Business pundits may argue, technology experts may disagree, academics and educational enthusiasts may make a debate out of it, but, not sitting on the fence, I support the notion of Henry Ford, when he stated, “If I had asked for their opinions, they would have said faster horses”. So, what is this notion? It is that simple! Shun their opinions, believe in your belief, and trust your instincts! Yes, it is good to ask for opinions, to ask for ideas, to ask for advice, but still, a lot of dreams have been nipped in the bud by wrong opinions, and a lot of breathtaking ideas thrown into the ocean by wrong advice. Little wonder that Ralph Waldo Emerson opined: “Follow your instincts to the end, though you might have no reason”. Alright, let us think about it. The cars, airplanes, computer programs, social media and various technological advancements; are they not all made out of the works of men and women who stuck to their instincts? Are they not all made by individuals who, against all odds, decided to stick to that which they believe?
Abraham Lincoln, the popular American president and hero is, till today, applauded for being one of the best leaders of the United States. But behind this achievement were obstacles, criticisms and various calls to quit. Being born in a one-room log cabin in a farm, the struggles of Abraham Lincoln started right from his birth. Abraham Lincoln’s parents were poor. His dad, Thomas Lincoln, was a farmer who placed little value on education, something Lincoln had troubles with. After going through so many struggles, including the fact that he had to live with the idea that he was poor, Lincoln finally became a lawyer. He soon began to develop an eye for politics, which saw him contest for a number of political positions. The people of Illinois, irrespective of his education, did not like the way Lincoln presented himself and felt he shouldn’t belong to the elite. This lack of support made him lose the elections he ran for. In his first attempt to join the legislature, he was defeated. His first attempt to be nominated for Congress also ended with defeat. He then applied to become Commissioner of the General Land Office and again was defeated. In 1854 he was defeated in the senatorial election, in 1856 he was defeated in the vise presidential election, and he was defeated again in the senatorial election of 1858. Frustrated and confused, Lincoln occasionally wrote suicidal notes but was in no haste to render himself for medical checkup. So many times, he was called to quit politics and even he, himself, thought it wise to quit. Being relatively stubborn though, a dogged Lincoln did not give up on his dream and in 1861, he became America’s sixteenth president.
Albert Einstein, the American genius, is well known for his contributions to physics including the legendary equation, E=mc2, which played a major role in the second World War. Before his rise to fame, Einstein had his own share of the unfair side of life. Albert Einstein was, unlike Abraham Lincoln, born into a relatively wealthy family. But there was a problem. At age 3, Albert could barely speak and was relatively sluggish. He found it hard understanding things at the early stages of his life and it began to be a problem for him, to the extent one of his teachers desribed him as “mentally slow, unsociable, and adrift forever in foolish dreams”. Albert Einstein, though interested in reading, did not find school interesting. He would often miss classes and hang out in beer halls. However, he managed to stay on track in his academics and graduated from Zurich Polytechnic with a diploma in physics. Even after his academic degree, life for Albert was still not fair. He found it really difficult to secure a job. Albert remained jobless for years until he was employed as a patent officer. Irrespective of these setbacks, the young physicist’s love for science never dwindled. Before his rise to fame, Einstein had proposed a lot of theories which were debunked and laughed at by fellow researchers and scientists. In 1905 though, Einstein’s name was heard in the big stages following the publishing of four of his works by the scientific journal, Annalen der Physik, which subsequently contributed immensely to the field of modern physics. In 1915, Einstein proposed the general theory of relativity which supported that light could bend. This was seen as “stupid” by fellow scientists, who wasted no time in calling him “crazy”. Four years later, Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington, an English astronomer, physicist, and mathematician, travelled to Africa to prove the theory during the solar eclipse of 29 May 1919. In November 1919, when he received the proofs, Einstein became the most popular physicist of his time.
Thomas Edison is known as America’s greatest inventor. And yet again, it was not all rosy for the maestro. Though his mum tried her best to get Edison books and reading materials which he found delight in studying, Thomas Edison didn’t catch the eye of his teachers and seemed to be a shadow of himself in school. His teachers would go ahead to tag him as being “too stupid to learn anything”. Before he started his laboratory works, he was sacked from the first two jobs he got, due to lack of productivity. Before he made the breakthrough success of inventing the light bulb, he had made about one thousand unsuccessful attempts. By January 1879, at his laboratory in Menlo Park, New Jersey, Edison had built his first high resistance, incandescent electric light.
In 2004, Mark Zuckerberg, founder of the popular social media, Facebook, decided to drop out of school to focus on his fast growing web program. His friends thought of him as “stupid” and except for his roommate, everyone wrote Mark off. Even as a teenager, a young Mark was offered a prestigious offer to acquire his music streaming platform and also a full time job by both AOL and Microsoft. Being utterly focused and dedicated to developing his own program, he rejected both offers. A decision, which took many off their seats. That was a “stupidly” bold step for sure and of course, he wouldn’t make that decision without getting hit! But now though, who cares? As at August 2019, Facebook is the largest social media platform in the world, the sixth largest company in the world and Mark Zuckerberg, the fifth richest man in the world. Talk about an achievement!
And oh, how can I forget?! The iconic Henry Ford! Henry Ford is today considered as one of the greatest contributors to the automobile industry. But how did this come to be? Only he can confirm! Given Henry Ford’s failures, no one, at his time would have ever envisioned him to be great. In the automobile industry, everyone around Henry Ford saw him as a nonentity. He was given two glorious chances, one by Murphy (amidst already frustrated with him already) to prove his automobile inventions which he could not utilize. He was tagged a failure by peers and nobody was in the mood to give him a third chance. Despite all these though, Ford himself was rather unconcerned. He kept reassuring everyone he meant that he had dealt with his failures psychologically and has discovered the cause of the setbacks: no one gave him ample time to fix the bugs. Long story cut short, in 1903, Henry Ford founded Ford Motor Co. And as you know, the rest is history.
The list goes on and on and on. And if I continue, you would be reading an endless piece. After reading the stories of these great icons, I believe I need not “preach” anymore. Now, the ball is in your court. As Steve Jobs puts it: “Don’t let the voice of others opinion drown your own inner voice”. The world is waiting for your discoveries, your innovations, your ideas and your research. Go on and get it! Trust your instincts and forget their opinions.