Cufflink of the Week - Lightbulbs

May 29, 2018

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I work for an EPC firm. EPC stands for Engineering Procurement Construction. Specifically, I work in oil and gas. I have been lucky enough to learn about some incredible technology that helps society run efficiently and makes sure all of us have things that are relatively taken for granted. All of these advancements have come by the ideas of many brilliant people who have preceded me. I get to essentially piggy back off the achievements of others. Because of this, I like the light bulb for it signifies two things that have become very important to me.

 

The first thing I have learned is that everything is designed. The incandescent light bulb was a technological advancement to an age-old problem -- how to take back the night. The night for the majority of human history has represented part of the day our ingenuity could not master. Torches, candles, and whale oil were all attempts to master the darkness. We still hold onto the evolutionary fear of the night. It represents peril. At the ultimate extension, it represents death. The effort to develop a cost-effective solution to bring light and control our destiny is a fascinating story most people won't ever study, or read about. Thomas Edison declared he was going to solve this issue. If anyone was going to be able to produce a solution, the Wizard of Menlo Park would surely deliver. True to human nature, as Edison attempted to find the right element to sustain electrical current, the press and society were not very supportive. The headlines and messages weren't "Edison keeps toiling away," or "Rooting for Edison." Instead, as one failed attempt stacked on all of the others, people started to wonder if it could ever be done. Around the ten thousandth attempt, a reporter asked him if he was frustrated with his failures. Edison looked at him quite puzzled, as if the question were the strangest one he's ever been asked, "Failed? I haven't failed. I have discovered ten thousand ways not to make an incandescent light bulb."

 

I'll tell you another huge reason I have always loved light bulbs. The key element to sustaining current and creating light in a bulb is tungsten. Tungsten is an incredibly interesting element. You really should go look up some of the facts about this rare metal. When I was a kid, I remember reading about tungsten production and learning one of the richest sources of tungsten in the world at the time was Korea. I found something important that was Korean! One of my favorite books as a kid was the Almanac. I poured over every page of every year, trying to learn as much as I could. I got excited every time I saw Korea, whether North or South, be it No. 1 or in the top 5 in anything. Import/Export statistics became my baseball cards. Other kids would know every single transformer, or GI Joe character. I knew about Sorghum producing countries, sugar beet exports from the USSR, and what GNP was before I could name every MLB baseball team. Searching for all things Korean was good at helping me acquire a knowledge of manufacturing and industry at a very, very early age. I know, I'm a complete nerd. And, not the cool type.

 

Another reason I love the light bulb is because it symbolizes an idea. I'm particularly fascinated (and borderline obsessed) with ideas. I'm jealous I don't have more productive ones for the world. I crave and yearn for the idea that will allow myself, my family, my country, and my world to move even one step closer to becoming a better place. I've been very lucky in my professional life to have been part of things that had not existed before -- things that only motivate me to have bigger and better ideas. I recently got chastised that I like to educate people about my achievements. I have thought about this, and while this individual does not know any of the things that I am referencing, clearly, they came to their conclusion rationally. So, I will not discuss what I have done in the past and, honestly, it doesn't matter. Nobody cares. It's yesterday's news. They were successful in making that loud and clear.

 

To me, an idea is equivalent to an embryo. I wish ideas were treated as precious. Every day I have to think about what I will do that day. Will I achieve my outcomes at work? Will the post I write every day resonate with all of you? Will my efforts at school result in the grades I want? Will my actions make a happy marriage, friendship, and civic framework? Wearing the light bulbs forces me to be like Edison. I may have passed ten thousand failed ideas a long time ago, but I'm not as smart as Edison. Wearing and seeing the light bulb inspires me to persevere and continue to search for the great idea that can be my significant contribution to this world. I write this post in the dead of night with a light bulb providing the illumination necessary. Because of the actions and efforts of one, I am able to work. One day, hopefully, someone else will be typing and utter my name in the same "light."

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