This was my 2-inch response to a talk by Richard Hamming called “You and Your Research.” The actual talk is great, and I believe there’s a recording on YouTube. I’ve linked to a transcription in case it a video doesn’t exist.
I think one of the most obvious yet important statements in the entire talk is “you have to neglect things if you intend to get what you want done.” As students, we’re constantly dealing with situations where we just have too much to do. As we grow up, we find that we can’t do everything, and some things must be neglected. I think it’s a difficult choice—to give up, but it’s definitely a necessary choice and one that we must learn to make.
Hamming talks about what it takes to produce significant and meaningful results. I agree completely with his claim that an emotional commitment is an essential aspect. I find that when it comes to my work, the best results aren’t only caused by an emotional commitment or sincere dedication. It’s usually an obsession. In order to push yourself to get what you want, you really have to focus fully on the problem, even if that amount of focus requires involves, as Hamming puts it, closed doors.