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#314 How to do Great Work - Paul Graham

Notes on his essay: How to Do Great Work

  1. What to work on

  2. Natural Aptitude

  3. Deep Interest

  4. Scope to do Great Work

  • “Doing great work means doing something important so well that you explain people’s ideas of what’s possible”

  • Be curious and develop your interest regardless of the importance

To figure out what to work on:

  • Guess

  • Get started immediately

As you develop the knowledge and skill you naturally will course correct and adapt

Finding your life’s work involves multiple avenues. Let curiosity be your north star.

Passion = Maximum source of curiosity + high level of skill

  1. “Whatever seems to you excitingly ambitious, as you grow older and your taste in projects evolves, exciting and important will converge.” - Paul Graham

  • Always preserve excitingness and curiosity by doing projects that fascinate you

  • Coding projects, art pieces, engineering projects, experimental science projects, etc

  • Curious to a degree that would bore other people Charlie Munger - Follow your drift

  1. Learn everything there is to about the field

  • Gather as much data as possible and reflect and learn on the process

  • Through F451, the author writes 1. read 2. reflect. 3. act

  • Get to the frontier of knowledge. Know so much about a field of work that it would seem insane to other people. What you should follow is the highest delta you have for something relative to other people.

  • For example, if your obsession is about blockchain and to some degree bores other people and doesn’t interest them. you should maximize that variable and learn everything there is to know about that field.

  1. Reflect & Identify the gaps

  2. Great work has a tinge of strangeness

  3. Ask questions about these gaps

  4. Take action and fill in the gap “Interest will drive you to work harder than mere diligence ever could” - Paul Graham If you don’t know what to do, take action! Learn a lot about a lot of things to grow interest. Read books, make projects, and listen to podcasts. The likelihood of finding your interest increases by taking action than not living passively. To get started on a project just start for 5 min. Finish things no matter what. A mathematician’s apology - Paul Graham. Great work usually entails spending what would seem to most people an unreasonable amount of time on a problem. You need to give your mind time to wander. Earnest is intense conviction. Don’t talk shit. Outside of taking off your health, working on your mission, or being with your tribe nothing matters. A good idea has to seem bad to most people or someone would have already explored it. The set of people wanting to do great work is small and the set of people who know they truly want to do great work is even smaller. The discoveries are out there, waiting to be made. Why not by you?

  • Heuristic:

  • Strange taste indicates more interestingness this is better

  • “One sign that you’re suited for some kind of work is when you like even the parts that other people find tedious or frightening”

  • Find words that feel like play and are easier for you than it is for others

  • Make what you’re most excited about

  • That work should be difficult for other people but easy for you

*This process is what other great people have done to get where they are!


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