You Can’t Develop Solutions Unless You Realize You Got Problems: Problem Finding is an Undervalued Skill

Problem Finding is an Undervalued Skill

Problem finding plays an important role in creative thinking

Problem finding is one of the most significant parts of problem solving. However, it tends to be an underappreciated skill. Many managers naively consider it strange to encourage employees to look for problems at work: “Why look for new problems when we’ve got no resources to work on ones we’ve already identified?”

Many courses and books on problem solving and creativity overlook problem finding. Many educational resources tend to assume that problem solving really begins only after problems have been identified.

Problem-identification lead to the invention of the ballpoint pen

Invention of the Ballpoint Pen by Biro Brothers The story of the invention of the ballpoint pen demonstrates the importance of problem finding. Had the inventors not recognized a problem with the existing writing instruments of their day, they would not have developed their invention.

In the 1920s, Hungarian journalist Laszlo Biro spent much time proofreading and checking for errors in others’ writings. To communicate these errors to the authors, Laszlo could not use pencils because their impressions fade quickly. He tried using a fountain pen, but the ink from the fountain pen dried slowly and often left smudges on paper.

Laszlo observed that the ink used in newspaper printing dried quickly and left the paper smudge-free. When he tried using that ink in his fountain pen, however, the ink was too viscous to flow into the tip of the fountain pen.

Laszlo then collaborated with his chemist-brother Gyorgy Biro to invent a new pen tip consisting of a ball that was enclosed within a socket. As the ball rolled inside the socket, the ball could pick up ink from a reservoir or cartridge and then continue to roll to deposit the ink on the paper. The Biro brothers thus invented the ballpoint pen. The company they created is now part of the BIC Company. The ballpoint pen continues to be called a ‘Biro’ in some countries.

Often, creativity is the outcome of discovered problem solving

Greek Philosopher Plato famously wrote in The Republic, “Let us begin and create in idea a State; and yet a true creator is necessity, which is the mother of our invention.”

One reason we fail to identify problems is that we do not stop to think about improving various situations that we encounter. Very often, these problems are directly in front of us; we need to consciously identify them and convert them into opportunities for problem solving. Instead, we tend to take inconveniences and unpleasant situations for granted and assume they are merely “facts of life.”

  • The grain mill was not invented until somebody in antiquity identified the ineffectiveness of two hours of pounding grain to make a cup of flour.
  • The world’s first traffic lights were installed around the British Houses of Parliament in London only after somebody thought of the problem of traffic congestion. In other words, up until the problems from congestion were identified in the 1860s, no one attempted to systematically consider how the problem might be solved.

James Watt invented his seminal separate-condenser steam engine

  • James Watt invented his seminal separate-condenser steam engine after discovering an interesting problem with the Newcomen steam engine. In 1763, when Watt was working as an instrument maker at the University of Glasgow, he was assigned to repair a model of a Newcomen engine for a lecture-demonstration. Watt initially had difficulty getting the Newcomen engine to work because its parts were poorly constructed. When he finally had it running, he was surprised at its efficiency. Watt observed that the engine was constantly running out of coal because the constant heating and cooling of the cylinder resulted in a large waste of energy. Watt then devised a system whereby the cylinder and the condenser were separate. This led to his invention of the “steam engine” (or, more precisely, the separate-condenser steam engine.)
  • As I mentioned in a previous article on the opportunities in customers’ pain points, crispy potato chips were invented only when Chef George Crum of New York’s Saratoga Springs attempted to appease a cranky customer who frequently sent Crum’s fried potatoes back to the kitchen complaining that they were mushy and not crunchy enough. Decades later, Laura Scudder invented airtight packaging for potato chips only after becoming conscious of customers’ complaints that chips packaged in metal containers quickly go stale and crumble during handling.

Finding and defining a creative problem

If problems are not identified, solutions are unlikely to be proposed

It pays to keep your eyes open and look at inconveniences, difficulties, and troubles as creative problems to be solved. Don’t ignore these merely as facts of life.

