A few days ago, I was reading this article about Andy Murray. In the article, the great Wilander talks about how Murray never plays a good or a bad game; he always plays a right or a wrong game. That is to say, Murray is so technically sound that he never plays bad shots. But it is his game plan that determines the outcome of his matches. This analysis makes a lot of sense. In my experience as a tennis viewer, I have never seen Andy Murray play bad. He is amazingly consistent. But it was the phrase that Wilander used that caught my attention. It can provide a valuable primer for analyzing our course of action in life, whether professional or personal. e.g., one could be trying a complicated experiment without results. The lack of result could be due to a variety of reasons :

  • Careless handling of samples (the bad way).
  • Logical inconsistency in the design of the experiment (the wrong way).

Another example, one could be trying a career path without much success. The lack of success could be due to a variety of reasons

  • Choice of career path not in tune with your skills (the wrong way).
  • Not paying attention to the critical components of the profession (the bad way).

There are four possibilities of doing anything:

  1. A good thing in the right way.
  2. A good thing in the wrong way.
  3. The bad thing in the right way.
  4. The bad thing in the wrong way.

Of course, #1 is the most ideal. But I think it is #3 that can be the most dangerous. Because bad (or not so useful ) things done in the right way will produce favorable early results and create an illusion of success. This illusion can mask you from pursuing important and useful things. On the other hand, #4 is likely to be so unpleasant that you would quickly make changes and improve your techniques and plans.

“I have searched the feeble lucubrations of this author without success for some trace of ingenuity, acuteness or learning that might compensate for his obvious deficiency in the powers of solid thinking or of calm and careful investigation … This manuscript uncovers no new truths, reconciles no contradictions, arranges no anomalous facts, suggests no new experiments and leads to no new inquiries. … As this paper contains nothing which deserves the name of either experiment or discovery, and as it is in fact destitute of any species of merit, it should certainly be ADMITTED to your Proceedings, to join the company of that multitude of paltry and unsubstantial papers which are being published by your journal every month. Let the Professor continue to amuse his audience with an endless variety of such harmless trifles; but, in the name of Science, let them not find admittance into that venerable repository which contains the works of Newton, and Boyle, and Cavendish, and Maskelyne, and Herschell.”

This review was written in 1803 by Henry Brougham and the paper that he is criticizing is one of the most important papers of all time - Thomas Young’s Wave theory of light