by Leonard Mlodinow
What genre? biography, self-leadership, physics
Why read? delves into the nature of life, happiness, sciences etc. through Leonard Mlodinow’s narration of his friendship with one of the brightest minds in physics, Richard Feynman, during their overlapping time at Caltech, in Feynman’s final years
3 concepts that inspired me:
Knowledge is critical but don’t let it limit your thinking. While Feynman was highly educated, he said “too much education can cause you trouble”. What he meant is that while we of course very much benefit from learning new knowledge, theories, philosophies etc., we also need to make sure we don’t become captive of all we enjoy soaking in, and that we always deliberately create space to challenge what we know or have learned - one way he suggests doing that is through constantly asking ourselves “What if…” questions.
Find ways to regularly invite the kid in you out to play. Though sometimes harder to maintain as we get older, creating ways to stay playful is critical to our imagination, problem-solving abilities and well-being. Continuously inviting (and even “scheduling”) play into both our personal and professional lives is core to the creative process. As Einstein said: “To stimulate creativity, one must develop the childlike inclination for play… and the childlike desire for recognition” :)
Pursue goals that move You, and that bring You self-satisfaction. Although he had the opportunity to, Feynman didn’t always pursue leadership roles or sexy theories that others might seek. He found satisfaction in discovering things that he deemed important, even when he was only deriving someone else’s results in his own way. He also found creativity and meaning in mundane every-day life tasks. This was self-satisfaction for him. His focus and motivation were very much internal and through that, he found freedom.
2 excerpts I enjoyed reading:
On not overthinking happiness:
“When you laugh at a joke, if you think about why you laughed you might realize, after all, it wasn’t funny, it was silly, so you stop laughing. You shouldn’t think about it. My rule is, when you are unhappy, think about it… But when you’re happy, don’t. Why spoil it? You’re probably happy for some ridiculous reason and you just spoil it to know it.”
On the scientist in each one of us:
“Don’t think it is so different, being a scientist. [Any…] person is not so far away from a scientist. He may be far away from an artist or poet, but I doubt that too. I think in the normal common sense of every day life, that there is a lot of the kind of thinking that scientists do. Everyone puts together in ordinary life certain things to come to conclusions about the ordinary world. They make things that weren’t there, such as drawings, such as writing, such as […] theories. Is there something common in the process? I don’t see such a big difference between that and the scientist’s work.”
1 question I’m asking myself:
In a world where I am neither worried about what others think, nor about my own self-judgment… what is one new thing I might try?
With love, Vanessa