Be happy – the field you are in and the stuff you get to do is amazing and in its infancy. You have no idea what is possible yet, any more than a cave man could be depressed about the state of the wheel – luckily for us we can progress faster than it took for the rock wheel to progress to the BMW.
Be inquisitive – Although not widely known or believed by the mathematicians our field is a nature based science, like biology and physics. All the universe is just information – which cannot be destroyed, even in a black hole. Let this sink in – you are participating in the discovery of the workings of the universe, and the universe does a much better job at information processing and implementation than we do – discover the way it works. Turing had one idea, but it is not the universal model for making miracles out of binary.
Be confident –Doubt yourself, challenge yourself, but always be true to yourself. In the words of Dorianne Laux, “You’ve traveled this far on the back of every mistake” and Ralph Waldo Emerson, “To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men, — that is genius.” In fact, just read the whole thing again and often. The time of the field we are in requires constant re-assurance, and belief in yourself and your intuition is essential.
Be a new builder – unlike the knowledge that allows them, physical manifestations of new things do not come from the assembly of a bigger tower on the back of older bricks, built on assumptions that no longer hold merit. Build on old foundations wearily, as they are not what will manifest any new thing. Adopt the new foundations readily, abandoning old work without care. These new platforms will allow for new things, and will take none of the legacy of the old which will hinder your progress. The fish does not contain the information to build a tree.
Be familiar, but not public – a lot of people are interested in the exchange of ideas and theories and it’s important to participate in the discussion in the places where that discussion happens. However, do not contribute just to be in the room or be on the web – the current way we’ve set up information discovery on this planet rewards noise vs. signal. Don’t play this game – be scholarly and genuine. You will be rewarded by better conversations with better people. As far as seeking fame, don’t – in the words of Rainer Rilke:
“Don’t ask anyone to speak about you, not even disparagingly. And if the time should come that you notice your name circulating among the people, don’t take it any more seriously than anything else you might find in their mouths. Think: it has become tainted, and dismiss it. Then take another, any other, by which God can call you in the night. And hide it from everyone.” – The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge
Be serious – people depend on technology more now than ever – and they expect us to make sure it works for them no matter what. They aren’t friends with a shared goal and a high tolerance for mistakes, they are people with a life that needs to be bettered. Fans of your technology will not get you as far as you need to go, and aren’t to be relied on for signals of your progress.
Be open – we were all teased as geeks, and have formed defenses, mostly related to protection of our non-conforming personality from the onslaught of the outside world – this includes sarcasm, knee jerk reactions to new stimulus, and desire to only stay within a safe group of like-minded people who share our views. This can happen in the media we consume, in our associations, or even geographically. This is our biggest hurdle. Let this initial defense resolve back into the despicable classroom memory from which it came. You don’t need to do that kind of stuff anymore. It will stop you from seeing the bigger problems and the bigger solutions. You need the world, as you are practicing your science in it.
Be supportive – as much as possible, run your friend’s code and listen to their ideas. If you are smarter than all your friends, then you aren’t making friends- you’re making a cult. This happens more often than you think, and often without your conscious knowledge. You should always leave a group of friends feeling energized and provoked, and with a desire to make them as successful as you wish for yourself.
Be aggressive, but patient – there are two types of people in the world, those that walk and those that run. This is as much about ensuring your ideas find expression as it is about self-advancement. To quote Emerson again:
“In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts: they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty… to-morrow a stranger will say with masterly good sense precisely what we have thought and felt all the time, and we shall be forced to take with shame our own opinion from another.”
I would call this more than shame, but for the ambitious is it like eating glass. Still, don’t fall for the desire to reveal everything to get a small credit from a thief that would build your work. In our time ideas are often credited not to those that first had them but to those that built them until they stood. Always push forward with your ideas without apology, and aid in the refinement of the ideas of others, but don’t rush out that which is still unformed.
Be humble - Reference others. You didn’t figure it out, you just put it together.