In a previous article I wrote about what we can learn from the invention of the steam engine. In this article I’m going to take that goal achievement point a bit further…
There’s a link to that previous article at the bottom, but it basically covered the invention of the Thomas Newcomen atmospheric steam engine, by Thomas Newcomen. Imagine the coincidence for it to be invented by someone with the same name!
Anyhoo, that invention kick started the industrial revolution in 1712 which changed the world. It was so innovative and so widely accepted that it held sway for 50 odd years.
In 1763, a model of this engine used to teach students was sent to be repaired, sent to a man named James Watt. Watt set about repairing the model, but it soon occurred to him that he could tweak the engineering to improve it.
Without getting too technical, he worked out that the operation to condense the steam could be done in a separate chamber as opposed to the same chamber in the Newcomen version. This would make the whole thing much more efficient, making it smaller and needing less coal to power it.
Watt’s business partner Matthew Bolton had the idea of taking out a patent, and requiring anyone who used it to pay them a percentage of any energy cost saving.
That made them rich. Very rich.
That’s because although people hated paying the commissions, they knew that the energy savings were still well worth it financially. This engine really got the revolution working, because many machines could now be powered by the same engine, which led to the rise of the factory.
The workers got a steady wage, so had money to spend on the goods which were now cheaper to buy, thanks to the lower energy cost to make them en masse. As well as Watt and Bolton getting rich, it made Great Britain rich too.
In the same way that Newcomen’s engine had held sway for 50 years, so did the Watt version, but it was inevitable that someone would come along with a new development.
That someone was Richard Trevithick. With the help of his blacksmith father in law, he came up with a cylindrical container strong enough to hold high pressure steam, meaning the steam pressure itself was strong enough to power the pistons of an engine, totally bypassing the need for a condenser.
If that wasn’t enough, he also worked out that if he heated the water via a tube *in* the water, not only was the efficiency ramped up further, but it was something that could now be put on wheels.
That meant powered travel in 1804, leading to the railway, and the rest as they say, is history!
I was lapping all this information up when I watched the documentary on TV, I found it fascinating, and it rams home some points I make over and over about goal achievement and self improvement…
Sometimes you just don’t need to come up with anything new, you can simply use a technique someone else has worked out, follow along in the footsteps of others. There’s nothing wrong with that, and it can lead to some amazing life adventures and achievements.
Sometimes though, you *can* come up with someone that shakes the accepted ideas, that pushes boundaries. It’s well over 300 years since the Newcomen engine, but does that mean invention is dried up, that anything that can be invented, has been?
Of course not. New inventions come along all the time – some of them may fade away without lasting impact, while some of them will become the new standard, in the same way the Watt engine overtook the Newcomen, and Trevithick’s overtook Watt‘s.
Analysis plus action, equals achievement. A powerful formula indeed.
Look to your own goals – will you need to push barriers, create new frontiers, or will it be enough to add your own personality to methods already out there and established? I’d love to hear from you, telling me which option will get you moving full steam ahead!
‘Til next time,
Health & Happiness,
P.S. Here’s that previous article – Goal Achievement – Building Up A Head Of Steam!