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The Incredible Work Ethic of Albert Einstein: Lessons on Creativity and Contribution

The Incredible Work Ethic of Albert Einstein: Lessons on Creativity and Contribution

As soon as he hung up the phone, Ralph Morse knew that he needed to get moving. He was still 90 miles away and there wouldn’t be much time before people began to hear the news. Albert Einstein had just died.

Morse was a photographer for LIFE Magazine. He drove down to Princeton, New Jersey as fast as possible, but other members of the media were already alerted by the time he arrived. Morse would later recall the situation by saying,

“Einstein died at Princeton Hospital, so I headed there first. But it was chaos — journalists, photographers, onlookers. So I headed over to Einstein’s office at the Institute for Advanced Studies. On the way, I stopped and bought a case of scotch. I knew people might be reluctant to talk, but most people are happy to accept a bottle of booze, instead of money, in exchange for their help. So I get to the building, find the superintendent, give him a fifth of scotch and like that, he opens up the office.” [1]

When Morse walked into Einstein’s office, he snapped a photo of the desk where Einstein had been working just hours before. Nobody knew it yet, but Einstein’s body would be cremated before anyone could capture a final photo of him. As a result, Morse’s photo of Einstein’s desk would soon become the final iconic image of the great scientist’s career. [2]

albert-einstein-office-ralph-morse-life-magazine-700x692
    Albert Einstein’s office just hours after his death on April 18, 1955. (Photographer: Ralph Morse. Image Source: Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images.)

    The Work Ethic of Einstein

    Einstein died of internal bleeding caused by the rupture of an abdominal aortic aneurysm, a condition he had struggled with for years. In 1948, seven years before his death, Einstein had surgery to prevent the “grapefruit-sized” aneurysm from rupturing. [3]

    One physician familiar with Einstein’s case wrote, “For a number of years he had suffered from attacks of upper abdominal pain, which usually lasted for 2-3 days and were often accompanied by vomiting. These attacks usually occurred about every 3 or 4 months.” [4]

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    Einstein continued to work despite the pain. He published papers well into the 1950s. Even on the day of his death in 1955, he was working on a speech he was scheduled to give on Israeli television. He even brought the draft of it with him to the hospital. The speech draft, shown below, was never finished.

    albert-einstein-last-statement-israel-telecast-draft-716x960
      The final document worked on by Albert Einstein, a draft of his speech for Israel’s 7th Anniversary. (Image Source: Einstein Archives Online)

      Contributing vs. Consuming

      “Try not to become a man of success. Rather become a man of value.”
      —Albert Einstein

      Einstein’s most famous contribution to science, the general theory of relativity, was published in 1915. He won the Nobel Prize in 1921. Yet, rather than assume he was a finished product, Einstein continued to work and contribute to the field for 40 more years. Up until the moment of his death, Einstein continued to squeeze every ounce of greatness out of himself. He never rested on his laurels. He continued to work even through severe physical pain and in the face of death.

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      Everyone has a gift to share with the world, something that both lights you on fire internally and serves the world externally. Furthermore, this thing–this calling–should be something you pursue until your final breath. It could be your actual job, as it was for Einstein. It could be a creative hobby, as it was for Vivian Maier. It could be the care you provide to those around you.

      Whatever it is for you, our lives were meant to be spent making our contribution to the world, not merely consuming the world that others create.

      “I have done my share.”

      Hours before his death, Einstein’s doctors proposed trying a new and unproven surgery as a final option for extending his life. Einstein simply replied, “I have done my share, it is time to go. I will do it elegantly.” [5]

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      We cannot predict the value our work will provide to the world. That’s fine. It is not our job to judge our own work. It is our job to create it, to pour ourselves into it, and to master our craft as best we can.

      We all have the opportunity to squeeze every ounce of greatness out of ourselves that we can. We all have the chance to do our share.

      This article was originally published on JamesClear.com.

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      Sources

      1. The Day Albert Einstein Died: A Photographer’s Story by Ben Cosgrove
      2. With regards to his cluttered desk Einstein famously said, “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?”
      3. Famous Patients, Famous Operations, 2002 – Part 3: The Case of the Scientist with a Pulsating Mass by Albert B. Lowenfels, MD
      4. Famous Patients, Famous Operations, 2002 – Part 3: The Case of the Scientist with a Pulsating Mass by Albert B. Lowenfels, MD
      5. The ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm of Albert Einstein by Cohen and Graver

      Thanks to my grandma for sending me the picture of Einstein’s desk that prompted this story.

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      Last Updated on August 12, 2019

      12 Best Foods That Improve Memory and Brain Health

      12 Best Foods That Improve Memory and Brain Health

      Nutrition plays a vital role in brain function and staying sharp into the golden years. Personally, my husband is going through medical school, which is like a daily mental marathon. Like any good wife, I am always looking for things that will boost his memory fortitude so he does his best in school.

      But you don’t have to be a med student to appreciate better brainiac brilliance. If you combine certain foods with good hydration, proper sleep and exercise, you may just rival Einstein and have a great memory in no time.

      I’m going to reveal the list of foods coming out of the kitchen that can improve your memory and make you smarter.

