You sit down. The chair squeaks a little bit when you reach down to grab your laptop from your bag. You place it on the table, open it up, and turn it on. A black screen with an image of an empty battery flashes. You sigh, stand up, and scour for the charger. It is upstairs, unplugged, behind your desk. You pick it up, bring it downstairs to your laptop. The small metal rectangle end goes in the laptop and the two-pronged end into an outlet. Flashing battery images disappears, and it comes to life. You get why this happens, but not how. Everything in your life revolves and depends on being able to ‘plug it in’, so it is natural to take it for granted. I hear your groaning, and no, this isn’t about how you take your first world life for granted. This isn’t even about how laptops work. This is about the cord you plugin, about the outlet it gets electricity from, the lightbulbs in the classroom, a radio in the car on the right, the remote control ATV you gave your cousin for his 6th birthday. This is about how that came to be, how electricity was utilized by one the most intelligent man of the modern era, Nikola Tesla.
To have genuine integrity, you have to have some sort intelligence and perseverance. Having intelligence alone does not matter, but rather how you can use it, and how you can make a difference with it. Anyone who could take advantage of Tesla’s intelligence must do so to create a change for people. Perseverance is integral to have integrity because one needs it to conquer challenges and achieve their goals. Not only did Nikola Tesla utilize his intelligence to invent various electrical machines to revolutionize the planet, but he also possessed nonstop perseverance to achieve his goals and advance technology to help society. He demonstrated integrity through every step of inventing. He did not bend or break, and the struggles he won and breakthrough that happened were to better society and life; to create the world today as we know it.
Nikola Tesla was born to a modest home in Croatia in July 1856; his father was a reverend and his mother was illiterate. Although his parents weren’t engineering geniuses, they had inspired Tesla at a young age to become an inventor. He decided to take action in the scientific and mathematical fields which is where he acquired his love for electricity. This is also when Tesla took his first job as an electrical engineer and began to envision many inventions. However, with rising tension in Europe, he moved to Paris and eventually the United States of America. In the U.S. Tesla worked diligently for hours upon end, inventing, creating, perfecting his ideas. Nikola was the definition of hardworking, which made him perfect for a job with Thomas Edison, another electricity genius. Edison offered Tesla around $50,000 ($1.3 million in today’s money) if Tesla could redesign Edison’s inefficient motor and generators. So Nikola Tesla worked night and day to redesign Edison’s creations and gave him many profitable new patents along the way. But in 1885 when Tesla asked for his payment Edison gypped him, said that he was only joking and even refused to raise his salary from $18 to $25 a week. Edison had also never wanted to hear about Tesla’s AC polyphase designs, believing that DC electricity was the future. Tesla focused intently on his AC polyphase system, even after being fired. AC is alternating current, which means it travels at high voltage but doesn’t diminish over long distances. But before he created his own light and electricity company he also had to work again for the man who snubbed and cheated him and to help build his inferior DC system. Though broke and broken, Tesla got past this low point. By persevering despite his challenges and never losing hope, he was able to overcome obstacles to help the world.
Even Tesla’s failures are now crucial parts of our world. Despite the setbacks in his career and many pricey failed attempts Tesla never lost hope. Many of his ideas, even though he couldn’t put them into practice in his lifetime, survived him, including his idea that the world would one day communicate globally via wireless systems. His determination had let him stay true to himself. He didn’t give up and continue to be a slave for Edison. Tesla knows that to get the best results he needs to keep on it; ‘The scientific man does not aim at an immediate result. He does not expect that his advanced ideas will be readily taken up. His work is like that of the planter – for the future. His duty is to lay the foundation for those who are to come, and point the way. He lives and labors and hopes.’ (Nikola Tesla). Without Tesla’s diligent work habits and determination, he would not have been able to transform the world. He gave so much to the world around him while disregarding his personal desires. He gave out his ideas to society (for no charge) to improve life for society. Constantly working, Tesla was committed to inventing and making the world better for others. Tesla would go through failures after failure, through poverty and bad luck, and he managed to keep going. He relied on only himself, and lived a lonely life, but kept working to see things right. At the World Colombian Exposition Fair, Tesla used his AC electricity system and light bulbs to light up the fair, instead of Edison’s DC system. He fought for his patent of the first radio, which went originally to Marconi despite Tesla’s earlier and more notable contributions, for years until after his death when the courts granted him the patent. He continued to work with frequencies, electricity and filed many patents of inventions that have proved beneficial years after he died. Radar technology, helicopters, radio remote-controlled objects, and even electrical components on internal combustion engines. These aren’t even half of the stuff Tesla had invented.
Although Tesla was a little too late to hang out with Ralph Waldo Emmerson and Henry David Thoreau, I bet they would have highly respected Nikola. He reflects so many important values that these claimed Transcendentalists talk about. Such as hard work and perseverance, common values of Nikola. In Emerson’s Self-Reliance, Emmerson almost describes a man like Tesla: “A man is relieved and gay when he has put his heart into his work and done his best; but what he has said or done otherwise, shall give him no peace. It is a deliverance which does not deliver. In the attempt his genius deserts him; no muse befriends; no invention, no hope.” Even three blind mice could see how akin Tesla is with this type of work habit. Even when Tesla was old and lonely he kept on working. Sheer willpower allowed him to kickstart the 20th century to develop the technology that we have today. Using Nikola’s intelligence, he invented and perfected technology for all, and knew that in his ‘current war’ with Edison, Tesla’s AC system would serve the future better. He stayed true to himself, was determined to complete his own goals, or as Emerson would have said, “Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind. Absolve you to yourself, and you shall have the suffrage of the world.” To persevere against the inferior but almost dominating Edison’s DC system was Tesla’s way of going up and beyond, even in Thoreau’s mind, who wrote in Civil Disobedience, “It is not a man’s duty, as a matter of course, to devote himself to the eradication of any, even the most enormous wrong; he may still properly have other concerns to engage him; but it is his duty, at least, to wash his hands of it, and, if he gives it no thought longer, not to give it practically his support.” Not only did Tesla quit working for Edison, he competed with him to install the power lines for the country.
Other than endless contributions to ideas, concepts, and theories, Tesla’s AC lines help power the world. From the power plants to generators, to power grids, through cable lines, in your house and out of the wall socket, every step was initiated by Tesla. Radio, remote controls, loudspeakers, fluorescent lights, induction motor, wireless communication, and the infinite other inventions as a result of Nikola Tesla’s integrity, perseverance, and gifted abilities. So the little remote-controlled car on your desk, you can thank Tesla. The laptop you opened, the phone you call your friends with, the radio in your car, the electricity in your house, you can thank Nikola Tesla for.