Tuesday, 17 May 2016

WD-40 and You

by Rabbi Yehoshua Berman (See all authors)

$20,000 in 1956 would be worth $175,000 today. That’s the price point at which Norman Larsen – a self-educated chemist with only a high school diploma to his name – sold his newly invented water displacement formula. That is quite a bargain considering the fact that the WD-40 company’s current yearly revenue is tagged at $371,540,000! After just 40 years of existence WD-40 was found to be in 4 out of 5 American households, in use by 81% of professionals, and worldwide sales stood at 1,000,000 cans per week! The WD-40 company proudly showcases an expansive list of more than 2,000 (!) usages of this wonder lubricant; many of which were innovated by enthusiastic patrons. The range is phenomenal: from extracting a burglar trapped in a vent to removing crayon stains from walls, this oily concoction seems to be an almost magical fix-all for an endless host of problems.

The name of this product is as interesting as what it can do. WD-40 stands for, “water displacement, 40th formula”. Larsen was feverishly trying to come up with a solution for the balloon-like fuel tanks of the Atlas Rockets that were being developed in the early 50’s. These tanks were very thin. Rust and corrosion was a serious problem. Larsen was charged with developing the water displacement formula that would protect them. After 39 failed attempts, he finally succeeded. Number forty was the big winner.

Forty attempts is quite tenacious, isn’t it? How many tries do we put forth before giving up?

One last thought... Larsen died in 1970. He never saw the explosive growth of his most famous brainchild. He probably never dreamed that his product would one day become a basic household item all across America, and that the company he founded would evolve into a multi-million dollar enterprise. It’s impossible for us to know what will eventually come of our efforts. We do things in this world and the ripple effects reverberate throughout the Heavenly spheres. In a sense, we are all planting seeds. One never knows which seed will eventually go on to become a mighty cedar.