      Here are 12 best brain foods that improve memory and brain power:

      1. Nuts

      The American Journal of Epidemiology published a study linking higher intakes of vitamin E with the prevention on cognitive decline.[1]

      Nuts like walnuts and almonds (along with other great foods like avocados) are a great source of vitamin E.

      Cashews and sunflower seeds also contain an amino acid that reduces stress by boosting serotonin levels.

      Walnuts even resemble the brain, just in case you forget the correlation, and are a great source of omega 3 fatty acids, which also improve your mental magnitude.

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      2. Blueberries

      Shown in studies at Tuffs University to benefit both short-term memory and coordination, blueberries pack quite a punch in a tiny blue package.[2]

      When compared to other fruits and veggies, blueberries were found to have the highest amount of antioxidants (especially flavonoids), but strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries are also full of brain benefits.

      3. Tomatoes

      Tomatoes are packed full of the antioxidant lycopene, which has shown to help protect against free-radical damage most notably seen in dementia patients.

      4. Broccoli

      While all green veggies are important and rich in antioxidants and vitamin C, broccoli is a superfood even among these healthy choices.

      Since your brain uses so much fuel (it’s only 3% of your body weight but uses up to 17% of your energy), it is more vulnerable to free-radical damage and antioxidants help eliminate this threat.

      Broccoli is packed full of antioxidants, is well-known as a powerful cancer fighter and is also full of vitamin K, which is known to enhance cognitive function.

      5. Foods Rich in Essential Fatty Acids

      Your brain is the fattest organ (not counting the skin) in the human body, and is composed of 60% fat. That means that your brain needs essential fatty acids like DHA and EPA to repair and build up synapses associated with memory.

      The body does not naturally produce essential fatty acids so we must get them in our diet.

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      Eggs, flax, and oily fish like salmon, sardines, mackerel and herring are great natural sources of these powerful fatty acids. Eggs also contain choline, which is a necessary building block for the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, to help you recall information and concentrate.

      6. Soy

      Soy, along with many other whole foods mentioned here, are full of proteins that trigger neurotransmitters associated with memory.

      Soy protein isolate is a concentrated form of the protein that can be found in powder, liquid, or supplement form.

      Soy is valuable for improving memory and mental flexibility, so pour soy milk over your cereal and enjoy the benefits.

      7. Dark Chocolate

      When it comes to chocolate, the darker the better. Try to aim for at least 70% cocoa. This yummy desert is rich in flavanol antioxidants which increase blood flow to the brain and shield brain cells from aging.

      Take a look at this article if you want to know more benefits of dark chocolate: 15 Surprising and Science-Backed Health Effects of Dark Chocolate

      8. Foods Rich in Vitamins: B vitamins, Folic Acid, Iron

      Some great foods to obtain brain-boosting B vitamins, folic acid and iron are kale, chard, spinach and other dark leafy greens.

      B6, B12 and folic acid can reduce levels of homocysteine in the blood. Homocysteine increases are found in patients with cognitive impairment like Alzheimer’s, and high risk of stroke.

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      Studies showed when a group of elderly patients with mild cognitive impairment were given high doses of B6, B12, and folic acid, there was significant reduction in brain shrinkage compared to a similar placebo group.[3]

      Other sources of B vitamins are liver, eggs, soybeans, lentils and green beans. Iron also helps accelerate brain function by carrying oxygen. If your brain doesn’t get enough oxygen, it can slow down and people can experience difficulty concentrating, diminished intellect, and a shorter attention span.

      To get more iron in your diet, eat lean meats, beans, and iron-fortified cereals. Vitamin C helps in iron absorption, so don’t forget the fruits!

      9. Foods Rich in Zinc

      Zinc has constantly demonstrated its importance as a powerful nutrient in memory building and thinking. This mineral regulates communications between neurons and the hippocampus.

      Zinc is deposited within nerve cells, with the highest concentrations found in the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for higher learning function and memory.

      Some great sources of zinc are pumpkin seeds, liver, nuts, and peas.

      10. Gingko Biloba

      This herb has been utilized for centuries in eastern culture and is best known for its memory boosting brawn.

      It can increase blood flow in the brain by dilating vessels, increasing oxygen supply and removing free radicals.

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      However, don’t expect results overnight: this may take a few weeks to build up in your system before you see improvements.

      11. Green and Black Tea

      Studies have shown that both green and black tea prevent the breakdown of acetylcholine—a key chemical involved in memory and lacking in Alzheimer’s patients.

      Both teas appear to have the same affect on Alzheimer’s disease as many drugs utilized to combat the illness, but green tea wins out as its affects last a full week versus black tea which only lasts the day.

      Find out more about green tea here: 11 Health Benefits of Green Tea (+ How to Drink It for Maximum Benefits)

      12. Sage and Rosemary

      Both of these powerful herbs have been shown to increase memory and mental clarity, and alleviate mental fatigue in studies.

      Try to enjoy these savory herbs in your favorite dishes.

      When it comes to mental magnitude, eating smart can really make you smarter. Try to implement more of these readily available nutrients and see just how brainy you can be!

      More About Boosting Brain Power

      Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

      Reference

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