Tiny paper clip, huge lessons

Tiny paper clip, huge lessons

My mind started wandering one afternoon during my summer internship. I'd been given the task of checking and approving the specifications of goods received and distributed from the warehouse - an essential but very boring job.

Then my eye chanced upon a paper clip I was mindlessly using to bind these important documents together while working my way through the massive pile.

The paper clip is one of the most widely used items in an office and the most easily overlooked - until you run out and have no other alternatives.

That got me wondering: how was this simple bent wire - a small piece of genius - invented?

There's some dispute as to who came up with the idea of bending wire to attach sheets of paper together.

The practice of fastening papers dates back to as early as the 13th century, when people threaded ribbons through parallel cuts in the upper left corner of pages to bind them together.

One story is that the modern paper clip was created by a Norwegian inventor, Johan Vaaler, who drew the design as early as 1899. However, because Norway had no patent law at that time, he only obtained an American patent in 1901 - and by then, there already were similar designs on the market.

It got me thinking: how often do we put too much emphasis on academic success and chasing stable jobs in the illusion that this will get us closer to our life goals?

Vaaler is said to have studied electronics, science and maths - very admirable subjects.

But the difference between him and most other people is that he applied his knowledge to create a solution to a daily problem, not just for his own gain.

We can settle for doing a job and climbing up the corporate ladder without applying what we've learned.

But when every graduate has a shining CV, what can we do to stand out and feel fulfilled?

Providing a solution to a practical problem at least means you've made a small difference to the world.

Opportunities are all around if we open our eyes instead of slaving away, exchanging our time purely for money.

There's more to life than simply hoping for riches. Make use of your knowledge, and you could make someone else's dreams come true as well as your own.


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