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To supplement the rules for professional advancement, here are some pointers for making progress at the cutting edge.

Above all, work on the important problems and spend time with the right people.

And find a way to convert what appear to be weaknesses into strengths. So the Austrians are marginalised - that means we can follow our own thoughts without having to defend them from nit-picking criticisms every hour of the day.

Some extracts from a blurb on Hamming's article.

"Richard Hamming suggests that you ask yourself three questions:"

1. What are the most important problems in your field?

2. Are you working on one of them?

3. Why not?

"Hamming was at Bell Labs when he started asking such questions. In principle anyone there ought to have been able to work on the most important problems in their field. Perhaps not everyone can make an equally dramatic mark on the world; I don't know; but whatever your capacities, there are projects that stretch them. So Hamming's exercise can be generalized to:"

"What's the best thing you could be working on, and why aren't you?"

"Most people will shy away from this question. I shy away from it myself; I see it there on the page and quickly move on to the next sentence."

"Hamming used to go around actually asking people this, and it didn't make him popular. But it's a question anyone ambitious should face."

"The trouble is, you may end up hooking a very big fish with this bait. To do good work, you need to do more than find good projects. Once you've found them, you have to get yourself to work on them, and that can be hard. The bigger the problem, the harder it is to get yourself to work on it."

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