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3 Key Life Lessons You Can Learn From A Very Odd Mathematician

Stashed in: Math!, @bakadesuyo, 10,000 Hours, Never give up., Problem?, #success, Networking, Give and Take, Awesome, Self Improvement, @gladwell

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By all accounts, Paul Erdos was very odd guy. He is also one of the most accomplished mathematicians to ever live. This is what you need to learn from him.

I love the insight that 10,000 hours is a nice start, but NEVER GIVE UP:

Ever since Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers: The Story of Success, people have been taken with the idea of 10,000 hours of practice being the threshold of expertise.

Paul Erdos makes that number look like a low-water mark.

Even in his 70′s, he often published more papers in a year than most solid mathematicians do in their entire lives.

Via The Man Who Loved Only Numbers: The Story of Paul Erdos and the Search for Mathematical Truth:

Before Erdos died, on September 20, 1996, at the age of eighty-three, he had managed to think about more problems than any other mathematician in history. He wrote or co-authored 1,475 academic papers, many of them monumental, and all of them substantial… Even in his seventies there were years when Erdos published fifty papers, which is more than most good mathematicians write in a lifetime.

In looking at the work habits of geniuses, there is one very consistent pattern: they never stop.

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Focus on problems worth solving:

As I’ve mentioned before, citing from Dan Pink’s To Sell Is Humanthe most creative and successful people don’t just focus on good answers, they focus on good problems. Erdos was renowned for this.

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Thank you Eric for the shout out!

How did Erdos become the center of the math world?

He wasn’t a sleazy social climber. And given his eccentricities he was about as far from socially skilled as you can get.

He was a giver.

Via The Man Who Loved Only Numbers: The Story of Paul Erdos and the Search for Mathematical Truth:

Paul Erdos was one of those very special geniuses, the kind who comes along only once in a very long while yet he chose, quite consciously I am sure, to share mathematics with mere mortals — like me. And for this, I will always be grateful to him. I will miss the times he prowled my hallways at 4:00 AM and came to my bed to ask whether  my “brain is open.” I will miss the problems and conjectures and the stimulating conversations about anything and everything. But most of all, I will just miss Paul, the human. I loved him dearly. – Tom Trotter

I’ve posted a lot about networking and as great networkers like Adam Rifkin advise, Paul Erdos gave to others. He made those around him better.

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My Adam Rifkin number is 1.  My Rifkin-Bacon number is 4.  My Erdos-Bacon number is 7. 

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