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The most modest guy in the universe?

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in Workplace Communication

Ernest Rutherford, the scientist who in 1907 proved the existence of atoms, offers two lessons on humility.
  1. Chest-pounding doesn’t help. As long as you’re given your due, there’s no need to call attention to your work. Especially when you’re way out in front of the pack on something huge; public recognition will come.

  2. Appreciation adds to your greatness. Rutherford pretended to be a hands-on, down-to-earth kind of guy—“Don’t let me catch anyone talking about the universe in my department,” he joked—but he may have understood more about Albert Einstein and advanced physics than he let on.

    Much later, Rutherford described the process of scientific discovery as an art form: Imagination uses logic and assumptions to build a theory.
Bottom line: Recognition may be fun and lucrative in the short term but it doesn’t do much for your legacy. Instead of chasing after attention, stay humble. For all his modesty, Rutherford remained one of the most sought-after scientists of his day.

—Adapted from A Force of Nature, Richard Reeves, W.W. Norton & Co.

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