The thing that worked best for me is to be relentlessly driven by the desire to solve problems I really care about, and to be open to changing my mind along the way when I learn new things. A lot of successful entrepreneurs do this. They pick a vision of something that’s important, and work as hard as they can to make it happen. Act as if you already know that you won’t fail. What would you do if you knew that you wouldn’t fail?
When you look at the lives of people who’ve done great work, you see a consistent pattern. They often begin with a bus ticket collector’s obsessive interest in something that would have seemed pointless to most of their contemporaries. One of the most striking features of Darwin’s book about his voyage on the Beagle is the sheer depth of his interest in natural history. His curiosity seems infinite. Ditto for Ramanujan, sitting by the hour working out on his slate what happens to series.
If I had to put the recipe for genius into one sentence, that might be it: to have a disinterested obsession with something that matters.
“Cultivating interest” has played out well for me. When lots of things are deeply fascinating, you have the option of picking and choosing.
The worthwhile problems are the ones you can really solve or help solve, the ones you can really contribute something to… No problem is too small or too trivial if we can really do something about it.
Study hard what interests you the most in the most undisciplined, irreverent and original manner possible.
LEE KUAN YEW
If there was one formula for our success, it was that we were constantly studying how to make things work, or how to make them work better. I was never a prisoner of any theory. What guided me was reason and reality. The acid test I applied to every theory or scheme was, would it work? This was the golden thread that ran through my years in office. If it did not work, or the results were poor, I did not waste more time and resources on it. I almost never made the same mistake twice, and I tried to learn from the mistakes others had made.