Opinion

Opinion: Exemplars of Greatness: The Nikola Tesla Story

By Tolulope A. Adegoke

“A hero can be anyone…anyone who can show courage when faced with a problem. A hero is someone who is willing to help others in his or her best capacity.” Ricky Martin

Last week edition was titled “From Zero to HERO”, there in, we explored the principles and strategies for becoming a paragon of greatness. We have savoured the process of transitioning from the ditch to the peak, from grass to grace, from nothing to something, from the cross to the crown, from shame to fame, from story to glory, from the valley to the mountain, from the ground to the sky, from tests to testimonies and from Zero to HERO!

Now, we must get to the more practical aspect of illustrating the principles we have discussed so far by examining the lives of some carefully selected heroes (you may also call them trailblazers and game-changers) across the world who are making extraordinary impacts, due to their decision to harness their potentials for the good of mankind. As an added advantage, we shall be learning directly from them as they recount their experiences and offer timeless tips on attaining greatness.

Nikola Tesla was born on July 10, 1856, in what is now Smiljan, Croatia. He was one of five children, which included siblings Dane, Angelina, Milka and Marica, in the family.

Tesla’s interest in electrical invention was spurred by his mother, Djuka Mandic, who invented small household appliances in her spare time, while her son was growing up. Tesla’s father, Milutin Tesla, was a Serbian priest and writer. He often pushed for his son to join the priesthood. But Nikola’s interests lay squarely in the sciences. He studied at the Real Schule, Karlstadt, the Polytechnic Institute in Graz, Austria, and the University of Prague. Thereafter, during the 1870s, he moved to Budapest, where, for a time, he worked at the Central Telephone Exchange. It was while in Budapest that the idea for the induction motor first came to him, but after several years of trying to attract interest in his invention, Tesla decided to leave Europe for America at the age of 28.

In 1884, Tesla arrived the United States with little more than clothes on his back and a letter of introduction to famed inventor and business mogul, Thomas Edison, whose DC (Direct Current)-based electrical works were fast becoming the standard in the country. Edison “hired” Tesla, and the two men were soon working tirelessly alongside each other, making improvements to Edison’s inventions.

However, several months later, the two parted ways due to a conflicting business-scientific relationship, attributed by historians to their incredibly different personalities: while Edison was a power figure who focused on marketing and financial success, Tesla was commercially out-of-tune and somewhat vulnerable. Tesla discovered and invented the AC (Alternative Current)-based electrical works. He informed his boss (Edison) about it, but Edison ignored it because he saw the Alternative Current as an impossible invention. Besides, he considered that even if it was possible, it would not be safe for public consumption due to its massive voltage and current.

Rather than encouraging Tesla and finding means of putting resources together to advance the AC, Edison was so engrossed with the financial success of his DC invention that he was blinded to the future possibilities of the so-called ‘impossible’ AC of Tesla. This was why Tesla was left with no other choice than to part ways with his boss.

After parting ways with Edison, Tesla kept on working on his invention. He saw possibilities in it and saw the timely need to chase his dreams. He wrote several letters to potential investors (businessmen) across the United States for funding. He eventually received funding for the Tesla Electric Light Company and was tasked by his investors to develop improved arc lighting. After successfully doing so, however, Tesla was forced out of the venture and for a time, had to work as a manual labourer – a zero – in order to survive.

Fortunately, his destiny was re-launched in 1887, when he was able to find more interests in his AC electrical system and funding for his new Tesla Electric Company. Setting straight to work, by the end of the year, Tesla had successfully filed several patents for AC- based inventions.

Tesla’s AC system eventually caught the attention of American engineer and businessman, George Westinghouse, who was seeking a solution to supplying the nation with long-distance power. Convinced that Tesla’s inventions would help him achieve this, he, in 1888, purchased Tesla’s patents for $60,000 in cash, as well as stocks in the Westinghouse Corporation. As interest in an Alternating Current System grew, Tesla and Westinghouse were put in direct competition with Thomas Edison, who was bent on selling his DC current to the nation. A negative press campaign was soon waged by Edison, in an attempt to undermine interest in AC power.

Tesla, on his part continued his work and would patent several more inventions during this period, including the Tesla coil, which laid the foundation for wireless technologies and is still used in radio technology today.

Unfortunately for Thomas Edison, the Westinghouse Corporation was chosen to supply the lighting at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, and Tesla conducted demonstrations of his AC system there. Two years later, in 1895, Tesla designed what was among the first AC hydro-electric power plant in the United States, at the Niagara Falls. The following year, it was used to power the city of Buffalo, New York, a feat that was highly publicised throughout the world. With its repeat successes and favourable press, the Alternating Current system became the preeminent power system of the 20th century, and it has remained the worldwide standard ever since.

Nikola Tesla, therefore, can be said to have transited from being a zero to being a HERO! He did not give up on his dream despite all odds. He did not let his dream end up as a dream; rather, he pushed through, relentlessly empowered his potentials (zero), and planted his ‘seed’ in the fertile land of the United States of America. He discovered his strength and worked on his weak points, even in the midst of storms. He weathered the storms, discovered his actual location (fertile land) and moved out of his comfort zone to the land where God showed him, just like the biblical Abraham. He then carved a niche for himself! Even when Tesla got to his promised land (United States), he encountered greater storms (giants) which came in form of relegation, frustration, intimidation, disappointment, delay and lack, among others; yet he surmounted all in turning his dreams into reality!  Tesla worked and walked his way indefatigably into the future against all odds, with his dreams intact, well empowered, then, emerged a global HERO even above his former boss, Thomas Edison.  Tesla chased excellence, then success chased him! He knew financial prosperity would eventually locate him after he had done his own part of the deal, by perfecting his gifts and skills to excellence (the law of zero to hero).

I tell you, friend, you too can rise from your present level to an exceedingly glorious and influential one. This is the will of God for you.

Exemplars of Greatness Series continues next week…

Watch out for the Book titled: “The Power of an Empowered Zero” (From Zero to HERO) by Tolulope A. Adegoke. Foreword by Dr Yomi Garnett (CEO/Chancellor, Royal Biographical Institute, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania U.S.A., U.K., Abuja, Nigeria.) Edited by Ola Aboderin.

Tolulope A. Adegoke is an acclaimed “globalpreneur”, with the mandate to enrich lives and provide the professional, spiritual, academic and leadership empowerment needed to birth, maximize and sustain possibilities in peoples, corporates and nations. He is a prolific writer, frequent keynote speaker and spoken word poet, among others, having written countless articles in diverse reputable fields and honoured many public invitations.

He is also a Senior Administrator.

Tolulope Adegoke can be booked for public events via the contacts below:

E-mail: adegoketolulope1022@gmail.com

globalstageimpacts@gmail.com

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