What Alexander Graham Bell knew that Elisha Gray Didn’t

Sharks patrol these waters

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Mezrich’s bestselling book on the most successful startup in history proved that for certain industries, it’s not about quality of product or even corporate strategy, it was about who got there first. It was a land grab, and the losers came late to the plains.

But the first versus finest debate reaches beyond the world of internet startups.

I’m reminded of the invention of the telephone. Bell, believe it not, wasn’t the original innovator. Gray actually recorded his schematics for the exact same invention about six weeks before his counterpart. Unfortunately, on that fateful day, he showed up to the patent office two hours after his competitor, and missed the chance to become one of the most influential inventors in modern history.

Two hours. That’s all it took.

In fact, the patent office issued a memo on that day, and here’s what it said.

Gray was undoubtedly the first to conceive of and disclose the invention, but his failure to take any action amounting to completion until others had demonstrated the utility of the invention deprives him of the right to have it considered.

Ouch. Talk about a wakeup call.

The point is, it’s not about being the finest, it’s about being the first. Talent takes a backseat to timing.

The only caveat is, once you’ve gone into the water, you have to keep swimming. Anyone lucky enough to gain first mover advantage has to keep doubling down. They have to constantly reinvent, continuously invest and continue to lead. Because even if you are at the right place at the right time, the place change, and the time will move forward.

Sandman was right. Sharks patrol these waters. Sharks patrol these waters. Stay in your lifeboats people. It’s murder out there.

Are you the first or just the finest?

For a copy of the list called, “26 Ways to Practice Being Yourself,” send an email to me, and you win the list for free!

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Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag
Author. Speaker. Strategist. Inventor. Filmmaker. Publisher. Songwriter.

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