This was such a fun book to read. Cédric Villani offers a mix of memoir, dream diary, and narrative, all centered around the unfiltered process of discovering and proving a new mathematical theorem. I particularly appreciated the insight into the daily life, the ebbs and flows and rhythms, of an intellect of the highest degree. Villani plays with his children, cooks for his wife, manages the administrivia of leading an organization.
But when his work closes in on a proof, the intensity crescendoes. “Sitting on the floor, surrounded by sheets of scribbled notes all over the carpet, I write and type for hours in a state of feverish excitement…” Recognizing when his more consistent, patient study has led him closer to a novel result, Villani works extraordinarly hard. Thinking and writing until two, three, four in the morning. A ten-minute nap followed by renewed effort. Outsize results for Villani come from consistent application punctuated by periods of extremism. I’ve experienced some version of this myself (e.g., the impact of condensed study for standardized tests), but I’m really curious about whether this applies to organizations as well as individuals. If regular, hard work and unsustainable bursts of creativity are complementary and create substantial value, how might I get a team to work together in that rhythm?