others. You know he’s been dead nearly 225 years? But you’ve probably still purchased one of his almanacs.
Where did this idea start that it’s all about one person? Listen to Psy’s speech at the Oxford Union. He’s so the hero of his own story and he’s so wrong. When you are 20 and your parents are throwing their dreams out the window so you can succeed, that’s the time to recognize that success is social.
If you don’t, you end up part of this very jackass-y story. Edison probably wasn’t a jackass, but he seems like a jackass when he becomes part of the story that left out Lewis Latimer and more than a dozen other names. Steve Jobs sounds a little like a jackass (we expect him to!) when he says, “Good artists copy; great artists steal,” claiming to be quoting Picasso. It was actually T.S. Eliot who wrote:
One of the surest tests [of the superiority or inferiority of a poet] is the way in which a poet borrows. Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different. The good poet welds his theft into a whole of feeling which is unique, utterly different than that from which it is torn; the bad poet throws it into something which has no cohesion. A good poet will usually borrow from authors remote in time, or alien in language, or diverse in interest.
Look at each of your items in the start doing and stop doing tasks that support your New Year’s Resolution goals. Look around at your influencers and your friends and consider how many goals you should really tackle. Each of the people discussed in this article are geniuses (even Psy) who had the very best quality of friends- don’t make plans more audacious than their accomplishments.
Instead, select a few goals and turn your attention to how you can make your influencers wider and broader. What can you steal? How can you use it to make your life so different and unique that the you that you present the world in 2014 is worth everything the world has given you through 2013? Make 2013 your year of social, and your accomplishments will fall into step.
That’s the power of social. The tools–Twitter, Facebook, the water cooler and the corner bar– are secondary. If the guy on your Facebook feed or the gal at the next stool isn’t going to make your life better, find someone who feeds the turbines that power your goals. That’s what you can do in 2013 to make your New Year’s Resolutions come true.
Thanks to The Health Maven for introducing me to the Lewis Latimer story at a conference.