Looking Back Can Make You Sick and Lonely
Robert Kearns, the inventor of intermittent windshield wipers, died on February 9, 2005 at the age of 77. He died of brain cancer complicated by Alzheimer’s disease. Kearns got the inspiration for the intermittent wiper from an incident that happened when he was 26 years old. He developed his idea, received a patent in 1967 and was offered $20 million in the early 70s from Ford Motor Company, who was already using a form of intermittent wipers.
Kearns decided to sue them instead, and dedicated the rest of his life to legal battles with the automakers. He fired his attorneys, and his wife left him as he became obsessed with stopping the automakers from using his idea. His daughter said, “His life was simply this battle.”
30 years after being offered the $20 million he settled for $10 million – and proceeded to use the entire amount on his continued legal battle with the automakers.
Although Kearns had a doctorate in engineering from Case Western Reserve University, we know nothing about him other than this sad story of his bitter legal battles. What other useful and profitable inventions did he miss because of his singular focus on this fight? What did he miss in his role as a father to six children, blinded by the anger of his daily life? What would he have experienced in a fulfilling marriage if his emotional energy had not been drained by this constant anger? What part did his rage play in opening the door to cancer and Alzheimer’s disease?
Have you seen this same scenario in someone you know? Someone who got fired and is now spending all their time thinking up ways to sue the company and make them suffer. Someone who was wronged in a relationship and now continued to harbor anger and resentment toward that person. I know an inmate who upon his release sued the state because the temperature wasn’t regulated according to his desires while imprisoned. (He’s now back in prison because he assumed he was “owed” other things that didn’t belong to him.)
Anytime I meet someone who is feeling angry, discouraged, frustrated, depressed or guilty, I know they are looking back at what has already happened. If they can get clear on where they are going and define what a positive future would be, we see a release of enthusiasm, optimism, boldness and confidence.
Which direction are you looking in? Your emotions and interactions with others will tell you.
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