I just watched the following fantastic video entitled You and Your Research by the famous Dr Richard Hamming. If you prefer reading you can instead get the full text here.

I found it incredibly applicable to life in startups. To accomplish greatness you have to observe and question greatness around you. Surround yourself with incredibly smart people and learn from them. He promotes an incredible amount of relflection and self awareness during a constant pursuit of greatness. A few highlights:


When I came to Bell Labs, I came into a very productive department. Bode was the department head at the time; Shannon was there, and there were other people. I continued examining the questions, "Why?" and "What is the difference?" I continued subsequently by reading biographies, autobiographies, asking people questions such as: "How did you come to do this?" I tried to find out what are the differences. And that's what this talk is about.

on courage:

One of the characteristics of successful scientists is having courage. Once you get your courage up and believe that you can do important problems, then you can. If you think you can't, almost surely you are not going to.

on drive:

Now for the matter of drive. You observe that most great scientists have tremendous drive. I worked for ten years with John Tukey at Bell Labs. He had tremendous drive. One day about three or four years after I joined, I discovered that John Tukey was slightly younger than I was. John was a genius and I clearly was not. Well I went storming into Bode's office and said, "How can anybody my age know as much as John Tukey does?" He leaned back in his chair, put his hands behind his head, grinned slightly, and said, "You would be surprised Hamming, how much you would know if you worked as hard as he did that many years." I simply slunk out of the office!

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