Curiosity, intrigue, and motivation influence problem finding (and problem solving.) One of the easiest ways to develop your skills in problem finding is to ponder at anything around you and wonder why those gadgets and contraptions were ever invented. Analyze carefully and you’ll learn that the first step taken by the inventors of these objects was the identification of the problems the objects were designed to solve.

When you look around various objects in your life, think about what life was before these objects were invented. What problems could these inventions have solved? Why was the zipper invented? What problems motivated Bjarne Stroustrup to create C++? What was internet search like before Google? How did commerce transpire before the advent of coins and bills and money?

Some people make a career out of problem finding. Managers who want to know if their organizations are running efficiently frequently hire consultants to look for problems that managers do not know exist in their businesses.

And finally, if you want to become an inventor or an entrepreneur, try to start with problems you already have in your work or in your life. Ideally, identify problems shared by a large number of people to increase the probability that your inventions will be put in widespread use.

Idea for Impact: A creative solution to a problem often depends on first finding and defining a creative problem. Very often, the solution to a problem becomes obvious when the problem has been properly identified, defined, and represented.

Extrinsic Motivation Couldn’t Change Even Einstein

“He that complies against his will is of his own opinion still,” wrote the English poet and satirist Samuel Butler (1613–1680) in Hudibras (Part iii. Canto iii. Line 547.)

Extrinsic Motivation Couldn't Change Einstein to Quit Smoking

Einstein Wouldn’t Quit Smoking

Consider the case of a rational person as great as Albert Einstein. Grandson Bernhard Caesar Einstein, himself a reputed physicist, recalled in 1998 that Grandpa Einstein’s two prized possessions were his violin and smoking pipe; his reliance on the latter “bordered on dependency.”

Despite deteriorating health, Albert Einstein couldn’t be motivated to quit smoking. His doctor tried but just couldn’t convince Einstein to give it up. To circumvent the doctor’s effort to stop him from smoking, Einstein would scour his neighborhood’s sidewalks to collect discarded cigarette butts to smoke in his pipe.

People Will Change Only if Intrinsically Motivated

People are who they are; they have their (intrinsic) motivations and will continue to live their way. Despite well-meaning intentions, you simply can’t change them or mold their minds into your way of thinking.

You may be frustrated by their reluctance to mend their ways, stop engaging in destructive behavior, or even realize that they’re throwing away their potential. But you just can’t force change down their throats if they aren’t intrinsically motivated. You can only express your opinions, offer help, and even persist. Beyond that, you can only hope they change. You can control your effort and create the conditions for success. Beyond that, the outcomes of your efforts to change are outside your span of control. Control your efforts, not the outcomes.

As I elaborated in a previous article, you will succeed in changing another person’s behavior only if you can translate the extrinsic motivation at your disposal to the elements of his/her intrinsic motivation.

Idea for Impact: Extrinsic motivation is pointless in itself

You can’t change people; they must want to change for themselves. In other words, they must be intrinsically motivated to change. Extrinsic motivation is, in itself, pointless.

Richard Feynman: Eccentric Genius and the “Adventures of a Curious Character” [What I’ve Been Reading]

This year, I’ve been reading many biographies of the great physicist Richard Feynman (1918–1988.)

A Nobel laureate, Feynman’s scientific curiosity knew no bounds. His academic life, acuity, life-philosophy, and ability to communicate science are inspirational to anyone pursuing his/her own life’s fulfillment.

In addition to his many scientific achievements, Feynman was known for his playfulness, varied interests and hobbies, and—perhaps most notably—his many eccentricities.

