The year is 1854 and something incredible has just happened. Abraham Gesner, a geologist and doctor has just solved the distilling process necessary to refine black coal into not gasoline, but kerosene – a new, revolutionary long burning and stable light source for the American public. It was a sensation. Prior to kerosene, other oils and candles were used for light source, but they were expensive, fast burning and often unstable.
There were no public utilities to speak of at that time, so when the sun went down, the streets were pretty much dark, as was your home unless you were wealthy enough to keep the candles or the midnight oil burning (know you know where that saying comes from!).
Kerosene really began to take off in the mid 1860s when self-made titan of industry John D. Rockefeller standardized the distilling of his kerosene, guaranteeing its quality to the public and mass-producing it under his new company’s name: Standard Oil.
Americans had a new way to affordably and reliably get kerosene to light their cities and their homes.
Yet just a few years later in 1879, power-financier J.P. Morgan’s investment in inventor Thomas Edison would make their first demonstration of the latest lighting technology: the incandescent light bulb, powered by electricity.
The year is 1869 and if you’re a settler in the Utah Valley, odds are good you’re here.
What’s the event?
The ceremonial driving of the “Last Spike” at Promontory Summit on May 10, joining the east coast to the west coast with the first transcontinental railroad. With the driving of that spike, what had been a perilous, deadly and four-month trip by horse and wagon transformed with the swing of a hammer into a less than four day, comfortable affair by rail.
Before the Civil War (which lasted between 1861 and 1865), the primary mode of transportation was shipping via rivers, ocean and canals, or overland routes via horse and wagon. A long, inefficient process that was dangerous by land and long by ship (the Panama Canal wasn’t constructed until 1914) around South America.
The self-made industrialist Cornelius Vanderbilt had been building his shipping empire from one canal boat up to the peak of his massive 1864 fleet, when he sold all his shipping holdings (to the value of roughly $30 million dollars) and invested the bulk of his fortune in rail roads, seeing they were the future of America.
No doubt the railroad was an incredible advancement over the ship routes and land routes, but all that was blown away in the early 1900s when aviation became a reality thanks to Glenn Curtiss and the Wright Brothers.
All these events in history beg the question: wouldn’t it just have been easier to build the airplane or start with electricity?
America could’ve skipped right over the railroad lines and kerosene lamps and really made a technological leap to innovation.
Of course not!
Innovation is iterative.
Rarely does innovation came as a quantum leap.
Innovation comes from iterations of advancement, small quantum leaps in ideas and mindsets.
It would sure be easier if you were born and went straight to running, but alas as the saying goes, you have to crawl before you run.
Why even mention this? It’s so obvious!
Because success is iterative, too — and you should never be afraid of being terrible at something and use that as an excuse not to get started.
Just remember, you were a terrible runner as an infant. You were. But that didn’t stop you from learning and iterating until you could walk and run and play with all the other kids in the neighborhood.
In the immortal words of my friend, and IndieGoGo co-founder, Adam Chapnick, “Don’t be afraid to suck.”
In fact, he used to tell me, it’s actually really important you suck when you start because that’s how you iterate, improve and innovate.
Don’t be suckered into the quantum leap shiny object daydream. The folks that quantum leap their finances with the lottery often end up right back where they started in a few years.
You probably wonder why, but it’s because they didn’t iterate. They didn’t learn the important steps along the way to finance, saving, investments and money management. When you bypass the railroad and go straight to airplanes, you will likely crash and burn. You’ve seen it in folks who get promoted too fast and don’t know how to manage their teams or the responsibility. Folks who become famous overnight and end up tabloid clichés.
The list goes on and on.
You don’t get to your dream job overnight. You don’t build your small business empire by quantum leap. You aren’t going to do ten push-ups tonight and have amazing “First Lady” arms in the morning.
It’s the iterative, consistent steps in between crawling and running that teach you how to stand upright, navigate with confidence and gain your own sense of balance.
You can do this.
Now take the first step and tell us in the comments below, how you plan to get started.
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