10,000 Ways That Won’t Work

Joe on Mt. Sherman

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” ~Thomas Alva Edison

Had yet another rough day. Seems like there have been too many of those recently. So, I came here to write with a brain spinning with frustration and, therefore, too spun out to be creative. In these instances, one thing that often gives me a jumping off point for my writing is finding a quote I can relate to. I flipped through one of my books and found this one by Thomas Edison. It’s a quote about perspective and perseverance, and it perfectly fits what I feel I’ve been going through lately with my boys. I have been researching, reading, investigating, and conjecturing about every possible way I can help improve their lives as they struggle with learning disabilities. Yet, for all my effort, the results have been seemingly inconsequential.

Then I saw this quote. It made me laugh. Maybe I’m just approaching this all from the wrong angle? Yes. I’ve tried a whole heap of things to help them. I’ve felt worthless because nothing has worked out. But, just because I haven’t found the answer yet doesn’t mean I’ve failed. Like he said, I’ve simply found 10,000 ways that won’t work. That’s not negative progress. That’s 100% progress in the right direction. That’s 10,000 steps closer to my goal of finding a solution. I simply haven’t found it yet. But, I’m narrowing the field down and, sooner or later, I will hit upon what I’ve been searching for. I’ve eliminated enough variables that the solution must be getting close.

I need to stop being so damn hard on myself. I’m doing the best I can. I need to tell the little boss inside my head to shut up. I’m busy working.



  1. This is a tough one and the mother in you will not let up until you find a solution that works for the boys and you. But if I can just leave you with something that someone spoke to me about in relation to my own kids, that you can think about. The kids of today are a completely different generation and our preconceived ideas of how they should be working / learning (based on our past experience, our own learning experiences) does not always fit today’s children / society / schooling system. Kids today are learning to work / study / adapt in smarter ways, and smarter does not always mean diligence and lots of time spent bent over a desk with the books open, like it did when we were kids (well, for me anyway). We, as their parents, may not even be able to define what “smarter” is for them in today’s world. Maybe watch and see if they might not be looking for their own solutions in their quest to work smarter, not harder. Are they giving you any cues as to what works for them, even if it is expressed as a negative emotion. Hope this makes sense – hard for me to explain. I just know that since I have taken a step back from trying to control and manage my own kids’ school work and studying, that they are doing better at school, they are more interested and responsible, and my relationship with them has improved ten-fold.

  2. I’ve been working a bit towards what you have suggested, Charmaine. Thanks for taking the time to write such a thoughtful and caring comment. I appreciate your insight.

  3. Hang in there, Jus! I know you are a FABULOUS mother and I know you work hard to help your boys succeed in every way! I am not much of a quote person…but this really is a good one. I may need to remind myself of this quote as well on some days.
    Being a mother is a very, very tough job! Stay positive!

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