  • 'Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!' by Richard Feynman, Ralph Leighton (ISBN 0393316041) In a divorce complaint, Feynman’s second wife Mary Louise Bell complained, “He begins working calculus problems in his head as soon as he awakens. He did calculus while driving in his car, while sitting in the living room, and while lying in bed at night.”
  • Feynman had the reputation of being a ladies’ man and offers many seduction techniques in his memoirs. His bestselling biography “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!” devotes many pages to the art of picking up girls in Las Vegas.
  • In “Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman”, biographer James Gleick recalls Feynman’s tenure at Cornell: “There were entanglements with women: Feynman pursued them and dropped them, or tried to, with increasingly public frustration—so it seemed even to undergraduates, who knew him as the least professorial of professors, likely to be found beating a rhythm on a dormitory bench or lying supine and greasy beneath his Oldsmobile. He had never settled into any house or apartment. One year he lived as faculty guest in a student residence. Often he would stay nights or weeks with married friends until these arrangements became sexually volatile.”
  • 'Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman' by James Gleick (ISBN 0679747044) While a Professor at Caltech, Feynman would frequent a topless bar for a quiet office away from office. There, he used to work on scientific problems by sketching or writing physics equations on paper placemats and napkins. When local authorities shut down the topless bar, most patrons refused to testify in favor of the bar fearing that their families would learn about their visits. But not Feynman: he testified in favor of the bar by stating it was a public need frequented by craftsmen, technicians, engineers, common workers, and “a physics professor.”
  • When physicist Ernico Fermi died in 1954, the University of Chicago offered an astronomical salary (“a tremendous amount of money, three or four times what I was making”) to entice Feynman to back-fill Fermi’s position. Feynman responded, “After reading the salary, I’ve decided that I must refuse. The reason I have to refuse a salary like that is I would be able to do what I’ve always wanted to do—get a wonderful mistress, put her up in an apartment, buy her nice things…With the salary you have offered, I could actually do that, and I know what would happen to me. I’d worry about her, what she’s doing; I’d get into arguments when I come home, and so on. All this bother would make me uncomfortable and unhappy. I wouldn’t be able to do physics well, and it would be a big mess! What I’ve always wanted to do would be bad for me, so I’ve decided that I can’t accept your offer.”

Richard Feynman with a Princess of Denmark at the 1965 Nobel Banquet

  • When conferred a Nobel Prize in 1965, Feynman sat at a table with a Princess of Denmark at the Nobel Banquet. During their small talk, Feynman introduced himself as the winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics. The Princess remarked, “Oh. Well, nobody knows anything about that, so I guess we can’t talk about it.” Feynman was long-winded when he retorted, “On the contrary, it’s because somebody knows something about it that we can’t talk about physics. It’s the things that nobody knows anything about that we can discuss. We can talk about the weather; we can talk about social problems; we can talk about psychology; we can talk about international finance–gold transfers we can’t talk about, because those are understood–so it’s the subject that nobody knows anything about that we can all talk about!” Feynman later remembered that the Princess was flustered with his reply and recalled, “There’s a way of forming ice on the surface of the face, and she did it!”

For many more humorous anecdotes about Richard Feynman and the “Adventures of a Curious Character,” I recommend his extremely entertaining biographies:

Avoid Mundane Tasks Like Richard Feynman

In “The Pleasure of Finding Things Out,” physicist Richard Feynman shares his thoughts and feelings about life, career, curiosity, scientific discovery, life-philosophy, and everything else.

In one essay, based on a 1981 interview for the BBC series Horizon (a video that went viral on YouTube,) Feynman shares his technique of “active irresponsibility” i.e. feigning irresponsibility to avoid mundane work in order to dedicate himself to productive work:

'The Pleasure of Finding Things Out' by Richard Feynman (ISBN 0465023959) To do the kind of real good physics work, you do need absolutely solid lengths of time. When you’re putting ideas together which are vague and hard to remember … it needs a lot of concentration—solid time to think. If you’ve got a job administrating anything, say, then you don’t have the solid time. So I have invented another myth for myself—that I’m irresponsible. “I am actively irresponsible,” I tell everybody. “I don’t do anything.” If anybody asks me to be on a committee to take care of admissions … “No! I’m irresponsible. … I don’t give a damn about the students!” Of course I give a damn about the students, but I know that somebody else’ll do it! … because I like to do physics, and I want to see if I can still do it. I am selfish, okay? I want to do my physics.

Idea for Impact: Avoid Mundane Tasks

Delegate, defer, or avoid the ordinary and mundane elements of work that your work-life imposes upon you. These don’t contribute directly to your long-term goals and aspirations.

Often, the consequences of saying ‘no’ to things you don’t want to do aren’t as bad as you may fear.

