Planting Acorns

  • Richard Hamming: “You can’t always know exactly where to be, but you can keep active in places where something might happen. And even if you believe that great science is a matter of luck, you can stand on a mountain top where lightning strikes; you don’t have to hide in the valley where you’re safe. But the average scientist does routine safe work almost all the time and so he (or she) doesn’t produce much. It’s that simple. If you want to do great work, you clearly must work on important problems, and you should have an idea.”

  • When you are famous it is hard to work on small problems. This is what did Shannon in. After information theory, what do you do for an encore? The great scientists often make this error. They fail to continue to plant the little acorns from which the mighty oak trees grow. They try to get the big thing right off. And that isn’t the way things go. So that is another reason why you find that when you get early recognition it seems to sterilize you.

Planting seeds for others when it comes to Teaching

In the same way you want to plant seeds for yourself, you should plant seeds for other people. Sometimes, you shouldn’t be so direct (i.e. tell things in people’s face). You want people to think that they came up with their own conclusion, and not that you were the one who told them that.

People are more likely to remember the information if they come to the conclusion themselves, (called the Generation Effect)