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What did Einstein mean (discussing success): "and z is keeping your mouth shut"

  1. Feb 14, 2019 at 3:48 AM #1
    by this quote "If A is a success in life, then A equals x plus y plus z. Work is x; y is play; and z is keeping your mouth shut."

    i wonder if "z" means "say nobody about your results until they are published" or "work and do not gab on empty"
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 14, 2019 at 5:46 AM #2

    Wrichik Basu

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    Or maybe ##z## means that we shouldn't boast in life about our success. The fact is, the point of maxima is always an unstable equilibrium, and it is very easy to fall down from there.

    Your explanation:
    could be equally true. There are a large number of examples, especially in particle physics, where a physicist has discussed something with his colleague over the coffee table, and the latter completed the former's work and published it before the former did, thereby getting all the appreciation actually due to the former.
  4. Feb 14, 2019 at 9:48 AM #3


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    Other reasons he might have said that talking too much draws attention to you if you make politically dangerous comments especially in Germany in the '30's. Sometimes even well meaning comments produce unfavorable.reactions causing one distress. Einstein was a pacifist and publicly denounce the use of the A bomb although he supported its development. This may have been the reason that he was suspected of communist leanings by the US government.
  5. Feb 14, 2019 at 10:14 AM #4


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    He didn't keep his mouth shut... :-D
    So many quotes of his...
  6. Feb 14, 2019 at 12:29 PM #5


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    For a pacifist Einstein had remarkable insight into the military. To paraphrase the prototypical sergeant to trainee, "Soldier, shut up and soldier!" or the navy-marine version, "Work your guns, not your jaws." The civilian version might say, "Do not talk your way out of a good job.".
  7. Feb 14, 2019 at 1:51 PM #6
    How old was he when he said that? If it was later in life, he may have come to see that domestic tranquility sometimes requires holding one's tongue.
  8. Feb 14, 2019 at 3:00 PM #7

    Wrichik Basu

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    As per this site, Einstein said the quoted lines in 1929. He was 50 years old then.
  9. Feb 14, 2019 at 4:54 PM #8


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    Btw, he said muse not play.

    In my opinion he meant: Let others judge. It's a call for modesty. Any other interpretation ignores in my mind the common system of moral values in 1929.

    There is a modern days version of this attitude of modesty, partly meant as sarcasm:
    "Bescheidenheit ist eine Zier, weiter kommt man ohne ihr!"
    "Modesty is an adornment, farther you get by an announcement!"

    However, this wasn't the attitude of gentle people in 1929.
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2019 at 5:21 PM
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