Ah, they’ll never, they’ll never ever reach the moon,
at least not the one that we’re after;
it’s floating broken on the open sea, look out there, my friends,
and it carries no survivors.
Let’s Sing Another Song, Boys by Leonard Cohen
I was listening to this old song tonight (incredible fact!: I owned the vinyl LP of “Songs of Love and Hate” by Leonard Cohen and played it all the time as a teenager) and the song struck me as a bit more uplifting and funny than it did when I was an angsty sixteen-year-old.
I chuckled tonight at the line from the song I quote above, I suppose because I know now that it can sometimes be very good, and often even better, to find something else when you are looking for a particular thing.
Just ask Roy J. Plunkett, who discovered Teflon, everyone’s favourite non-stick cooking surface, when he was actually trying to develop a new gas for refrigeration.
Or ask James Schlatter, who was attempting to develop a test for an anti-ulcer drug when he developed the very popular sweetener known to most of us as Aspartame.
Or consider one of my favourite examples: the scientist at 3M that was trying to develop a strong adhesive, but developed a pretty weak one, and ended up spurring the genesis of the now-ubiquitious Post-it note.
My message for you this evening is simple: have a goal, but seek opportunity in each unexpected quirk that your investigation takes.