For more on investing your time where your priorities are, read my “World’s Shortest Course on Time Management.” Refer also to my articles on time logging and time analysis for a methodical approach to find how you’re currently spending (or wasting) your time.

These Celebrities and Hollywood Actors Didn’t Just Wait Around for Dream Jobs to Turn up

“He who lives uprightly and experiences true difficulty and disappointment and is nonetheless undefeated by it is worth more than someone who prospers and knows nothing but relative good fortune.”
Vincent van Gogh

Stories of superstars who struggled in their early careers are very inspiring

Some superstars had it made. They came from privileged backgrounds and had spectacular starts to their careers. They were lucky enough to attend the best schools, get the right pedigree, make the right connections, get an early break, or join the fast track to the top.

Other superstars were not so lucky in their early careers. Most of these men and women—particularly the archetypical self-made person—came from humble backgrounds and struggled to establish themselves. They found productive jobs to eke out a living, all the while never losing sight of their ambitions. They took every opportunity to learn and prove themselves. They worked hard to get a foot in the door, toiled in the trenches, learned everything about their trades, and painstakingly built their spectacular careers from the ground up. In sum, they didn’t just while their time away waiting for their desired jobs and dream gigs to show up.

Jack Nicholson, Robin Williams, Brad Pitt

Jack Nicholson, Robin Williams, Brad Pitt---Hollywood actors with humble early careers who didn't just wait around for dream jobs to turn up

Consider three Hollywood superstars who struggled during their early careers and worked modest jobs to earn their living but never abandoned their ambitions.

  • Hollywood legend Jack Nicholson (b. 1937) ran errands and worked as a messenger at Hollywood’s MGM animation studios before being “discovered.” He had moved from New Jersey to pursue his dream of becoming an actor and lived with his wannabe-actress mother (whom he thought was his sister until he was 36, a full ten years after her death.)
  • Comedian and Hollywood actor Robin Williams (1951–2014) gained precious experience in his twenties working as a mime artist in front of New York’s Museum of Modern Art while trying to find acting gigs. As a child, Williams hardly fit the stereotype of someone who would later pursue comedy. Born to a successful Ford executive, Williams grew up a shy, lonely child playing by himself in an empty room of his family’s mansion. He overcame his shyness only after taking drama classes in high school.
  • Celebrated actor and producer Brad Pitt (b. 1963) worked a variety of odd jobs while struggling to establish himself in Hollywood. To pursue his passion for the big screen, he moved to Los Angeles from Missouri two weeks before he was about to earn his degree in Journalism. He took acting lessons and made contacts. Within months, Pitt got uncredited roles in three films. For the next seven years, he gained increasing recognition in supporting roles on television and in films before securing leading roles that catapulted him to worldwide fame.

Examine the purpose of these examples viz. to emphasize that successful people find something productive to do while improving themselves and waiting for their big break. Take note of a crucial nuance: we are not discussing humble part-time or casual summer jobs that later-superstars held in their youth—e.g., Pope Francis worked as a bouncer in Buenos Aires, German Chancellor Angela Merkel as a barmaid in Leipzig, Bill Gates as a page in the United States Congress, Warren Buffett as a newspaper delivery boy in Washington, D.C.

Albert Einstein, Soichiro Honda, Stephen King

Albert Einstein, Soichiro Honda, Stephen King---Celebrities with humble early careers who didn't just wait around for dream jobs to turn up

Other disciplines also present plenty of superstars who pursued their ambitions while holding humble first-jobs.

