17 Feb 2019

I read an Autobiography of Tesla called My Inventions.

I thought this book was pivotal and enlightening. It was a rather short read of ~80 pages. I highlighted and took notes of the important points of the book. There was one gem there that I found that was fascinating, which I will bold below. Here are my thoughts on the book:

  1. Early impulses shape our destinies. Tesla talks a lot about his early childhood and how that shaped who he ultimately became. I think this is true - if you are struggling to find a calling in life, one valid strategy is to dig deeper as to what you spent a lot of your time during your childhood - it may shed some light onto your natural tendencies and talents.
  2. Tesla went through a lot of training with his father on memory games, reasoning skills, repeating long sentences, doing mental calculations, etc. Theyhey were pivotal to setting the master inventor on the right track and gave him an advantage.
  3. There are things the man was born with. He had an extremely good visual memory. Even when he was little, he had this problem where random images would show up, he’d see it, and they’d be on his eyes for a while. He said he saw a lot of images show up in front of him as a kid followed by random flashes of light. He didn’t need pens or imagery - he could always visualize things on his mind.
  4. If you focus too much on the detail, you lose track of the main, overarching idea. He emphasizes this that he would continuously refine his inventions and crank out every detail, but sometimes he would lose the big principles on how the invention works because he was in the weeds.
  5. The man seemed super concerned about his diet and well-being. Seemed like he didn’t even drink coffee or alcohol, thinking that it would do damage to the artery of his brain.
  6. His parents wanted him to be a religious man. He dreaded going into the clergy. At a certain point, he got infected with cholera and almost died. He said to his father, “Perhaps I may get well if you let me study engineering.” His father replied saying, “You will go to the finest technical institution in the world.” He got better, and afterwards he took a gap year roaming the mountains with a bundle of books on his back to strengthen his body.
  7. What surprised me was that the man was already a genius himself, but he had a ridiculous work ethic. In his first year in college, he studied from 3 AM to 11 PM and did not skip weekends or holidays. He also thought that he squandered his youth in the library because he thought he spent his best years in the library. When he met Edison, he thought Edison knew so little compared to his reputation and says that at that point he was glad that he spent all that time learning. Anyhow, I was inspired by his work ethic. Even when he worked for Edison, he worked from 10:30 AM to 5 AM the next morning. Edison apparently remarked, “I have had many hardworking assistants, but you take the cake.” This was the most interesting part. When we think of geniuses, we tend to think that they have the world handed to them and they tend to work less. But it’s amazing that someone with Tesla’s intellect would work these crazy hours and have that level of passion. It was inspiring, and it made me a little bit ashamed that I wasn’t working hard to learn as much as Tesla. Someone with such innate talent.
  8. Tesla talks about how he theorizes that the longer he focuses on one object, the more toxic agents build up. He says that with enough of this toxic accumulation, his brain slows down to a crawl for almost exactly 30 minutes. Afterwards, when he turns to other work unrelated to the work that caused his brain to crawl, he finds that he would have breakthroughs on what he was previously working on. It’s interesting how the brain DOES do work in the background. My thought is that by not focusing on something, your brains takes itself out of a local minimum.
  9. A small story he mentions is that as a kid, he throw snowballs down a mountain and see how they would become huge. He states how subtle influences can drastically change our destiny. It really made me think about life in general. Small changes today could lead to big changes by the virtue of this principle 10 years from now.