June 10, 2014

Genius is one percent inspiration – or maybe two…


“Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.”
       Attributed to
Thomas Alva Edison (1847-1931)
       American inventor and businessman 
       This well-known witticism (often given without the word “and” after “inspiration”) is traditionally credited to Thomas Edison. He did say some things like it. But those exact words do not appear in his writings or in his recorded speeches or interviews. The first mention of a definition of genius by Edison is in an article about him in
the April 1898 issue of the Ladies Home Journal. A paragraph in that article says:
       “Once, when asked to give his definition of genius, Mr. Edison replied: ‘Two per cent is genius and ninety-eight per cent is hard work.’ At another time, when the argument that genius was inspiration was brought before him, he said: ‘Bah! Genius is not inspired. Inspiration is perspiration.’” 
       An article
in a 1902 issue of Scientific American claimed that Edison once remarked: “Genius is 2 percent inspiration and 98 percent perspiration,” but it gave no source for the quote. That 2%/98% definition was also mentioned in a 1908 biography of Edison and a 1911 article in Chamber’s Journal — without providing any information on when Edison supposedly said it. Then in 1932, a year after Edison died, an article Harper's Monthly Magazine noted that sometime around 1902 or 1903 Edison said: “Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration.” No source for the quote was given by Harper’s. However, this version became legendary and is cited by many books and websites (often giving Harper’s Monthly Magazine as the source).


“Life is one percent what happens to you, and ninety-nine percent how you respond to it.”
       Shubhra Krishan
       Indian born American journalist, author and holistic health advocate
       In her book Essential Ayurveda (2003). Quoting something she’d read.


“Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent obdurate stupidity.”
John C. Gardner (1933-1982)
       American scholar and novelist 
       A line attributed to a fictional writer in Gardner’s novel Stillness and Shadows (1986)


“Sex is like crime. Only one percent motivation and ninety-nine percent opportunity.”
Len Deighton  
       British novelist and historian
       In his novel Mexico Set (1985)


“Assassination is one percent shooting, ninety-nine percent preparation.” 
Jeffrey Donovan (as former spy Michael Westen)
       In the
“False Flag” episode of Burn Notice (Season 1, Ep. 10)


“Succeeding in this business is ninety-nine percent perseverance and one percent talent. Congratulations, gentlemen, you’re ninety-nine percent of the way there.”  
Bob Balaban (as the character Arthur Planck)
       In the movie Dedication (2007)

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