You could astound yourself—if you try

Growing up in New York state, I saw lots of interesting sights: Niagara Falls, Watkins Glen, the 1,000 Islands in the St. Lawrence River, the Adirondacks, and New York City.
But one thing I missed seeing was the Chautauqua Institution.
Although my daughter has spent summers at Chautauqua for years, I visited only one time–in 1983. And I loved it!
Created in 1874 by John Heyl Vincent, a Methodist minister, and Lewis Miller, a wealthy inventor from Ohio, for the purpose of training Sunday School teachers, Chautauqua Institution since has become a favourite vacation spot for cultured people.
The grounds consist of 750 lightly-forested acres on the banks of Lake Chautauqua, close to Buffalo. In the winter, only a few hundred people are in residence. But over the course of the summer season, more than 100,000 attend public events.
For years, Chautauqua has presented speakers and musicians of national consequence. Franklin D. Roosevelt delivered his “I Hate War” speech from the Chautauqua Amphitheater platform in 1936.
George Gershwin composed his “Concerto in F” one summer at Chautauqua.
What I found most interesting was the stately Athenaeum Hotel, a 157-room hotel built in 1881. One of the first hotels to have electric lights, the Athenaeum was wired by none other than Thomas Edison, the son-in-law of Chautauqua Institution co-founder Lewis Miller.
Edison wired the Athenaeum shortly after he had perfected his long-lasting light bulb. One year later, he was able to flip a switch in New York City and 85 houses had electric lights for the first time.
Edison was a very prolific inventor and held 2,332 patents worldwide—even though he only had three months formal schooling. When his teacher said Edison was “addled,” his mother, a former schoolteacher, took him out of school and taught him herself.
Edison was an innovator from the beginning. Once he tried to hatch eggs by sitting on them. Another time he almost burned down the family’s barn by accident.
He also was very entrepreneurial. At age 12, Edison sold newspapers, candy, and sandwiches on passenger trains and hired other boys to work for him.
At 15, he published and sold a small newspaper. He worked to buy chemicals for his “experiments.”
At 16, he worked as a telegrapher. Always an innovator, he made improvements to telegraph technology.
Among Edison’s many other inventions were a moving picture camera, a cement mixer, electric motors, improvements to Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone, the electric typewriter, and the phonograph.
As a young man, Edison worked 20 hours a day. He said, “There’s no substitute for hard work.”
Edison died on Oct. 21, 1931. The evening of his funeral, the lights were dimmed for a short time at the White House, as well as in businesses and homes throughout the nation. His hard work had paid off.
Edison once said, “If we did the things we are capable of, we would astound ourselves.”
How about you? Are you doing what you are capable of? Just follow Edison’s example–work hard, keep searching for new solutions to old problems, and never give up.
You just may astound yourself.
Marie Snider is an award-winning health writer and syndicated columnist. Write her at