Nov 6, 2023

The Recipe for Doing Great Work

“There's a surprising amount of technique to doing great work. It's not just a matter of trying hard. I'm going to take a shot giving a recipe...

  1. Choose work you have a natural aptitude for and a deep interest in.
  2. Develop a habit of working on your own projects; it doesn't matter what they are so long as you find them excitingly ambitious.
  3. Work as hard as you can without burning out, and this will eventually bring you to one of the frontiers of knowledge. These look smooth from a distance, but up close they're full of gaps. Notice and explore such gaps, and if you're lucky one will expand into a whole new field.
  4. Take as much risk as you can afford; if you're not failing occasionally you're probably being too conservative.
  5. Seek out the best colleagues. Develop good taste and learn from the best examples.
  6. Be honest, especially with yourself.
  7. Exercise and eat and sleep well and avoid the more dangerous drugs.
  8. When in doubt, follow your curiosity. It never lies, and it knows more than you do about what's worth paying attention to.
“And there is of course one other thing you need: to be lucky. Luck is always a factor, but it's even more of a factor when you're working on your own rather than as part of an organization. And though there are some valid aphorisms about luck being where preparedness meets opportunity and so on, there's also a component of true chance that you can't do anything about. The solution is to take multiple shots. Which is another reason to start taking risks early.”

- Paul Graham, Superlinear Returns

See also: How To Do Great Work