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Thomas Edison: The Wizard of Menlo Park

Thomas Edison: The Wizard of Menlo Park
By Founders Podcast • Issue #3 • View online
As long time subscribers will know this newsletter started out as a daily email highlighting books recommended by interesting entrepreneurs. It is now a newsletter and podcast about biographies. 
I want to tell you why that changed. 
I was watching this interview of Elon Musk when he said something I wasn’t expecting. 
Elon was asked who he looked to for advice when he was starting his first company. 
He said he read books. 
Did you read business books?
Elon said no. He said biographies were more helpful. 
I thought that was an interesting idea so I started reading some of the biographies he recommended. 
Biographies on Albert Einstein, Benjamin Franklin, Howard Hughes. 
I realized he was right. There is value in studying the lives of historic figures. I decided to start a podcast that would share some of these ideas with other people.
Each week I will publish a new email and podcast on a historically great figure. Together we will learn what made this person special. What motivated them to do what they did. And what lessons we can apply to our own lives. 
Any project, like any business, needs a way to sustain itself. I don’t want to put ads into the newsletter or the podcast. 
I started a Patreon and I am asking for your direct support. 
The newsletter will always be free. Every other podcast will also be free. 
But for the special people who want to voluntarily support this project I will be doing 2 extra podcasts a month. (Each podcast takes me about 15-25 hours to complete. I read the biography, outline, record and edit everything myself.)
If this sounds like a project that will be valuable to you please consider becoming a member. Your support helps keep this project ad free and will help me spread these important ideas. 
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-David Senra

Founders Podcast
A look into the life and times of Thomas Edison. Edison starts his first business at 12 years old (11:00), Edison’s discipline (20:00), Edison’s rivalry with Alexander Graham Bell (38:00), Edison’s friendship with Henry Ford (1:00:00), Edison’s stoic nature (1:15:00), the death of Thomas Edison (1:21:00), how you can support this podcast (1:24:00).
Listen here: iTunes, Soundcloud, Web (1:26:52)
This podcast is based on the book The Wizard of Menlo Park: How Thomas Alva Edison Invented the Modern World by Randall Stross. Here are some of my favorite highlights from the book:
Well, you know, I like a hustler
One occasion when Edison cast off the expectations of others in his middle age was when he met Henry Stanley, who had come to visit him at his laboratory. Edison provided a demonstration of the phonograph, which Stanley had never heard before. 
Stanley asked, in a low voice and slow cadence, “Mr. Edison, if it were possible for you to hear the voice of any man whose name is known in the history of the world, whose voice would you prefer to hear?”
“Napoleon’s,” replied Edison without hesitation.
“No, no,” Stanley said piously, “I should like to hear the voice of our Savior.”
“Well,” explained Edison, “you know, I like a hustler.”
The 12 year old entrepreneur
His father introduced his son to the highly esteemed writings of Thomas Paine, but young Edison did not inherit his father’s interest in politics. He did, however, show an entrepreneurial bent that resembled his father’s. Before Edison, the inventor, made a precocious appearance, Edison, the boy tycoon, had emerged. The opportunities he discovered as a twelve-year-old wheeler-dealer were opened when he persuaded his mother to let his home studies end so that he could take a position as newsboy on a train that ran from Port Huron to Detroit. Once on board, he saw that he could buy good cheaply in the big city and retail them in little Port Huron at a nice markup. He opened two stores–a newsstand and a fresh-produce stand–and hired two other boys to staff them and share in the profits.
At the age of fifteen, Edison expanded into newspaper publishing, using a galley-proof press and worn type he bought secondhand and set up in the baggage car of the train. When a British passenger happened to catch a glimpse of the adolescent publisher at work, he bought the entire run of Edison’s Weekly Herald as souvenirs, and Edison later heard he planted mention in the London Times that it was the first newspaper in the world to be printed on a train in motion.
Edison's Self Confidence
Edison did not himself lack for self-confidence and held fast to the conviction that he could remove any technical obstacle that impeded his progress, no matter what field of invention he explored. This conviction would lead him into blind alleys, but it also led to astonishing successes, planned and unplanned. More than anything else, the utterly fearless range of his experimental activities draws our attention today. Fearlessness was needed when he elected to become a full-time inventor at the tender age of twenty-two, a bold step for a young man without family money.
Edison in one paragraph
Having one’s own shop, working on projects of one’s own choosing, making enough money today so one could do the same tomorrow: These were the modest goals of Thomas Edison when he struck out on his own as full-time inventor and manufacturer. The grand goal was nothing other than enjoying the autonomy of entrepreneur and forestalling a return to the servitude of employee. Edison’s need for autonomy was primal and unvarying; it would determine the course of his career from the beginning to end.
Edison the autodidact
His mother, a former schoolteacher, provided the homeschooling that constituted the entirety of his education, other than two brief stints at local schools. These circumstances, along with his progressive loss of hearing, nurtured the autodidact in Edison’s makeup.
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