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You have probably heard of the Microsoft interview and the question they ask perspective employees there (how would you move to mount Fuji ?). We all have our own stories to tell about weird questions at job interview. But have you heard about how Thomas Alva Edison interviewed people who wanted to work with him ? That’s an interesting story there!  

After the initial round of questions, if Edison came across a bright candidate, he would take him out to dinner before making up his mind on whether to hire him. The interview would continue over dinner, and when the food arrived, Edison would take a bite and remark, ‘I think this needs more salt!’ And he would watch the candidate. 

If the candidate added salt before tasting the food he would not be hired. However, if the candidate tasted the food first and then decided if salt needed to be added, Edison would hire him. Edison knew that people who easily believed what other people had to say, or made assumptions without first handed knowledge or experience, would not be able to look afresh at problems and find innovative solutions. They would have closed minds, he reckoned. Edison was looking for people with a mind of their own and the conviction to back it. 

We all know people whose potential and dreams remained unrealized because they did not have the conviction to back their instincts. They chose a line of study or a career simply because someone else said it was best for them. They did not chase their passion just because someone said it was doomed, it would not work. In many cases, they give up even without trying, assuming they couldn‘t be done. We all have great ideas but not all of us have gone on to work on them and make them come to life. Only to discover later that someone else did exactly what we’d had in mind and found great success.

Do your own things. Make mistakes. Live on the edge. Chase your dreams. Don’t just go by what other people tell you. That may be safe but it’s unlikely to get you the success you deserve.  

Go for it, And yes, don’t blindly add the salt.


It was the 1870s. Somewhere in a workshop in new jersey, Thomas Alva Edison was burning the midnight oil trying to invent the light bulb.  

He tried numerous experiments – all without success. He just could not get it right. His failures become the talk of the town and story goes that after he had failed  thousand times, a journalist interviewed him and asked, ‘Mr. Edison, how does it feel  to have failed thousand times ? Why don’t you just give up ?  

‘No, no young lady,’ replied Edison.  ‘I have just discovered one thousand  ways it would not work. I am so much closer now to finding a way that will work !’ 

Sure enough, in 1879, Edison invented the filament light bulb, an invention that changed the world. By the time he died, the man who had failed thousands times had got 1024 patents to his credit, and founded the iconic General Electric Company. But Edison’s real contribution to mankind went beyond all this. He showed us the power of perseverance, the virtue of learning from failures and the magic of never giving up.

From : ‘The Secret of Leadership’ by Prakash Iyer


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