  • Physicist and philosopher Albert Einstein (1879–1955) spent two frustrating post-college years searching for a teaching job before becoming a clerk at the Swiss Patent Office in Bern. In between examining patent applications and during his spare time, he worked on physics problems. In his third year at the job, he wrote four groundbreaking papers that transformed physics.
  • When Japanese engineer and industrialist Soichiro Honda (1906–1991) moved to Tokyo at age 15 to find work as an auto mechanic, a repair shop owner hired him as a nanny to his infant. With a child in tow, Honda often meandered about the garage, observing and learning from the mechanics. When the child was asleep, Honda tinkered with engines and started giving suggestions to the mechanics. He strengthened his passion for automotive engines just as the nascent industrial base of Japan was finding a new enthusiasm for machines.
  • 'Carrie' by Stephen King (ISBN 0307743667) Best-selling author Stephen King (b. 1947) struggled for years after graduating from college. He and his writer-wife grappled financially and lived in a trailer home. He worked hard at building a career as a writer and developed ideas for many novels. King sold short stories to men’s magazines and worked small jobs to make a living. When working as a janitor in a school locker room, he was inspired to write a novel titled “Carrie”. Set in a girls’ locker room, Carrie features a schoolgirl who exercises her newly-discovered telekinetic powers to exact revenge on her bullies. Carrie turned into King’s first published novel and lent him his big break.

Idea for Impact: Self-disciplined people don’t wait for the right answer or the golden path to present themselves. They understand that the best way to get unstuck is to start somewhere, focus on action, keep themselves productive, amend their course if necessary, and do all this without losing sight of their goals and ambitions.

A note of caution: Stories of superstars’ successes are but cherry-picked examples

“Welcome to Hollywood. What’s your dream?
Everybody comes here. This is Hollywood, the land of dreams.
Some dreams come true, some don’t. But keep on dreamin’.
This is Hollywood. Always time to dream, so keep on dreamin’.”
— From “Pretty Woman” (1990)

More than we possibly realize, so much of life’s success in life has to do with luck (or fate or destiny.) As I’ve written previously, success is often more about being at the right place, at the right time, and with the right person than about possessing the right skills and working hard.

The above are merely examples of a few lucky superstars who made it big in Hollywood or in their chosen disciplines and followed their passions as careers.

For every Stephen Hawking or J. K. Rowling, there are thousands of wannabe writers whose creative writing doesn’t even pay enough to buy the notebooks they use.

For every Jack Nicholson, Robin Williams, or Brad Pitt, there are countless Hollywood wannabes struggling in the “Land of a Million Dreams.” What’s more, among actors who manage to find work, an even smaller fraction of them actually make a living doing it. Part-timers are paid so little that they must work at stores, restaurants, or bars at night and on weekends. The cost of living in Southern California has hit the roof; even professionally-done headshots cost hundreds of dollars. The celebrity impersonators and street performers on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame have even started aggressively pestering tourists and photographers for bigger tips.

Celebrity impersonators and street artists on Hollywood's Walk of Fame pestering tourists for bigger tips

In the la-la land of Los Angeles, chances are that any random person you meet is an aspiring actor, model, designer, musician, songwriter, screenplay writer, director, stunt-double, makeup artist, or is trying to get some gig in the entertainment industry. Each aspirant is taking classes, trying to make contacts, looking for auditions, hoping to land jobs, wishing to be “discovered” by an actor or noticed by a talent agent at a restaurant, club, or elsewhere.

Competition is brutal and the market for fame is saturated

In Hollywood, anything is possible and yes, “some dreams come true.” However, in reality, there’s an infinitesimal chance that any aspirant will ever get a break. Even still, thousands of hopefuls flock to Hollywood every year (and thousands of rejects move out.) After endless auditions, rejections, or false starts, they wake up to the harsh realities of competition and get jobs that are more gratifying than chasing a near-impossible dream.

“He that lives upon hope will die fasting.”
Benjamin Franklin

If you have a passion for something that will not pay adequately, pursue it on the side. Here’s some sage advice from my mentor Marty Nemko:

Do what you love, but don’t expect to get paid for it. Want to be on stage? Act in community theater. Want to be an artist? Convince a restaurant to let you decorate its walls with your creations. To make money, pick a field that pays decently and has few liabilities. Chances are, that will lead to more career contentment than pursuing a long-shot dream as your career. Treating a long-shot dream as an avocation gives you most of its pleasure without forcing you to endure a life of poverty.

