TV or Not TV

John Logie Baird's life was like a roller coaster. His first job was as an apprentice engineer. Then, he decided that he would try to sell shoe polish. When that didn't work out, he attempted manufacturing jam and then honey. He thought his ship had finally come in, though, when he invented a new type of soap. A sudden illness, however, prohibited from finalizing a business merger that would have guaranteed his prosperity; Instead, a competitor took all of his business, which left John Baird at the age 34, broke, in debt, unemployed and depressed. To further exacerbate the situation, it was now in the midst of the depression in the 1920’s.

With a large amount of time on his hands, Baird went back to his hobby, which was experimenting in his attic with selenium cells, which had the property of increasing or decreasing conductivity relative to light. In his attic he had a smorgasbord of electrical components that he had found or acquired cheaply. Most of his experiments were met with the same failure that characterized his life. Despite his abject poverty, frustration and continual failures, he kept at it. Finally, Baird succeeded in making one crude device convert a half-tone picture to electric pulses, transmit electrically to another crude device, and reconvert to a half-tone picture. On January 7th, 1926, after a lifetime of failure, Baird demonstrated his device in London to the amazement of many. John Logie Baird, a bad shoe polish salesman and failed soap-manufacturer, is credited with inventing a rudimentary device that was the precursor of our modern day television.

The lesson which can be gleaned from Baird’s life is one that has been repeated a thousand times. Most of us assent to the idea that previous failures should not impede us to press on and persevere. Yet, for every Baird who persevered, there is ten thousand who gave up. Most of those will never be remembered by history. They are the untold numbers of the mediocre. Sometimes, even the giants of history quit, just before what would have been a fantastic discovery or breakthrough. Leonardo DaVinci, the quintessential "Renaissance Man" for example, was on the verge of inventing a working flying machine. He had a prototype that he was going to perfect and test. One day when he was away, however, one of his assistants, eager for glory, tried it out. Due to a design flaw, the young assistant was seriously injured in his attempt. Upon DaVinci’s return, he was so distraught and guilt-ridden that his assistant had been injured, he shelved all designs and experiments in flying machines. Had he persevered and perfected his prototype, he may have beaten the Wright Brothers by a couple of hundred years. We might have been flying before driving.

Lastly, we are told in Hebrews 10:35-36:

So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.

God honors our perseverance. No matter how many failures we may have experienced, we must constantly look ahead, rather than behind us. This is also indicative of the heart of God, who despite all of our failures, never gives up on us or counts us as loss. He wants us to persevere through the difficult times, in full confidence that He can redeem our situation. Baird could have missed his place in history, merely by giving up. Great accomplishments are never achieved with half-hearted or whimsical efforts. Next time you turn on your TV, remember the importance of perseverance. That one character trait may determine whether we ourselves are remembered in the rolls of the great, or numbered with the myriad of mediocre.

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