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how to start investing with inspiration from Thomas Edison

Updated on June 28, 2012

Thomas Alva Edison is a personal hero

Thomas Alva Edison is one of my heroes. Here was a man with ideas and the ability to transform his ideas into inventions that changed the lives of millions of people; changes that we are still building on today. His first manufacturing enterprise was to build efficient stock ticker machines. He then went on to refine telegraphs, transmitters and microphones, ultimately building the first phonograph. After that, he tackled the incandescent light bulb and the essential power distribution network needed to deliver electricity to homes and businesses. In 1891, he patented the motion picture camera. Edison went on to patent over a thousand inventions and eventually to build General Electric, a company that you can invest in today.

Edison used his ideas to create completely new industries, products and wealth through the sheer power of his imagination and technical abilities. As he said, 'inventing is 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration", meaning that ideas are easy but making them work is hard. The execution of an idea is the difference between a man like Edison and the thousands upon thousands of people with good ideas. You probably know of people like that, people with great ideas that they never act on. Obstacles get in the way, daily life gets in the way, and so it goes.

Edison could also have been talking about investing when he made his remark about percentages. He could have said, "investing is 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration" and he would be right on the mark. You don't have to be a genius to be an investor. You don't even have to think of good ideas every day. All you have to do is execute on your plan to meet your goals. You need that 1% inspiration to get started and then you need that 99% perspiration to execute your investment plan on a regular basis. Investing is work, not a lot of work but work, nevertheless. It can be an hour a day, or an hour a week or an hour a month. You choose the amount of work you want to put into a personal investing plan to generate wealth. It's your choice but no one cares more about your money than you do. You should not delegate this critical part of your life. Money is freedom to do all the other things in life that give you reward. Live, love, help, create, learn, give, receive, renew. Put your own words together to define your goals.

If you think you can hire somebody to care for your money, or listen to advice from others over coffee and then run out and make investment decisions, you will be disappointed. If you want to be truly satisfied that your money is being well looked after, you better decide right now that you are the best person to look after it. No one else, not your mother or your financial advisor or your (gasp) broker, cares about your money as much as you do. Why, because it is your money! So take charge of it! How do you do that? You learn all you can about money, investing and personal finance and you get started.

Stock tickers and motion pictures were both Edison inventions

Invest like the Terminator: It will not STOP!

            This brings me back to Thomas Alva Edison.  Movies and Money.  Watch movies and make money.  Two interests that I have kept separate for years finally came together in a serendipitous moment of lateral thinking.  I was watching a movie in 1995.  The movie was The Terminator.  In the movie, the hero Michael Biehn remarks to Linda Hamilton that the killing machine that has been chasing them throughout the movie just "will not stop." 

 "Listen! And understand! That Terminator is out there. It can't be bargained with! It can't be reasoned with! It doesn't feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead!"

 In that moment, I thought for a second about technology, networks, the growth of the internet and the relentless advances that innovative companies were making at the time and I suddenly knew that it was a good investment.  To me, the Internet was like The Terminator.  It was out there.  And it will not stop.  Once I had the image of the Internet as this unstoppable force, my confidence level to invest in technology companies driving the growth of the Internet was unshakeable.  I was also right.  From 1995 to 2001, the growth of technology was spectacular.  So was the dot com crash that followed.  That is another story and another movie.

            The key point to make here is that sometimes you have to see it before you can do it.  Visualize it, and it will become real.  That is why I am convinced that watching movies helps people to visualize their dreams.  Once they can see it, they can make it happen: make it real.  Get the 1% inspiration and then act on it.  

One More Important point about Edison

I want to make one more point about Edison.  Brilliant in so many ways, Edison was a poor money manager.  In fact, by the 1890s he had sold most of his shares in General Electric.  If he had kept them to the present, his shares would make his estate one of, if not the wealthiest individual fortune in human history.  Alas, his great abilities were also his greatest enemy when money was concerned.   

            However, he is a personal hero to me and even more so once I discovered his roots in stock tickers and eventual father figure for the motion picture industry.  Movies and money.  They were linked at the very start of it all in the brilliant mind of one man: Thomas Alva Edison.

 For more on movies and money, visit my web site: where you can learn how watching movies can make you money.


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