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scrottie (4167)

scrottie
  scott@slowass.net
http://slowass.net/

My email address is scott@slowass.net. Spam me harder! *moan*

Journal of scrottie (4167)

Wednesday July 27, 2005
04:20 PM

So... you know what you want to do with your life...

[ #25909 ]
Think again.

You've either come up with something generic, like "program video games", that has been ruined by over-exploitation of the thousands before you with a strong ambition and no strong direction, or else you want to solve a hard problem.

Let's talk about hard problems. Don't try to solve the problems that legions of other people are trying to solve. Solve the problems that *those* people need solved, or solve new problems that haven't been identified yet, or just solve small problems as you come across them. There's the omnipotant danger that if you go after the hard problems, you'll have a colossal-sized excuse for never accomplishing anything. But i guess that's what they teach you in grad school...

Hey, if the problem is hard, you can't expect to have it done *today*, right? And then you don't make sub-goals. In fact, you don't even get good at solving small problems. Solving smaller problems, you build up levels (just like in D&D!), but you're also accountable -- if you tackle a problem that *should* take two days to complete, you start ridding yourself hard, and kicking yourself, if it goes into five days. If you're trying to solve a problem the previous generation couldn't solve, you're on par for ever solving it yourself, so every day is a leisurely stroll through unproductivity and undeserved self-congraduation. Those of you who have worked in research might find this description hauntingly familiar, and it describes a lot of professors in charge of graduate students.

Don't turn into yet another expert who can explain, at length, exactly why a problem hasn't been solved yet, and contribute nothing to the field. Do *something* with your life. And you never know which solved problem is going to turn out to be a lot more important than it seemed. The pundits are usually wrong -- the transistor was a fluke -- no one predicted it, but after it happened, the pundits predicted smaller and faster logic elements -- which haven't materialized 50 years later.

-scott