Creativity by Synthesis (Combining Ideas): A Case Study on the Darwin & Mendel Theorems in Biology

One of the fascinating aspects of invention is tracking the continuity of ideas across an arc of time and tracing the progression of ideas over time. My previous article examined how blending antecedent ideas to form new ones led to the invention of the Gutenberg’s press, the rotary steam engine, and the Wright Brothers‘ first powered flight. In this article, we will explore a related mental model for creativity.

A fundamental component of creative thinking is combining whole ideas (or just certain elements of ideas) to create a new concept. When we synthesize—i.e. fuse ideas to forge new ones—we mirror the footsteps of some of humankind’s most imaginative breakthroughs.

James Maxwell‘s work on electromagnetic radiation developed from the synthesis of seemingly unrelated concepts such as electricity, magnetism, light, and motion. His theory of electromagnetism was one of the most significant discoveries of the nineteenth century. Albert Einstein described Maxwell’s work on electromagnetism as “the most profound and the most fruitful that physics has experienced since the time of Newton.”

Even more profoundly, Darwin and Mendel’s work exemplifies the most groundbreaking synthesis of ideas. Combined more than four decades after their deaths, their ideas shaped the foundation of life sciences, as we know it. Allow me to elaborate.

Theory of the Descent of Man - Darwin's Theories of Evolution

Charles Darwin’s Theory of Evolution

Charles Darwin The word “evolution” was first used in English as early as 1647. Long before that, pre-Socratic Greek philosopher Anaximander (611–546 B.C.E) speculated that humans must have evolved from an animal and that this evolution must have sprung from the sea. By the end of the 18th century, naturalists conjectured that different life forms develop progressively from more primitive forms. They also hypothesized that all life forms were interrelated. Erasmus Darwin (1731–1802,) Charles Darwin’s grandfather and a natural philosopher and physiologist, as well as the French naturalist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck (1744–1829) argued along those lines. However, most of their thoughts on evolution and the relatedness of all life forms were purely speculative.

'The Origin of Species' by Charles Darwin (ISBN 0451529065) Darwin’s most notable scientific contribution was his vast body of evidence supporting the aforementioned hypotheses. Even more significantly, Darwin identified natural selection as the mechanism that determines evolutionary change. In his seminal treatise, “Origin of Species” (1859,) Darwin distilled the theory of evolution through two foundational concepts:

  1. In any ecosystem, individuals of the same species are likely to differ in their measurable characteristics. Such variations tend to be inherited.
  2. Living beings—plants and animals—reproduce more quickly than nature can impart the resources for their survival. Individuals of a species must therefore compete in order to live and reproduce in a competitive ecosystem.

Charles Darwin’s work on evolution was really a synthesis of concepts from comparative anatomy, paleontology, geology, geography, and animal breeding.

Advancing his theories further, in “The Descent of Man” (1871,) Darwin described humans as an outcome of evolution. Humans have the same general anatomical and physiological principles as animals and are in fact an advanced animal form whose superior traits are a consequence of evolutionary progression. Darwin hypothesized that humans share a common ancestry with animals, more specifically evolving from primates.

The Big Gap in Darwin’s Theory: Lack of an Explanation for Heredity

'The Descent Of Man' by Charles Darwin (ISBN 1463645961) In the introduction to The Descent of Man, Darwin wrote, “It has often and confidently been asserted, that man’s origin can never be known: but ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge: it is those who know little, and not those who know much, who so positively assert that this or that problem will never be solved by science.”

Darwin’s theories about the evolution of humankind created an instant uproar among advocates of Christian theology and its concept of a wise, benevolent, and omnipotent Creator as laid out in the Book of Genesis. Since then, few scientific theories have been as hotly debated among nonscientists as evolution and its opponent, creationism (and recently, intelligent design.)

After The Descent of Man, it was more than a decade before Darwin’s work came to be scientifically established. Darwin’s work remained deficient—if natural selection was to have lasting effects, these advances had to be conserved and passed on from one generation to the next. He agreed with scientists who argued that his evolutionary theory failed to explain how variations are transmitted from parents to their offspring.

