10,000 Hours With Claude Shannon: How A Genius Thinks, Works, and Lives

We got up-close-and-personal with a genius for five years. Here are 12 things we learned.

Jimmy Soni
Jul 20, 2017 · 26 min read
Image for post
Image for post
Credit: Nokia Bell Labs

Claude, Who?

Image for post
Image for post
Vintage Claude. (Credit: The Shannon family)

Asking the questions he probably wouldn’t

Image for post
Image for post
That’s Claude with Theseus the mouse. He built a maze-solving mouse as an early illustration of artificial intelligence. (Credit: Wikimedia commons)

12 Lessons Learned, Over Five Years, Writing One Book

1) Cull your inputs.

2) Big picture first. Details later.

3) Don’t just find a mentor. Allow yourself to be mentored.

Image for post
Image for post
Vannevar Bush was Claude Shannon’s most significant mentor. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

4) You don’t have to ship everything you make.

“I’ve been working on three different ideas simultaneously, and strangely enough it seems a more productive method than sticking to one problem.”

Image for post
Image for post
Credit: The Shannon Family

5) Chaos is okay.

Image for post
Image for post
“I am a chronic procrastinator.” — Claude Shannon (Credit: Shannon Papers, Library of Congress)

6) Time is the soil in which great ideas grow.

Image for post
Image for post
Credit: The Shannon family

7) Consider the content of your friendships.

Image for post
Image for post
Alan Turing and Claude Shannon had tea during Turing’s tour of duty in the United States. (Credit: Wikimedia commons)

8) Put money in its place.

Image for post
Image for post
Shannon built this chess-playing machine, an ancestor of Deep Blue. It could play six moves of an endgame. (Credit: The Shannon family)

9) Fancy is easy. Simple is hard.

10) The less marketing you need, the better your idea or product probably is.

Image for post
Image for post
After 1948, Claude Shannon’s star began to rise, based in large measure on the publication of this work.

11) Value freedom over status.

Image for post
Image for post
Claude in action. (Credit: The Shannon family)

12) Don’t look for inspiration. Look for irritation.



This piece was the by-product of work on this book:

Image for post
Image for post

Yes, it’s out. And of course, we’d love for you to read it. Conveniently and fittingly, It’s available in both analog and digital formats: paperback, audiobook, Kindle. We figured the book needed to have one foot in the world Claude lived in and one in the world he helped create. (Plus, that’s how the publisher was planning to do it anyway, though it’s nice to pretend that we did it on purpose as some grand metaphor about our subject’s life.)


The inspiration for this post comes from a marvelous essay by author and entrepreneur Ben Casnocha. In 2015, he wrote a piece summarizing the lessons he took from spending several years at the elbow of LinkedIn Founder and Greylock Partner Reid Hoffman. It’s a fantastic read, and we thank Ben for the permission to adapt his title.

We’d love to hear from readers. Rob can be contacted at goodman1 [at] gmail.com and Jimmy at jimmysoniwriting [at] gmail.com. We promise not to put you in the “Procrastination” folder. You can also subscribe to our articles here.

Mission.org

A network of business & tech podcasts designed to…

Sign up for Mission Daily

By Mission.org

Mission Daily Newsletter Take a look

By signing up, you will create a Medium account if you don’t already have one.

Check your inbox
Click the link Medium sent to to verify your email address.

Thanks to Mission

Jimmy Soni

Written by

Co-Author, A MIND AT PLAY: How Claude Shannon Invented the Information Age (http://amzn.to/2pasLMz)

Mission.org

A network of business & tech podcasts designed to accelerate learning. Selected as “Best of 2018” by Apple. Mission.org

Jimmy Soni

Written by

Co-Author, A MIND AT PLAY: How Claude Shannon Invented the Information Age (http://amzn.to/2pasLMz)

Mission.org

A network of business & tech podcasts designed to accelerate learning. Selected as “Best of 2018” by Apple. Mission.org

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store