When Crisis Strikes

How do you rebuild after it feels like your your life has just erupted in a hot ball of flame?

The year was 1914. The explosion shook the ground. Flames fill the night sky with an orange glow as the fire spreads from building to building. A life’s work — fueled by highly combustible chemicals and compounds — literally is up in smoke.

“Go get your mother and all her friends. They’ll never see a fire like this again.”

Thomas Edison watched as his company that had created over 1,000 patents, and that had virtually invented the technology that we come to define the 20th Century burned to the ground.

His 24 year old son was in shock. He trembled. His heart pounded. He drew shallow breath. He expressed shock in confusion and dismay.

“It’s all right,’ the elder Edison said. “We’ve just got rid of a lot of rubbish.”

That rubbish was valued at 23 million dollars.

Edison was not delusional. Nor was he in denial of the devastation. He stayed up all night as the the fire was brought under control. The next day he went to work.

“We are rebuilding,” he said.

How did Thomas Edison rebuild his life after this most traumatic experience of his business career?

Instead accounting for all that he had lost, he numbered all that he had remaining. He did an accounting of his assets.

He had a strong team. He had friends and supporters. He had access to wise counsel and colleagues of courage.

He pulled his team and community around him and took small steps.

He sent one man to lease several machine shops.

He sent another man to obtain a wrecking crane from the railroad.

One by one he identified the next right thing to do that would eventually lead to the restoration of the life of his family.


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