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Alexander Graham Bell aimed high. In 1876 his first message over his new telephone was, “Mr. Watson. Come here. I want to see you.”

When Mr. Watson heard him, the 29 year-old Bell rushed to the correct government office with his phone patent, beating a competitor by only a few hours, and launching an invention that would change communication into the Twenty-First Century. The next year, Bell married Mabel and formed the Bell Telephone Company, thereby providing his family with a substantial income for the rest of their lives.

Blessed with an abiding intellectual curiosity, Alexander Graham Bell developed and tested ideas for kites, sheep-breeding, desalinization techniques, water distillation, and a metal breathing device, forerunner of the iron lung.

Bell invented a “photophone,” a device transmitting sound over a beam of light. He considered the photophone his most important invention, perhaps for good reason, for it became a precursor to modern laser and fiber optics technology. Bell spent the latter years of his life working on flight machines, and his hydrofoil set a water speed record in 1919 that remained unsurpassed until 1963.

Fame and fortune were not Alexander Graham Bell’s goals, yet he received and achieved them. Discovery and invention were his goals. He became a great American scientist and success story because he used all of his considerable talents. He took risks and he worked diligently. He developed and applied his vision for a different tomorrow. Through it all he remained a man of notable character.

Bell defined a particularly attractive kind of “success”—talent plus work ethic plus character. We have some “Alexander Graham Bell’s” among us today but not enough. When you add the character element the pool of worthies shrinks quickly.

It seems as if not a month goes by without hearing of some highly talented and “successful” individual whose character, or lack of it, has brought them low, tainting their reputation and legacy, e.g., Tiger Woods, Mel Gibson, authors of bestsellers later charged with plagiarism or lies, Lindsay Lohan, multiple affairs of numerous political leaders like former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, Bernie Madoff. This list goes on.

Talent matters. Everyone’s been blessed with multi-talent potential. This we can choose to develop.

Character matters too. This we develop, intentionally or not, one decision at a time. Bell did both throughout his life. So can we.


© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2011

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