Looking for an unrelated topic, I stumbled across a transcript of a talk, ‘You and Your Research’
at Bell Labs given by Richard Hamming in 1986. I think it’s worth reading if you’re a scientist, mathematician or computer programmer.
“In summary, I claim that some of the reasons why so many people who have greatness within their grasp don’t succeed are: they don’t work on important problems, they don’t become emotionally involved, they don’t try and change what is difficult to some other situation which is easily done but is still important, and they keep giving themselves alibis why they don’t. They keep saying that it is a matter of luck. I’ve told you how easy it is; furthermore I’ve told you how to reform. Therefore, go forth and become great scientists!”
For me, the most compelling part of his talk is a question we should all be asking ourselves: what are the most important questions/problems in our respective fields? If we’re not working on them — why not?