Dixie Darr

In creativity, Learning, work on January 13, 2009 at 9:15 pm

Persistence Pays

Bruce Johnson, the inventor of BreatheRight nasal strips describes in a commercial how he tried everything he could think of to open up his nasal passages and allow him to get a good night’s sleep. Among other materials, he tried padded paperclips and straws fitted inside his nostrils. Finally it dawned on him that he needed something to apply to the outside of his nose and BreatheRight strips were born.

Of course, it wasn’t quite that easy (it never is). First, he had to create a prototype and then make the rounds trying to sell it. Even after it finally sold to CNS, it took two more years to hit the shelves. The company sent samples to NFL trainers, and when it started showing up on football players, it really took off.

Johnson’s story illustrates several principles of innovation. First, Johnson is an engineer, and he spent time and effort trying to solve a problem he shared with millions of others. When his first ideas didn’t work, he didn’t give up; he persisted, trying different things until he finally found the solution. Being laughed out of a number of companies didn’t stop him either.

These are qualities I don’t see enough in my students. Too many of them expect to hit a home run their first time at bat. If they don’t earn an A on the first assignment, they get mad or give up. They blame me or the textbook or the university or anybody they can come up with—except themselves.

The students I like the most are the ones who utilize my feedback to focus their studies and try harder the next time. They accept responsibility for their own learning and seem determined to wring every bit of learning possible out of their education. God bless ‘em.

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