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The 20 Best Nikola Tesla Quotes That Apply to Business

Nikola Tesla

Nikola Tesla is a name that is known in the science and technology community. He was a Serbian-American physicist, electrical and mechanical engineer, inventor, and futurist who made significant contributions to science and technology. He left us with design schemes for modern alternating current electricity which are the basis of our current AC electricity supply systems, and he also imparted a great deal of wisdom for those who would follow in his footsteps. Here are the 20 best Nikola Tesla quotes that apply to business.

20. “I don't care that they stole my idea... I care that they don't have any of their own”

In business, it's common for entrepreneurs to learn about the works of those who have inspired their passions. It's not out of line to take a great idea and expand on it, so long as no copyright infringements occur. Tesla didn't have a problem with this, but he did take issue with those who were unoriginal in their approach. It's okay to refer to the groundwork laid by others, but if you want to truly succeed, you need to have your own unique ideas and put them into action instead of riding on the coattails of others.

19. “The scientists of today think deeply instead of clearly. One must be sane to think clearly, but one can think deeply and be quite insane.”

There is a difference between deep thinking and seeing a clear picture in business. While the theory is helpful in understanding how things work, we can waste a lot of time in conjecture, arguing over things that are not productive. Simplification of a problem, finding the solution, then getting down to the brass tacks of taking action is better than spending too much time in rhetoric. In business, time is money, and using the time to advantage will get you further than pontificating about deep theory when there is a simpler solution at hand.

18. “The day science begins to study non-physical phenomena, it will make more progress in one decade than in all the previous centuries of its existence.”

Tesla was warning that there is more to a situation than meets the eye. If we only look at what we see in a situation, we miss some very important details. In the modern business world, we must also consider the human factor in an equation. This makes situations and potential outcomes less predictable.

17. “Be alone, that is the secret of invention; be alone, that is when ideas are born.”

In business, it's good to solicit the input of others and to hear their opinions, however, there are times when too many people involved in a process can slow things down. When you have a problem to solve in business, gather the information, but make sure that you have time to be alone to consider the best solutions. Often, we do our best thinking when we're alone and not influenced by distraction. It can help to achieve greater focus and concentration.

16. “The present is theirs; the future, for which I really worked, is mine.”

When it comes to invention, whether it be an electronic device or technology, a new drug to treat illness, or a new business model, you need to look ahead to the future. It's important to live in the present, but some of the most creative solutions have come from looking into the future to consider the needs that will evolve through natural processes, and how your plans must be made in anticipation to meet these needs. Some of the best inventions in the world have been made by looking towards the future.

15. “What we now want is closer contact and better understanding between individuals and communities all over the earth, and the elimination of egoism and pride which is always prone to plunge the world into primeval barbarism and strife... Peace can only come as a natural consequence of universal enlightenment...”

In the workplace, it's important to consider that we're all different in some ways, and this is a great benefit. Understanding that there is value in diversity is a good place to start. When we let go of our pride and ego and realize that everyone has something of value to contribute to a project or company, some great solutions can come of it.

14. "Let the future tell the truth, and evaluate each one according to his work and accomplishments."

The things that we do in business today will affect us in the future. Our actions will yield results. There may be positive or negative consequences, but the future certainly does reveal the effectiveness of our efforts in the quality of the outcomes.

13. "Our virtues and our failings are inseparable, like force and matter."

We're all human and nobody is perfect. We do some things well but when we try, we sometimes make mistakes. This is just a fact of life and in business, perfection is something that we strive for, but it's not always attainable. Tesla is pointing out that it's a part of the human condition. We're not pre-programmed robots, but we can continue to build our skills and improve. When you do fail, realize it's not the end of the world.

12. "All that was great in the past was ridiculed, condemned, combated, suppressed — only to emerge all the more powerfully, all the more triumphantly from the struggle."

A more modern interpretation fo this quote is to stop listening to the haters. If you have a good idea that you believe in, don't listen to those who make fun of you or try to get in your way. The battles that are the hardest to win are often the sweetest when you finally achieve victory. Even if they put you down while you're pursuing your dream, keep moving forward. It seems that there is always someone who sees the flaws in your plans whether they exist or not.

11. "Invention is the most important product of man’s creative brain."

In business, there are times when we need to get creative in our problem-solving. Even if you're not a great inventor like Tesla, you can still come up with some great solutions, that are in essence, inventions. This can apply to a new business plan, a new process for increasing productivity, and so forth. We invent solutions through our creativity and in Tesla's mind, this was the most important thing we do.

10. "But instinct is something which transcends knowledge. We have, undoubtedly, certain finer fibers that enable us to perceive truths when logical deduction, or any other willful effort of the brain, is futile."

There are times in the business world when you simply need to trust your gut. Some of the best decisions in business have been made by going on an instinctual feeling versus trusting what someone has presented as fact. There are a lot of different things that factor into a gut feeling. It's prior knowledge of a person or situation and with a person who is experienced in business, if something doesn't feel right, there is probably a good reason for this. If your instincts are telling you that you should hesitate, or that you should take swift action, it might be wise to heed your internal warning system.

