Charge Ahead for the Silver Lining


At the age of 67, Thomas Edison, one of our nation’s greatest inventors, seemingly lost all his life’s work. He stood by and watched all his labs and factory burn to the ground. The buildings, made of concrete, considered fireproof at the time, were only insured for about 10% of the actual worth. It was a multi-million-dollar loss – astronomical in 1914. It has been recorded that looking over the ruins in the daylight, Edison said, “There is great value in disaster. All our mistakes are burned up. Thank God we can start anew.

While this disastrous circumstance would bring most people to some level of depression and despondency Edison saw a silver lining. Not only did he speak positively in light of the terrible loss, but Edison also proceeded in the same manner. Three weeks after the fire, Edison introduced the first phonograph to the world.

After perhaps his most famous invention, the lightbulb, when it was made known that he had unsuccessfully 1,000 times tried to create a working lightbulb, he supposedly stated, “I did not fail 1,000 times. I found 1,000 ways to not make a lightbulb.” Edison did not let negative set-backs hold him from progress. He was forward-thinking and forward moving. His track record proves this about him. First with the lightbulb. And in our story above, only 3 weeks after losing all his working inventory and buildings.

When life throws a set-back your way, what is your reaction? Do you have a pity-party, blame others, walk away defeated? How would your life change if you looked for the silver lining in the tragedy, disaster, or another setback?

Remember Edison’s statement, “There is great value in disaster.” In his case, “All our mistakes are burned up.” Don’t wait for a fire, and don’t let your mistakes shackle you. Learn from your mistakes. Then bury them and move forward. You might be surprised at the new speed and depth of creativity you’ll experience.

George Yates is the Church Health Strategist for the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions, assisting churches and individuals in pursuing God’s purpose for life. Learn more at

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