Thomas Edison never invented a compass. It was one of the few things, perhaps, that he didn’t invent or improve. By the time he died in 1931, Thomas Edison had acquired a record 1,093 patents for his amazing inventions. I wrote this article on a phone, which is powered by a battery, and the light is on in my room. All three of those inventions, so commonplace in our world today, have their roots in the amazing mind of Thomas Edison.
Thomas Edison was also completely deaf in one ear and hearing impaired in the other ear. From the age of 12, he was never able to hear a bird sing. Though that seems like such a difficult challenge, Edison thought of it as a blessing. It minimized distractions in his life, allowing him to spend more time in his work, which is what he really loved. The ability to tune out the sounds of the world allowed him to tune in to his own inventive and innovative mind and share so many gifts with the world.
We may never invent something that revolutionizes communication or brings motion pictures to life, but we each have a unique gift to give to the world. The world needs women who lead with vision, mothers who nurture with attentiveness, wives who encourage with empathy, girlfriends who support with compassion, and teachers who guide with inspiration. And guess what? Thomas Edison never was any of those things. You are unique. You matter. And, just like Edison, your success will depend on tuning out the things that don’t matter and tuning in to the things that do.
So how do we know which is which? We live in such a media saturated world where both voices and images compete to tell us what we should do, have, wear, eat, buy, drive, value, and avoid to be just right. We often come away from those social media binges feeling more inadequate than inspired. We also have fearful voices within and, unfortunately, sometimes unkind voices without that say we are not good enough, that we are not important, or that we are not even seen. Those are the voices to tune out.
In contrast, we each have a voice within that will guide us to be our best self. That is our internal compass. Sometimes it’s easy to hear and follow, and other times it is not. Recently I was reflecting on my day and realized I had responded in a way and said something that did not reflect my best self. I felt that compass guiding me to reach out and apologize. The compass can point, but I had to choose to act with integrity and follow through with that impression. Sometimes we feel nudged to do things out of our comfort zone or things that take effort and consistency. Those moments can be hard, but the more we tune in and hearken to those voices, the more clarity we will have in knowing we are creating something meaningful with our lives.
Take some time to be still and tune in to your own internal compass. By listening, you may find an innovative way to reach a friend in need or to change an unhealthy pattern in a relationship. You may feel nudged to turn off a screen so you can hug or talk with someone who needs to know that they are seen and loved. Whatever it is, that compass will guide you to live with greater integrity and purpose. Edison may have never invented a compass, but he sure followed one. He tuned out external distractions and chose to follow his internal ideas and solutions to make the world a better place, and so can you.