无语的大牙

Paul Graham谈取舍与发现

美国著名程序员、博客作者和技术作家保罗·格雷厄姆(Paul Graham)在其个人网站上的长文《How to do great work》给仍然雄心勃勃的年轻人提了一些建议,适合每位对自己仍有期望的朋友反复阅读。下面是本文的第十部分摘录:


Great work is consistent not only with who did it, but with itself. It’s usually all of a piece. So if you face a decision in the middle of working on something, ask which choice is more consistent.

You may have to throw things away and redo them. You won’t necessarily have to, but you have to be willing to. And that can take some effort; when there’s something you need to redo, status quo bias and laziness will combine to keep you in denial about it. To beat this ask: If I’d already made the change, would I want to revert to what I have now?

Have the confidence to cut. Don’t keep something that doesn’t fit just because you’re proud of it, or because it cost you a lot of effort.

Indeed, in some kinds of work it’s good to strip whatever you’re doing to its essence. The result will be more concentrated; you’ll understand it better; and you won’t be able to lie to yourself about whether there’s anything real there.

Mathematical elegance may sound like a mere metaphor, drawn from the arts. That’s what I thought when I first heard the term “elegant” applied to a proof. But now I suspect it’s conceptually prior — that the main ingredient in artistic elegance is mathematical elegance. At any rate it’s a useful standard well beyond math.

Elegance can be a long-term bet, though. Laborious solutions will often have more prestige in the short term. They cost a lot of effort and they’re hard to understand, both of which impress people, at least temporarily.

Whereas some of the very best work will seem like it took comparatively little effort, because it was in a sense already there. It didn’t have to be built, just seen. It’s a very good sign when it’s hard to say whether you’re creating something or discovering it.

When you’re doing work that could be seen as either creation or discovery, err on the side of discovery. Try thinking of yourself as a mere conduit through which the ideas take their natural shape.

(Strangely enough, one exception is the problem of choosing a problem to work on. This is usually seen as search, but in the best case it’s more like creating something. In the best case you create the field in the process of exploring it.)

Similarly, if you’re trying to build a powerful tool, make it gratuitously unrestrictive. A powerful tool almost by definition will be used in ways you didn’t expect, so err on the side of eliminating restrictions, even if you don’t know what the benefit will be.

Great work will often be tool-like in the sense of being something others build on. So it’s a good sign if you’re creating ideas that others could use, or exposing questions that others could answer. The best ideas have implications in many different areas.

If you express your ideas in the most general form, they’ll be truer than you intended.

做出伟大的作品,不仅需要与创作者保持一致,更需要在作品内部保持统一。伟大的作品通常具有整体性。所以,当你在工作中面临抉择时,问自己哪个选择能使作品更加内在统一。

你可能需要抛弃一些东西,重新做过。这可能不是必须的,但你应该有重新做的准备。当需要重新做某些部分时,现状依赖和懒惰会阻止你这么做。为了克服这点,可以问自己:如果我已经做出改变,我还会回头选择现在的状态吗?

自信地删减不合适的部分,不要仅仅因为自豪或者已经投入了大量努力就保留实际上不合适的内容。

的确,在某些工作中,将内容萃取到本质是明智的。这样作品会更加简洁和集中,你也会更好地理解它的核心所在,不会自欺欺人。

数学上的“优雅”可能只是一个从艺术中借用的比喻。当我第一次听说“优雅”这个词被应用于证明时,我就是这么想的。但现在我怀疑它在概念上先于艺术优雅而存在。无论如何,这是一种远超数学的有用标准。

然而,优雅可能是长期的质量保证,而不是短期的。在短期内,劳动密集型的解决方案往往更受欢迎。它们需要大量努力,也很难理解,给人留下深刻印象,至少短期如此。

而另一方面,一些最伟大的作品给人几乎不需付出任何努力的感觉,因为在某种意义上它已经存在了。它不需要建造,只需要被发现。当你无法判断自己是创造还是发现时,这是一个非常好的信号。

当工作被视为创造或发现时,把它看作发现会更好。试图成为思想自然成形的一个纯粹传导者。

(奇怪的是,一个例外是选择研究问题。这通常被看作探索,但在最佳情况下,它更像创造。在最佳情况下,你在探索一个领域的同时创建了这个领域。)

类似地,如果你试图建立一个强大的工具,让它不受限制。一个强大的工具几乎肯定会被意想不到地使用,所以在消除限制时保守点,即使你不知道好处是什么。

伟大的作品往往具有工具性质,可以被他人扩展和构建。因此,如果你创建了他人可以使用的想法,或者提出他人可以回答的问题,这是一个好兆头。最好的想法具有跨领域的启发性。

如果你用最一般的方式表达想法,它们会比你预期的更为真实。

#Paul Graham #How to do great work