Letters to Myself: On Patience

Rome was not built in a day. E = mc² was not thought up at the speed of light.

At age 23, Elon Musk was still in college. But he had written a paper on ultracapacitors. He referenced the latest research coming out of Silicon Valley labs. “The end represents the first new means of storing significant amounts of electrical energy since the development of the battery and the fuel cell.” He got a 97, and praise for “a very thorough analysis” with “excellent financials!”

Earlier he had written another paper testing his hypotheses. It was a business plan titled “The Importance of Being Solar.” He dove deep into how solar cells work, drew a “power station of the future” (giant solar arrays in space sending their energy to earth), and got a 98 on what was deemed a “very interesting and well written paper.”

Jigar Shah did similar work to test his own hypotheses for SunEdison. He read everything he could on solar. He found people to poke and prod his hypothesis. He described himself as the type of person who walked into the lion’s den and sought out people who would shout him down and aggressively reject his assumptions. He also put his hypotheses on Longbets.com (minimum wager $200).

At age 22, Einstein was an examiner at a Swedish patent office. He finished his day-to-day work quickly and spent the rest of each day furthering his ideas (while pretending to work).

All this to say, have some patience and test your ideas. People obsess over famous people without knowing the details on how they got to where they are now. Take your time. Build your masterpieces as fast as you can, but not at the expense of rigor. Festina lente, make haste slowly.