Mendelian Inheritance in Andalusian Fowls - Cross-breeding Experiments by Gregor Mendel

Cross-breeding Experiments by Gregor Mendel: Evidence of Heredity

Gregor Mendel Between 1856 and 1863, independent of Charles Darwin (1809–1882,) Moravian monk Gregor Mendel (1822–1884) conducted extensive pea plant breeding experiments in his monastery’s garden. He systematically studied what farmers had known for centuries: that crossbreeding animals and plants creates “hybrid” offspring with desirable traits. Based on his pea plant experiments, Mendel laid the foundational rules of genetic inheritance and heredity.

Synthesis of Darwin and Mendel’s Work as the Foundation of Life Sciences

It was not until the 1930s, long after both Darwin and Mendel’s deaths, that biologists started to study Mendel’s work on heredity in conjunction with Darwin’s theory of natural selection. Scientists were then able to understand how variation of characteristics is passed on to new generations and how evolution is a process of descent with modification. Mendel’s laws provided justification of inheritance, thereby completing Darwin’s theory of natural selection. Subsequently, Darwin’s theory became the basic mechanism of evolution—evolutionary genetics was established as biology’s central theorem and the bedrock concept of all life sciences. From that point on, Darwin became one of the most influential persons in human history.

Scientists continue to fine-tune humankind’s understanding of evolutionary biology as new evidence and fresh insights pour in from biochemistry, genetics, archaeology, neuroscience, and various other disciplines.

Inspirational Quotations by Albert Einstein (#367)

Albert Einstein

It’s the birthday of theoretical physicist, humanist, and philosopher Albert Einstein (1879 – 1955.)

Einstein was born to Jewish parents in Ulm, Germany, in 1879. Encouraged by his uncle, Einstein started studying mathematics at school. He was an average student and his teachers predicted that he would never amount to much in life. He did not succeed in his first attempt at the entrance exam to a technical college at age 16.

Einstein barely made it through college and could not get a job in several science fields. He eventually joined the Swiss Patents Office in Bern as an examiner of patent applications and wrote scientific papers during his time off.

In 1905, at age 26, Einstein published four papers on the Special Theory of Relativity. These papers broke new ground in physics and included the legendary relation between mass and energy: E = mc-squared. In 1916, he published his work on the General Theory of Relativity. However, it was his work on the photoelectric effect that won Einstein the Nobel Prize in 1921.

Einstein immigrated to America in 1933 when Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933 and pursued an academic career at Princeton University. He died in 1955.

Einstein is best known for revolutionizing twentieth-century physics with his theories of relativity and contributions to photoelectric effect and the unification of the laws of physics. He was also a passionate humanist and advocated peace, political freedom, and social justice.

For more on Albert Einstein, I recommend Walter Isaacson’s excellent biography or DK Publishing’s biography. Also worth reading are Einstein’s “The World As I See It,” and his “Cosmic Religion and Other Opinions” with Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw.

Albert Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” This quote initiated my interest in inspirational quotes. My collection now includes 120,000 quotes.

Inspirational Quotations by Albert Einstein

You never fail until you stop trying.
Albert Einstein

The significant problems we have cannot be solved at the same level of thinking with which we created them.
Albert Einstein

The important thing is not to stop questioning.
Albert Einstein

Reading, after a certain age, diverts the mind too much from its creative pursuits. Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking.
Albert Einstein

One should guard against preaching to young people success in the customary form as the main aim in life. The most important motive for work in school and in life is pleasure in work, pleasure in its result, and the knowledge of the value of the result to the community.
Albert Einstein

Yes, we have to divide up our time like that, between our politics and our equations. But to me our equations are far more important, for politics are only a matter of present concern. A mathematical equation stands forever.
Albert Einstein

I think that only daring speculation can lead us further and not accumulation of facts.
Albert Einstein

A successful man is he who receives a great deal from his fellow men, usually incomparably more than corresponds to his service to them. The value of a man, however, should be seen in what he gives, and not in what he is able to receive.
Albert Einstein

Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.
Albert Einstein

Small is the number of them that see with their own eyes and feel with their own hearts.
Albert Einstein

Possessions, outward success, publicity, luxury — to me these have always been contemptible. I believe that a simple and unassuming manner of life is best for everyone, best both for the body and the mind.
Albert Einstein