EppsNet Archive: Richard Hamming

Nice Guys Finish Last

You can lead a nice life; you can be a nice guy or you can be a great scientist. But nice guys end last, is what Leo Durocher said. If you want to lead a nice happy life with a lot of recreation and everything else, you’ll lead a nice life. — Richard Hamming Read more →

The Value is in the Struggle

I think it is very definitely worth the struggle to try and do first-class work because the truth is, the value is in the struggle more than it is in the result. The struggle to make something of yourself seems to be worthwhile in itself. — Richard Hamming Read more →

The Direction I Thought Was Important

I found in the early days I had believed ‘this’ and yet had spent all week marching in ‘that’ direction. It was kind of foolish. If I really believe the action is over there, why do I march in this direction? I either had to change my goal or change what I did. So I changed something I did and I marched in the direction I thought was important. It’s that easy. — Richard Hamming Read more →

One Problem After Another After Another

I could see life being a long sequence of one problem after another after another. After quite a while of thinking I decided, “No, I should be in the mass production of a variable product. I should be concerned with all of next year’s problems, not just the one in front of my face.” By changing the question I still got the same kind of results or better, but I changed things and did important work. I attacked the major problem — How do I conquer machines and do all of next year’s problems when I don’t know what they are going to be? How do I prepare for it? How do I do this one so I’ll be on top of it? By changing a problem slightly you can often do great work rather than merely good work. Instead of attacking isolated problems, I made the resolution that I… Read more →

The Important Problems of Your Field

Over on the other side of the dining hall was a chemistry table. I had worked with one of the fellows, Dave McCall . . . I went over and said, “Do you mind if I join you?” They can’t say no, so I started eating with them for a while. And I started asking, “What are the important problems of your field?” And after a week or so, “What important problems are you working on?” And after some more time I came in one day and said, “If what you are doing is not important, and if you don’t think it is going to lead to something important, why are you at Bell Labs working on it?” I wasn’t welcomed after that; I had to find somebody else to eat with! That was in the spring. In the fall, Dave McCall stopped me in the hall and said, “Hamming,… Read more →

You Have to Neglect Things

Given two people with exactly the same ability, the one person who manages day in and day out to get in one more hour of thinking will be tremendously more productive over a lifetime. . . . I spent a good deal more of my time for some years trying to work a bit harder and I found, in fact, I could get more work done. I don’t like to say it in front of my wife, but I did sort of neglect her sometimes; I needed to study. You have to neglect things if you intend to get what you want done. There’s no question about this. — Richard Hamming Related Articles Did Mozart Play Kickball (eppsnet.com) 10,000 Hours + Courage == Greatness (podly.tv) Read more →

I Would Like to Do First-Class Work

I have to get you to drop modesty and say to yourself, “Yes, I would like to do first-class work.” Our society frowns on people who set out to do really good work. You’re not supposed to; luck is supposed to descend on you and you do great things by chance. Well, that’s a kind of dumb thing to say. I say, why shouldn’t you set out to do something significant. You don’t have to tell other people, but shouldn’t you say to yourself, “Yes, I would like to do something significant.” — Richard Hamming Read more →

Why People Don’t Succeed

In summary, I claim that some of the reasons why so many people who have greatness within their grasp don’t succeed are: they don’t work on important problems, they don’t become emotionally involved, they don’t try and change what is difficult to some other situation which is easily done but is still important, and they keep giving themselves alibis why they don’t. They keep saying that it is a matter of luck. — Richard Hamming Read more →