Solving the Right Problem

Mathematicians undergo years of education and training and oftentimes spend most of their entire lives dedicated toward solving one mathematical problem of their choosing.

These mathematical problems range widely and solutions to some of them would create mind-blowing implications to multiple fields including math, science, and technology.

An example of some of these important problems are the seven Millenium Prize problems, stated by the Clay Mathematics Institute in 2000.

Anyone who can complete a solution to these problems will be awarded a $1mm USD cash prize, and likely become a strong contender for the esteemed Fields Medal.

Only one of the problems (Poincaré conjecture) has been solved thus far. The Russian mathematician, Grigori Perelman, who solved it ironically turned down both the cash prize and the Fields Medal.

Whenever I read about these mathematicians, I think of two questions:

  1. How much time does a mathematician spend before settling upon the problem they want to dedicate their lives to working on?
  2. Once they decide, do these mathematicians feel a great sense of clarity and peace knowing that they can focus all their efforts onto one thing?

As the year comes to a close, it’s a good opportunity to ponder the relevance of these questions to your own life.

Have you spent your time this year ensuring that you’re focused on the right problem? Does working on this problem give you mental clarity and peace? If not, why not?

Happy holidays everyone.

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