In 1884, an ingenious young man, who had already invented the amplifier and the induction motor, came to America where he was given a job by Thomas Edison at Edison Machine Works in New York City. That young man was Austrian-born Nikola Tesla.
His work for Edison began with simple electrical engineering. However, soon Tesla had solved many of Edison's most difficult problems, including redesigning the direct current generators.
Tesla said that he was offered US$50,000 (about a million bucks today) by Edison if he successfully redesigned Edison's inefficient motor and generators. Tesla quickly achieved this but when he inquired about his payment for the work, Edison replied, “Tesla, you don't understand our American humor,” and broke his word.
At the time Tesla was making $18 per week. Having been refused payment, Tesla asked for a raise to $25 per week. When this was also refused, he resigned.
However, in need of work, Tesla resorted to digging ditches to get by. While he dug ditches he invented alternating current and designed the system of distributing electricity which he later gave freely to the city of New York. Even today I am writing this book 170 miles from a power plant that supplies electricity to millions of people, thanks to Tesla's alternating current.
Edison, on the other hand is paradoxically celebrated for inventing an incandescent light bulb after a thousand failures. Thankfully it didn't take Tesla a thousand failures to invent the NYC electrical distribution system.
Other things Tesla invented include fluorescent lighting, remote control, wireless energy transmission, and the radio, which was falsely attributed to Marconi until 1943, and is likely still attributed to Marconi in your high school text book. The patents were rightfully returned to Tesla shortly after his death in 1943.
Why did the people with money choose Edison over Tesla time and time again?
Tesla's favorite invention was a second version of his electrical distribution system. The reason he was dismissed, I believe, was because his 2.0 system distributed energy wirelessly. No meters, no billing statements, no central control of the energy supply. Why would the money barons want to buy an invention that would put them out of business, out of power, out of control?
Edison's work brought in the money and centralized the power.
Tesla didn't understand that what the world needs isn't what it will pay for. He died poor and alone. His room was ransacked and dozens of trunks full of research and inventions were taken by the U.S. government and labeled “secret” and “dangerous.”
Edison died wealthy and well-loved by the powers that be.
My point is simple: be sufficed with what you have and what you can share among friends. If the world loves your discoveries, then great, but don't pin your hopes on a positive response. There aren't many travelers on this road...
If you can't beat ‘em, don't beat yourself up. Have an iced tea, a burger, and watch the sun set with a good friend. At the very least you can enjoy your own inventions with your children and your children's children.