Interview Setback? How Edison Dealt With Adversity

On December 10, 1914, Thomas Edison’s plant was engulfed in flames causing him to lose years of priceless records, work and prototypes.

Thomas was at home and was alerted to hurry and get to his plant. He and his son quickly arrived to see everything he had worked for, disintegrate.

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How did Edison respond?

He told his son:

“Go get your mother and all her friends, they’ll never see a fire like this before”.

What?!

When his son, Charles, objected, Edison said: 

“It’s alright, we’ve now gotten rid of a lot of rubbish”

While many thought Edison had lost his mind, with the right perspective and understanding that what happened was out of his control, he rebuilt his plant in 3 weeks and end up producing more products and revenue than he had ever done before.

I think this is a very relevant story on how we deal with adversity and setbacks, specifically when interviewing and not being offered the position.

Were you able to think about all the benefits that came from that interview?

  1. You learned how to prepare effectively and creatively by researching the company and coming up with thought provoking questions (maybe learning a new technique you can use for your next interview).
  2. You made new connections that you would have never met otherwise that you can keep in touch with and possibly have paths and opportunities cross again.
  3. You may have heard new interview questions that you had not heard before that you can review and rehearse for future interviews.
  4. Maybe you have someone in mind that would be a better fit, which will strengthen the relationship for all those involved.
  5. You acquired new information during the interview, telling you what you’re not looking (or don’t care) for in a position, management style, industry, type of company, etc.
  6. The commute was longer or more strenuous than you had intended which tells you that’s not a part of town that you’d be interested in working in.
  7. The interview process was a new one for you that you had not experienced before (panel, over video, 3 hours long versus 1, etc.) and you’ve learned how to present better.
  8. You received qualitative feedback that can be analyzed and possibly used to your advantage to improve your skills on.
  9. You’re becoming more comfortable speaking in front of others and being introduced to various personalities.
  10. You learned about a new technology or feature that you would have not otherwise been introduced to.

How are you finding and reflecting on the benefits of an unexpected outcome versus spending your time dwelling only on the negatives?

To do great things, as Edison has, we can learn from setbacks while also finding joy and a sense of accomplishment, if we’re able to approach them with the right perspective.

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