Tag Archives: first things first

Some great thoughts by Hamming

“Knowledge and productivity are like compound interest.” Given two people of approximately the same ability and one person who works ten percent more than the other, the latter will more than twice outproduce the former. The more you know, the more you learn; the more you learn, the more you can do; the more you can do, the more the opportunity – it is very much like compound interest. I don’t want to give you a rate, but it is a very high rate. Given two people with exactly the same ability, the one person who manages day in and day out to get in one more hour of thinking will be tremendously more productive over a lifetime.

“Genius is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration.”
–Edison

The idea is that solid work, steadily applied, gets you surprisingly far.

The misapplication of effort is a very serious matter. Just hard work is not enough – it must be applied sensibly.

Great scientists tolerate ambiguity very well. They believe the theory enough to go ahead; they doubt it enough to notice the errors and faults so they can step forward and create the new replacement theory. If you believe too much you’ll never notice the flaws; if you doubt too much you won’t get started. It requires a lovely balance. But most great scientists are well aware of why their theories are true and they are also well aware of some slight misfits which don’t quite fit and they don’t forget it.

When you find apparent flaws you’ve got to be sensitive and keep track of those things, and keep an eye out for how they can be explained or how the theory can be changed to fit them. Those are often the great contributions. Great contributions are rarely done by adding another decimal place. It comes down to an emotional commitment. Most great scientists are completely committed to their problem. Those who don’t become committed seldom produce outstanding, first-class work.

If you are deeply immersed and committed to a topic, day after day after day, your subconscious has nothing to do but work on your problem. And so you wake up one morning, or on some afternoon, and there’s the answer. For those who don’t get committed to their current problem, the subconscious goofs off on other things and doesn’t produce the big result.

So the way to manage yourself is that when you have a real important problem you don’t let anything else get the center of your attention – you keep your thoughts on the problem. Keep your subconscious starved so it has to work on your problem, so you can sleep peacefully and get the answer in the morning, free.

If you do not work on an important problem, it’s unlikely you’ll do important work.

You should do your job in such a fashion that others can build on top of it, so they will indeed say, “Yes, I’ve stood on so and so’s shoulders and I saw further.”

The business of abstraction frequently makes things simple. a.k.a Generalization

Don’t waste time by making reform gestures and kind of warfare with your boss.

Use your ego to make yourself behave the way you want to. eg. I will finish that task X and prove that I have finished it.

Don’t try an alibi. Don’t try and kid yourself.

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