But you'll need both if you want to be an outlier yourself.
What I've learned since I was a kid is how to work toward goals that are neither clearly defined nor externally imposed. You'll probably have to learn both if you want to do really great things.
Many problems have a hard core at the center, surrounded by easier stuff at the edges. Working hard means aiming toward the center to the extent you can. Some days you may not be able to; some days you'll only be able to work on the easier, peripheral stuff. But you should always be aiming as close to the center as you can without stalling.
It can be harder to discover your interests than your talents. There are fewer types of talent than interest, and they start to be judged early in childhood, whereas interest in a topic is a subtle thing that may not mature till your twenties, or even later.
There are three ingredients in great work: natural ability, practice, and effort.
That seems so obvious, and yet in practice we find it slightly hard to grasp. There's a faint xor between talent and hard work.
The most basic level of which is simply to feel you should be working without anyone telling you to. Now, when I'm not working hard, alarm bells go off. I can't be sure I'm getting anywhere when I'm working hard, but I can be sure I'm getting nowhere when I'm not, and it feels awful.
Strangely enough, the biggest obstacle to getting serious about work was probably school, which made work (what they called work) seem boring and pointless.
I suspect most people have to learn what work is before they can love it. Hardy wrote eloquently about this in A Mathematician's Apology:
There are two separate kinds of fakeness you need to learn to discount in order to understand what real work is.
One is the kind Hardy encountered in school. Subjects get distorted when they're adapted to be taught to kids — often so distorted that they're nothing like the work done by actual practitioners.
The other kind of fakeness is intrinsic to certain types of work. Some types of work are inherently bogus, or at best mere busywork.
There's a kind of solidity to real work. It's not all writing the Principia, but it all feels necessary.
Once you know the shape of real work, you have to learn how many hours a day to spend on it.
I do make some amount of effort to focus on important topics. Many problems have a hard core at the center, surrounded by easier stuff at the edges.
The consensus about which problems are most important is often mistaken, both in general and within specific fields.
If you disagree with it, and you're right, that could represent a valuable opportunity to do something new.
Some of the best work is done by people who find an easy way to do something hard.
You have to understand the shape of real work, see clearly what kind you're best suited for, aim as close to the true core of it as you can, accurately judge at each moment both what you're capable of and how you're doing, and put in as many hours each day as you can without harming the quality of the result.
if you want to do great things, you'll have to work very hard.
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