Saturday, December 18, 2004

Voyage of Discovery I gave the speech to introduce next year's theme at our region's Christmas Party/Awards banquet tonight. They'd adopted a space theme before I came to the region, with stores being called "Starships" and managers being called "Captains." Area Management are called "Admirals."

Two years ago, the theme was "Reach For The Stars." This past year, it's been "Reach Beyond The Stars." For next year, our theme is going to be "Voyage of Discovery." As in, now that we're beyond the stars, let's see what we discover while we're here.

For my speech, I outlined four ways discoveries can be made, and gave four examples to go with them.

Exploration The most famous example of discovery is Christopher Columbus. Not so famous is the reason why most nations were reluctant to fund his voyage. It wasn't because they were backwards and thought the world was flat. It was because they had good mathematicians around who knew his estimates for the size of the Earth were too small. In fact, even the mathematicians had the Earth too small! Columbus was just wrong.

However, he was still determined to make the journey. And while he didn't come back with the tea and spice and silks he'd set out to find, he still came back with chocolate and coffee and tobacco and gold. The point was he explored, and in exploring, he discovered.

Inspiration The greatest scientific discoveries of the last century were not made in a lab. Many of them were done by a very smart man sitting on a park bench, and were done entirely in his head. Albert Einstein's thought experiments, as he pondered questions like, "What would happen as I get close to the speed of light?" he was able to get his mind around the very interesting answers he found. Inspiration comes as an answer to deep thinking and pondering.

Observation Nearly everybody knows the story of penicillin. Sir Alexander Fleming found a bit of mold had made its way into one of his Petri dishes containing bacteria. Rather than throwing it out, like you or I would have done, he sat back and observed the results. When he saw the mold killing the bacteria, he set about figuring out what the chemical that had killed the bacteria.

What not as many people know is why he was so quick to observe this was that he'd had a bit of luck with a Petri dish a few years before. That time, believe it or not, he had sneezed, and a little bit of mucus had made it into the Petri dish. A few days later, he noticed the bacteria around the mucus had been destroyed. He discovered lysozyme, a lesser known antibiotic, was a chemical in the mucus.

So by observation, we can discover solutions and answers in places we wouldn't have thought they would be.

Perspiration Thomas Edison is known for this one. He didn't get to the wrong place--he set out to make a light bulb, and he knew it should work, so he kept right on going until he found the perfect filament.

But he also knew the value of hard work, no matter what the results. He once said, "Just because something doesn't do what you wanted it to do doesn't mean it's worthless."

Hard work is bound to get you something you didn't have before, and you'll be better off for it.

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