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12 Favourite Problems

2 min read

Richard Feynman was one of the most important scientists of the 20th century.

He was not only famed for his contributions to quantum physics, but also for his talent in simplifying complex scientific principles. Anyone interested in learning more effectively would likely know about 'The Feynman Method.'

His life was a testament to curiosity and variety, as he dabbled in everything from drumming to lock-picking to deciphering Mayan hieroglyphs.

“Fall in love with some activity, and do it! Nobody ever figures out what life is all about, and it doesn’t matter. Explore the world. Nearly everything is really interesting if you go into it deeply enough. Work as hard and as much as you want to on the things you like to do the best. Don’t think about what you want to be, but what you want to do. Keep up some kind of a minimum with other things so that society doesn’t stop you from doing anything at all.”

Source: The Feynman Lectures on Physics

His secret? According to Gian-Carlo Rota, it's the concept of "favourite problems".

“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!”

Feynman kept these problems at the back of his mind, revisiting them anytime he encountered new information to see if it could contribute to a solution. While often this did not yield immediate results, occasionally it led to groundbreaking solutions.

If you want to create your own ‘favourite problems’, start by writing them down.

Consider the everyday issues that annoy you.

Think of the things you’d do for fun.

Then, create specific questions around them. Keep them open-ended. These are the questions you could spend a lifetime pondering on.

Reflect on these as you go about your day and apply any new knowledge to these problems to see if it helps in solving them.

Here are my 12 favourite problems:

  1. How can I scale my impact as a doctor?
  2. How can I balance being a doctor and writing online?
  3. How can I continue to learn effectively after my undergraduate studies?
  4. What type of doctor do I want to be?
  5. How can we improve the toxic working environment in medicine?
  6. How can we use AI to improve how we learn and work more productively in my fields of interest?
  7. How can I create systems and habits to achieve what I want in my work, health, and relationships?
  8. How can we use the Internet as a tool instead of being the tool?
  9. How can I navigate being in a committed, long-term relationship?
  10. How can I publish meaningful, interesting, helpful, and unique articles by using the things I have learned and the life I have lived?
  11. How can I remove the fear of putting myself out there/promoting my work?
  12. How can I create articles that resonate with many?