My 12 Favorite Problems

“Richard Feynman was fond of giving the following advice on how to be a genius. You have to keep a dozen of your favorite problems constantly present in your mind, although by and large they will lay in a dormant state. Every time you hear or read a new trick or a new result, test it against each of your twelve problems to see whether it helps. Every once in a while there will be a hit, and people will say, ‘How did he do it? He must be a genius!’”

-Gian-Carlo Rota, “Indiscrete Thoughts”

I came across this quote in Tiago Forte’s Building a Second Brain, an online course in personal knowledge management that I highly recommend. One of the most common questions he would get is “How do I know what I should and should not save in my Second Brain?” Framing it with the above quote, the answer is to save whatever is relevant to solving your own favorite problems.

Going through this exercise was quite interesting! I have quite a wide array of topics I consume content on and thought it would be a challenge to get it down to only twelve. But it turned out that many of my interests could be combined into an umbrella interest that more fully captured it. For example: trading, investing, poker, and sports betting are all specific types of decision-making under uncertainty.

My Favorite Problems

In no particular order:

  • How can I maximize the positive impact I have in the world?
  • How can I bring machine learning across the chasm?
  • How can I build a business that outlasts nations?
  • How can I make optimal decisions in complex and uncertain arenas?
  • How can I stay in the present and enjoy my efforts more?
  • How can I increase productivity without burning out?
  • How can I maximize the combination of energy and longevity?
  • How can I communicate complex ideas in an engaging and easy-to-understand way?
  • How can I create deep and fulfilling relationships?
  • How can I be harder to kill?
  • How can I understand the true nature of reality?

If you are working on a project related to any of the above, I would love to learn more about it. You can find my contact info here.

No items found.