9. "Most persons are so absorbed in the contemplation of the outside world that they are wholly oblivious to what is passing on within themselves."

It's easy to become distracted by what's going on in the world around you. This can be detrimental for entrepreneurs who get caught up in things that don't pertain to the effective running of a new business. The battlefield is truly in the mind and when we become distracted by anything on the outside that interferes with goal achievement, it can prevent you from seeing important details. It's important to remain focused on your goals and to block out distractions.

8. "Today's scientists have substituted mathematics for experiments, and they wander off through equation after equation, and eventually build a structure which has no relation to reality."

The world we're living in is becoming more technical, and while this is a good thing in some regard, it can interfere with common sense. Technology does have its limitations and in some instances, there is no substitute for the human element and our ability to reason and problem-solve in ways that machines or software systems cannot. This was proven when a Japanese automaker switched from human labor to automation in assembly. They realized the mistake and went back to the previous way of doing things when the quality of the build went down. It might look good on paper but the results can be disappointing. Tesla is saying, keep it real and applicable to the real world.

7. "By an irony of fate, my first employment was as a draughtsman. I hated drawing; it was for me the very worst of annoyances. Fortunately, it was not long before I secured the position I sought, that of chief electrician to the telephone company."

If you're unhappy in your current job, it's time to start looking for something you will enjoy more. If you spend years in an occupation you hate, you might earn a paycheck, but you're not likely to be happy or to benefit the company you work for as much as you would another employer who offers you work you enjoy. There's a lot to be said for job satisfaction and overall success.

6. "With ideas, it is like with dizzy heights you climb: At first they cause you discomfort and you are anxious to get down, distrustful of your own powers; but soon the remoteness of the turmoil of life and the inspiring influence of the altitude calm your blood; your step gets firm and sure and you begin to look - for dizzier heights."

Even if you're afraid to take a chance, it's something that will be good for you. The first few times you stretch your wings and move outside of your comfort zone in business, it's going to be frightening. Just ask any entrepreneur. But as you continue to move forward, it actually becomes a thrilling experience because you see that you truly are capable of more than you believed. You learn a lot about yourself and it can inspire greater self-confidence as you hone your business skills and gain new experiences.

5. "Archimedes was my ideal. I admired the works of artists, but to my mind, they were only shadows and semblances. The inventor, I thought, gives to the world creations which are palpable, which live and work."

Tesla wasn't afraid to be a dreamer and look to the future, but for all of his forward-thinking, he maintained practicality. The inventions that he worked on were meant to be more than novelties. He sought to provide something useful that had real-life applications. His head was never in the clouds, although some thought his plans mad. He proved them wrong.

4. "As in nature, all is ebb and tide, all is wave motion, so it seems that in all branches of industry, alternating currents - electric wave motion - will have the sway"

Tesla was defending his work with alternating currents. He saw that in the future this technology would have a major impact on all industries and he was correct in his assumptions. He set an example for everyone in the business to follow by believing in his ideas and seeing their potential for changing the world. Tesla saw how his invention was supported by nature itself, as well as by the natural evolution of societies and industry. He saw the interconnectedness of all things.

3. “Anti-social behavior is a trait of intelligence in a world full of conformists.”

The person that might come across as being the odd-man-out, too focused on his work to be a part of office gossip may not be the most popular person at the company, but he is likely to be one of the most successful in business. If you do judge a book by its cover then at least be fair when you do. It's human nature to judge, and if there is someone who doesn't engage in social activities that person is likely to be excluded as a member of the group, but anti-social behavior might just indicate that this guy is serious about his job and not interested in becoming a part of the herd. Give credit where it's due and don't be quick to judge when it comes to the value of a person on a team by their social interactions.

2. "Every living being is an engine geared to the wheelwork of the universe. Though seemingly affected only by its immediate surrounding, the sphere of external influence extends to infinite distance.”

We are all influenced by our environment. This is one of the reasons there has been so much investigation into creating a company culture and creating a productive workplace environment. It's one of the first things that you study in a business management program in the college. The environment you work in can be motivating or it can make you miserable and less productive.

1. “The scientific man does not aim at an immediate result. He does not expect that his advanced ideas will be readily taken up. His duty is to lay the foundation for those who are to come, and point the way.”

In business, we go about our everyday tasks and we know that the work we do is not always going to yield immediate results. It takes time for good things to happen, but if everyone does their part, it lays the foundation for those who come behind to build upon. The results are eventually seen in the outcomes. This applies to most segments of business.

Dana Hanson

Written by Dana Hanson

Dana has extensive professional writing experience including technical and report writing, informational articles, persuasive articles, contrast and comparison, grant applications, and advertisement. She also enjoys creative writing, content writing on nearly any topic (particularly business and lifestyle), because as a lifelong learner, she loves to do research and possess a high skill level in this area. Her academic degrees include AA social Sci/BA English/MEd Adult Ed & Community & Human Resource Development and ABD in PhD studies in Indust & Org Psychology.

Read more posts by Dana Hanson

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