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Writing Day 23 – On the Need for Mental Rigour

I’ve been learning Maths and daydreaming about careers in Mathematics
I loved the idea of being a pure Mathematician and then realised that path was not for me. My head hurts when I focus on my Maths work :P

But then it struck me how much of Maths & Science was done by people in their spare time, by tinkering and thinking long and hard and with focus on or about something.
So many folks had day jobs that had little to nothing to do with their work and the accomplishments they were known for.

Einsteing was technical assistant examiner at the Swiss Patent Office.
Newton was Master of Coin.
Fermat was a lawyer.
Descartes was a soldier and then lived off investments
Mendel was a priest
Hooke was an architect
Da Vinci was forever doing stuff for various dukes and Popes and it’s a wonder, he found time for Maths and all the other revolutionary stuff he penned down.

Which then led me to thinking … they must have worked in their spare time to do this. It must have tested their will. And it must have been hard.

“I have used the involuntary house arrest around Easter to solve the equation”

Schrödinger, on the degree of concentration he needed in order to solve an equation relating to Einstein's general relativity

Which led me to wonder …
What kept them going?
They must have has some quality that contributed to these towering feats of mental acuity.

And then it struck me, what Cal Newport was banging on about with his idea of Deep Work.

Theirs was an age of Willpower!
They were masters of the skill.
That was my secondary observation from the book.

“The highest possible stage in moral culture is when we recognize that we ought to control our thoughts.”

— Charles Darwin

Forget the geniuses, even amongst Freud’s ordinary patients

The Victorian middle-class citizens … had intensely strong wills, making it difficult for therapists to break through their ironclad defenses and their sense of what was right and wrong.

So I’m off, to build willpower, like Calvin does. (as did his old original)

P.S.
Orthogonally related: Just ran into this post on Shane’s blog.