Posted in Freedom Friday, Other Things

Being of Value

Albert Einstein once said, “Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.”

I’ve never been much of a philosopher although I’m sure in past Freedom Friday posts I blurted a few words that may have made sense. For instance, I know success is a moving target. I’ve seen lots of folks chasing it, too. They’ve gone to great lengths in an attempt to get what they want and proclaim it a success. Have a look at some of the titles in bookstores. You’ll find shelves devoted to the topic of how to be successful. It’s a popular subject.

Albert Einstein
Albert Einstein

Getting back to Einstein, not many people know that in 1895, when Einstein was sixteen, he failed to achieve the required standard for the general portion of his Swiss Federal Polytechnic’s entrance exam in Zürich. He did obtain, however, stellar marks for physics and mathematics. Eventually, his studies led him to a four-year teaching diploma program in physics and mathematics. During that period, he met his future wife Mileva Marić who was the only female registered in the same program. Romance blossomed, and he graduated in 1900. But because of poor grades in mathematics, Marić failed to graduate with a teaching diploma.

Still with me? There’s a point to this mini-biography. Bear with me.

Now, Einstein married Marić in 1903 and produced two sons. What historians later found out is Einstein and Marić had a daughter in 1902. She ended up either adopted or died of scarlet fever as a baby. Either way, he never saw her because Marić was staying with her parents when she had given birth. In those days, pregnancy out of wedlock was a major stigma that would have caused loss of employment and social standing. In 1919, after having lived apart for five years, they divorced and he married his first cousin Elsa Löwenthal who later died in 1936 from heart and kidney problems.

Portrait of Albert Einstein
Portrait of Albert Einstein

Once out of school, Einstein was without work for two years, unable to find a position in the teaching profession. He later found a job with the Swiss Patent Office, which, although paid the bills, his superiors kept passing him over for promotion.

In the midst of his personal failures, loss of a child, marriage breakup, affair—he was seeing Löwenthal in 1912, two years before his separation from Marić—Einstein retained his sense of humor. He founded a self-mocking discussion group called The Olympia Academy, which focused on philosophy, and science. At the patent office, he also fielded questions regarding electrical-mechanical synchronization and electric signals that led him to sweeping conclusions about the nature of light, space and time.

The year 1905 was Einstein’s annus mirabilis or the miracle year, in some circles The Wonderful Year. He published four landmark papers in the Annalen der Physik, a German physics journal. These papers became the foundation of today’s modern physics. During this same year, Einstein came up with his now famous special theory of relativity equation e = mc².

It’s not difficult to see Einstein’s impact on our lives today. With his radical ideas on time and space, we wouldn’t have GPS (Global Positioning System) to tell us where we are and where we are going. We also wouldn’t have touch screens, which aided in the creation of this post. I’m sure as the years progress, scientists will discover more new applications for Einstein’s theories.

To me, though, Albert Einstein is an example of someone who loved what he did in spite of the personal and professional setbacks in his life. He contributed incredible ideas and became synonymous with the word genius. It’s been well over one hundred years since he revolutionized physics with his theory of relativity. And even though many may not remember his successes, the value of his gifts to our everyday life is priceless.


Did you know Einstein had so many failures to overcome?