Potential and Color Polaroids

Thought of the Week

Before you dismiss your own potential or someone else’s, consider this: The man who invented instant color photography for Polaroid was originally a college dropout who worked at a gas station.

In 1935, Howard Rogers left Harvard because his father had lost his job and Howard felt that he “wasn’t getting enough out of college to want to work [his] way through.” So he got work pumping gas for $25/week, a job that was equally unfulfilling.

That’s when he was connected with Edwin Land—the founder of Polaroid—who hired him after a single interview over ice cream sodas. Rogers saw working for Land as “a chance to learn some science and solve some problems.” Incidentally, the new job dropped his income to just $10/week.

Following the introduction of black and white Polaroid photography, Rogers asked Land if he could tackle the next step: instant color. From then, it was 15 years before the first Polaroid color film was sold. Describing the unique challenges they were encountering with the science, Land once said, “I was going to say failure, but the beauty of science, of course, is that one never fails, one only moves on to the next experiment.”

Perhaps we could cultivate a similar optimism about ourselves and others. Who is the Howard Rogers you’re overlooking?

(The details and quotations above come from the excellent book, Insisting On the Impossible by Victor K. McElheny.

Seeing Good at Work

An organization that sees potential where others overlook it is GenesysWorks, a social venture that helps teens from low-income backgrounds develop successful careers through skills training, internships, and college/career coaching.

Thousands of kids around the United States have benefitted, landing well-paid jobs at some of the biggest companies in the country. A Columbia University study estimates that $1 invested in GenesysWorks generates over $13 of economic return for its participants.