James D. Watson, double helix wizard

"To succeed in science, it is not enough to be smart -- lots of people are very bright and get nowhere in life."

To have success in science, you need some luck.
But to succeed in science, you need a lot more than luck. And it's not enough to be smart -- lots of people are very bright and get nowhere in life. In my view, you have to combine intelligence with a willingness not to follow conventions when they block your path forward.

  1. The first rule: To succeed in science, you have to avoid dumb people ... you must always turn to people who are brighter than yourself.
  2. My second rule: To make a huge success, a scientist has to be prepared to get into deep trouble.
    If you are going to make a big jump in science, you will very likely be unqualified to succeed, by definition.
  3. ... third rule: Be sure you always have someone up your sleeve who will save you when you find yourself in deep shit.
  4. fourth rule: Never do anything that bores you.
    My experience in science is that someone is always telling you to do things that leave you flat. Bad idea. I am not good enough to do well something that I dislike. In fact, I find it hard enough to do well something that I like.
  5. So my final rule: If you can't stand to be with your real peers, get out of science.
    ... here's the truth: It is very hard to succeed in science if you don't want to be with other scientists.

Last modified: Mon Aug 5 12:30:42 MET DST 2002