When you examine the lives of history’s most creative figures, you are immediately confronted with a paradox: They organize their lives around their work, but not their days.
Figures as different as Charles Dickens, Henri Poincaré, and Ingmar Bergman, working in disparate fields in different times, all shared a passion for their work, a terrific ambition to succeed, and an almost superhuman capacity to focus. Yet when you look closely at their daily lives, they only spent a few hours a day doing what we would recognize as their most important work. The rest of the time, they were hiking mountains, taking naps, going on walks with friends, or just sitting and thinking. Their creativity and productivity, in other words, were not the result of endless hours of toil. Their towering creative achievements result from modest “working” hours.
Robert Sallis has seen it all. As a medical director for the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii, he’s spent 20 years watching athletes in every manner of distress get wheeled into the medical tent. He’s seen hyponatremia, or overhydration, a handful of times. He’s seen hundreds, maybe thousands, of dehydration cases. Sallis has even seen athletes show symptoms of both at the same time: they’ve dropped weight over the course of the race, signaling dehydration, but their blood sodium levels are dangerously low, a sign of hyponatremia.
In 1946, a 23-year-old Army veteran named John Goodenough headed to the University of Chicago with a dream of studying physics. When he arrived, a professor warned him that he was already too old to succeed in the field.
Recently, Dr. Goodenough recounted that story for me and then laughed uproariously. He ignored the professor’s advice and today, at 94, has just set the tech industry abuzz with his blazing creativity. He and his team at the University of Texas at Austin filed a patent application on a new kind of battery that, if it works as promised, would be so cheap, lightweight and safe that it would revolutionize electric cars and kill off petroleum-fueled vehicles. His announcement has caused a stir, in part, because Dr. Goodenough has done it before. In 1980, at age 57, he coinvented the lithium-ion battery that shrank power into a tiny package.
It should come as a surprise to no one that physical activity and exercise is good for you. What may come as a surprise to many is just how good it can be. Research reported in the British Medical Journal last week indicates that cycling to work has extraordinary health benefits.