Just before he invented the telephone, Bell was having a devil of a time convincing his boss that it would be worthwhile. His sponsor was deeply in debt and desperate for commercial success, and his rivals— Elisha Gray and Thomas Edison among them—were breathing down his neck.
Bell analyzed his competition and kept running. Here’s what he wrote to his parents:
“It is a neck and neck race between Mr. Gray and myself who shall complete our apparatus first. He has the advantage over me in being a practical electrician—but I have reason to believe that I am better acquainted with the phenomena of sound than he is—so that I have an advantage there. … The very opposition seems to nerve me to work and I feel with the facilities I have now I may succeed.”
By willing himself on, he did.
—Adapted from Reluctant Genius: Alexander Graham Bell and the Passion for Invention, Charlotte Gray, Arcade Publishing.