To do or not to do

Joseph Henry was an American scientist who is credited with the distinction of having developed electromagnet into a practical device. As a student, he excelled in his studies and is said to have had a strong curiosity about terrestrial magnetism that led him to experiment with magnetism in general.

He was the first to coil insulated wire tightly around an iron core in order to make a more powerful electromagnet, improving on William Sturgeon's electromagnet which used loosely coiled uninsulated wire.

Being born into a poor family, Henry's father died while he was still young. For the rest of his childhood, Henry lived with his grandmother in Galway, New York. He would often recall and talk about the following story about his childhood that taught him a valuable lesson in prompt decision-making.

His grandmother, who raised him, once paid a cobbler to make him a pair of shoes. The man measured his feet and told Joseph that he could choose between two styles: a rounded toe or a square toe. Little Joseph couldn't decide. It seemed to be such a huge decision; after all, they would become his only pair of shoes for a long time. The cobbler allowed him to take a few days to make up his mind.

Day after day, Joseph went into the shop, sometimes three or four times a day! Each time he looked over the cobbler's shoes and tried to decide. The round-toed shoes were more practical, but the square toes looked more fashionable. He continued to procrastinate. He wanted to make up his mind, but he just couldn't decide.

Finally, one day he went to the shop and the cobbler handed him a parcel wrapped in brown paper. His new shoes! He raced home. He tore off the wrapping and found a beautiful pair of leather shoes - one with a rounded toe and the other with a square toe.

A rather strange tale, but it taught Joseph that when decisions that are to be made by him are not made, others will make it for him rendering the decision ineffective. How true are the words of Napoleon Bonaparte who said, "Nothing is more difficult, and therefore more precious, than to be able to decide."

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