Creative Leadership

Samuel Morse’s Telegraph and Discovering Your One Big Thing

Around 1831, Samuel Morse was frustrated. He had given his life to be a painter—even traveled to Paris in pursuit of that dream. As historian David McCullough recounts in his book The Greater Journey, painting had been Morse’s dream since college and he had set his heart on that and that alone. Years before his preacher father, Jedidiah Morse, had counseled him with the advice:

Attend to one thing at a time. The steady and undissipated attention to one object is the sure mark of a superior genius.”

As a result, Morse threw himself into painting, but after a series of setbacks, he finally abandoned it. The crushing moment was his losing the appointment to paint a historic mural at the Capitol in Washington. With that lost, he gave up painting entirely.

As McCullough describes: “He must attend to one thing at a time, his father had preached. The “one thing” henceforth would be his telegraph, the crude apparatus for which was also to be found in his New York University studio apartment. Later it would be surmised that had he not stopped painting when he did, no successful electromagnetic telegraph would have happened when it did, or at least not a Morse electromagnetic telegraph.”

Relatively late in his career, Samuel Morse gave up painting to focus on inventing the telegraph and eventually a language called Morse code, which literally changed the world. Samuel Morse proved that it’s never too late to discover your One Big Thing.

The question is – what about you? It doesn’t matter your age – what matters is the determination to make that decision.

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2 Comments

  1. What if MY one big thing, is actually correcting the uncorrectable, meaning our beloved but extremely wayward Evangelical Clericalism?

    By Clericalism’s definition, it hasn’t, it doesn’t and it will not be corrected… because prophets are only to entertain and never, in love, chastise and rebuke.

    So, woe is me and my In That Day Teachings!

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