Geniuses have a strong desire to work hard and long. They’re willing to give all they’ve got to a project. Develop your drive by focusing on your future success, and keep going.
Definition and Word Origin
Drive is the energy and determination you have to achieve things and your strong desire for success. Drive also includes having the power to act or take charge before others do. The word comes from the Old English drifan, meaning “to urge (a person or animal) to go forward.”
The Drive of Charles Goodyear
It was the early 1830s when rubber fever hit America. No one had ever seen anything like it. It was stretchy and waterproof and came from the mysterious jungles of South America. Everyone from New York to California wanted rubber shoes, rubber boots, and rubber jackets. Factories popped up to meet the rising demand, and great fortunes were made.
Excitement quickly turned to disappointment when the shoes, boots, and jackets froze solid in the winter and turned gooey in the summer. To make matters worse, when rubber melted, it stank. Refunds were given, factories were shut down, fortunes were lost. And just like that, rubber fever turned into the great rubber crash of 1834. Everyone gave up on rubber — everyone except Charles Goodyear.
Charles and his father owned a hardware store in Philadelphia. After years of success, their business ran into financial trouble in 1833, leaving the Goodyears in considerable debt and bankruptcy. This led Charles to decide to become a professional inventor, going on to create such things as new faucets and button-making machines. But none of his creations made money, and the Goodyears stayed in debt.
However, it was one invention, air valves, that led him to what would become his lifelong focus. He was visiting New York City when he came across a store selling inflatable life preservers. Upon examining them, he found their air valves to be of very poor quality. Knowing he could do better, he went home to Philadelphia, determined to devise a better valve.
Months later, he returned with an improved valve and presented it to the store clerk. Goodyear was told he should instead focus on the rubber itself because every one of the store’s life preservers had melted into sticky, stinky blobs.
Goodyear returned home, ready to work, his mind focused on rubber. Upon arriving, he was arrested and locked into debtors’ prison. This did not diminish his willingness to give it his all. He brought a few samples of rubber and his wife’s rolling pin to his cell and spent his days pressing, folding, and stretching the rubber, all in an effort to figure out its secrets.
After his stay in debtor’s prison, Goodyear returned to his loving family without a cent to his name. He sold many of his family’s possessions to put food on the table but remained focused on the rubber problem: how to make it stay strong and stretchy no matter the temperature.
For the next many years, despite hardships that would cripple most — moving his family from home to home, endless debt, constant charity, more time in debtor’s prisons, and nearly fatally poisoning himself in the lab — Goodyear stayed focused on solving the problem.
Without a doubt, his darkest days were in 1836 when William, his only son, passed away when he was just a toddler, becoming the third of Charles’s and Clarissa’s children to pass away in infancy. During this period, he remained focused, “My anticipations of ultimate success never changed, nor were my hopes for a moment depressed.”1
Finally, after years of focused drive, some luck came Goodyear’s way. He was mixing rubber sap with sulfur and accidentally dropped the mixture onto a hot stove. When he removed the blob from the heated surface, it felt leathery and stretchable. He tested it in both cold and heat, and it stayed strong. He had done it!
Unfortunately, he didn’t understand exactly what happened. What was the temperature of the stove? How long did the process take? How much sulfur was the right amount? For the next many days, he tried to recreate the process without success. These unsuccessful experiments stretched on for weeks and then months. When he ran out of fuel to burn at home, he found local blacksmiths willing to lend their furnaces to him at the end of their workdays. When furnaces weren’t available, he turned his wife’s kitchen into a lab. He baked rubber in bread pans, dangled it over steaming teapots, toasted it in the oven.
This trial and error continued until he perfected the process. Then on June 15, 1844, five years after his accidental discovery, Goodyear was awarded the US patent for his rubber-making process, which later became known as vulcanization — named after the Roman god of fire. He spent the next many years creating various everyday things from rubber: small household items, furniture, medical instruments, and more. This may have been what pleased Goodyear the most, “I have taken great satisfaction in trying to invent and improve articles of necessity and convenience for the use of man.”
He showed off his creations in a huge display he called the “Goodyear Vulcanite Court” and took it to the world’s biggest fairs: London 1851, Paris 1855. These events won him great praise and awards: The Great Council Medal in London, The Grand Medal of Honor in Paris, and the Cross of the Legion of Honor — presented to him by the Emperor of France — in recognition of his services as a public benefactor.
Because Goodyear gave it all he had and always focused on future success, rubber makes the world go round: from the tires on millions of cars to the soles on billions of shoes to the covers of trillions of wires.
YOU ARE A GENIUS
With future success in mind, Charles knew exactly what he wanted and kept going. What important projects are you willing to work long and hard for? What future successes will you have?