Richard Hamming was a great Mathematician and Computer Scientist. There is something about great people that makes them great. The following talk that he delivered at Bellcore in 1986 encapsulates many of those attributes. Fundamentally, he 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?
In other words, his question is "What's the best thing you could be working on, and why aren't you?" It is such a slap-in-the-face question, that most of the people would shy away from it. And for good reason- the other alternative is so much tougher. The rest realize that the other alternative is more fruitful, so what if it is tough? The latter are the achievers, the ambitious, the courageous, the famous and the uber-rich. Every famous scientist, businessman, politician has done just that- identified the most important problems in their field and worked on some of them 'diligently'. To me, the appeal of his talk is that it applies to Nobel Prize winning scientists as well as to more ordinary folks who want to excel in their careers.
Read it. I strongly recommend you read it all (it is pretty big) no matter over how many days:
Thanks Richard for sharing such valuable stuff (I hope he gets my thanks in heaven), and thanks Paul for sharing it with all of us.