The Feynman Algorithm:

  1. Write down the problem.
  2. Think real hard.
  3. Write down the solution.

The Feynman algorithm was facetiously suggested by Murray Gell-Mann, a colleague of Feynman, in a New York Times interview.

.. Gell-Mann is a highly successful and highly trained problem solver (this is essentially what it means to be a theoretical physicist) and himself no slouch at this stuff (he has a Nobel prize for work in quantum physics), yet he was astounded by Feynman’s ability. So he half-joking wrote down the algorithm.

.. This is related to another comment about two types of genius. There are people who solve a problem the same way that you do, just much much faster. You can imagine doing the same work they had done, but rather than an hour or a day, you would have got to the same place after months of hard work and dead ends. These people are much like ourselves, only a lot quicker.

Then there are the other people who show you a solution, and you have absolutely no idea how they even got started. Feynman fell into this latter group.

.. Math is a human discovery, and it’s no more complicated than humans can understand. I had a calculus book once that said, ‘What one fool can do, another can.’ What we’ve been able to work out about nature may look abstract and threatening to someone who hasn’t studied it, but it was fools who did it, and in the next generation, all the fools will understand it. There’s a tendency to pomposity in all this, to make it deep and profound.” — Feynman, Omni 1979

.. “Winning a Nobel Prize is no big deal, but winning it with an IQ of 124 is really something.” — Feynman, referring to his tested IQ [I’m not sure the source of this quote]

.. The FeynmanAlgorithm is an extension of Classicism. Nowadays, people are most likely to write a “first try” down and iterate from there in the spirit of Modernism. This is the WorseIsBetter, ReleaseEasyReleaseOften (FreudianTypo) idea. It’s potentially less efficient, but in practice it is more responsive. PostModernism would rather have us write down the solution, think real hard, and then write down the problem. — SunirShah


  1. Own a very smart brain.
  2. Acquire an understanding of the problem.
  3. Think real hard.
  4. Ride a train, take a bath, run a long distance, etc.
  5. Repeat steps 3 through 4 as necessary.
  6. Receive an unexpected insight from some non-conscious part of your brain.
  7. Write down the solution.

Startup Cargo Cults: What They Are and How to Avoid Them

Cargo Cult Causes

Everyone in the startup ecosystem, from investors to founders to employees, is prone to Cargo Cult thinking. People try to extract lessons from the successes of others, but fall prey to numerous biases and fallacies:

  • Survival bias — attributing causality to common attributes of successes without determining if those attributes were different among failures. Example: “The most successful CEOs are incredibly hardworking.” (It turns out that many unsuccessful CEOs are incredibly hardworking, too, so working 100-hour weeks may not be a good predictor of success.)