Perhaps because I realized I might not have much time, I renewed my efforts to tackle the big question in cosmology in the early ’60s.
I have been very lucky that my disability has not been a serious handicap.
I faced a life unable to properly communicate.
All hopes of finishing my book, and perhaps even my career, seemed to be over.
Evan: He’s an English physicist, author, and professor at the University of Cambridge.
He has a rare form of ALS that has gradually paralyzed him over the past few decades.
He hasn’t let that stop him though and he’s become a bestselling author, and one of the greatest scientists of our generation.
He’s Stephen Hawking, and here’s my take on his top 10 rules for success.
Rule number one is my personal favorite. Make sure to stick around all the way to the end for a special bonus clip. Also when Stephen’s talking, if he says something that really resonates with you, please leave it in the comments below, and put quotes around it, so other people can be inspired as well. Enjoy.
Rule #1: Never Give up
Stephen: The decline in my health was a stark reminder, that time was against me. Yet despite the pressures in my family, I was determined to realize a lifelong ambition, by writing a popular book about how the universe had begun. I wanted the book to be read by millions of people around the world, like a bestselling airport novel.
Al Zuckerman: I did not think it would work. I did not think it would work, because basically if you look at all the other books in airports, there are none like that.
Stephen: However, I felt sure that the mass market would want to know about how the universe began. By 1984, I had completed the first chapter. I signed up with Peter, and set to work completing the first draft of my book. I tried to simplify the physics as best I could and by the end I was pleased, and felt it was in pretty good shape, but Peter wasn’t convinced.
Peter: I was pretty disappointed. Yeah, I thought this is going to be really difficult.
Stephen: Lightning, did indeed strike, but not in the way that Peter and I were hoping. That summer I had taken a break from rewriting to travel to Switzerland on holiday, but while I was there I caught a chest infection, that developed into pneumonia, and quickly became very serious. I was put into a drug induced coma, and on to a life support machine.
The doctors thought I was so far gone, they offered to Jane to turn off the machine, but she refused. Finally, Jane insisted that I was flown back to Cambridge. The weeks of intensive care were the darkest of my life. I felt I had always fought my illness so hard, that I was not prepared to give in so easily.
Slowly the drugs began to work, and the infection passed, but the surgeons had to perform a tracheotomy, to allow me to breathe which made a small incision in my windpipe, and connected me to a ventilator via the hole in my throat. As a result, I was now robbed of the ability to talk. I faced a life unable to properly communicate.
All hopes of finishing my book and perhaps even my career, seemed to be over. I had enough movement in my right hand to be able to click the computer system and write the words I wanted. Finally, I was free to communicate again.
I was keen to make up the lost time that my illness had forced upon me. I had a stack of notes from Peter Guzzardi suggesting changes and clarifications to my book, but I needed practical help with the rewrite at my end. Someone who could act as a go between.
“The weeks of intensive care were the darkest of my life. I felt I had always fought my illness so hard, that I was not prepared to give in so easily.” – Stephen Hawking
Man: This is keeping the graphic as simple as we can.
Stephen: After months of work the rewrite was complete. None of us really knew whether the book would be liked and would sell as we all hoped for. All we could do now was give it a title, A Brief History of Time, send it off to the printers, and wait. (exciting music) But to everyone’s surprise, the book sold copy after copy, and very quickly bookshops were selling out.
When it hit the bestseller list, you’re obviously surprised. It was a pleasant surprise, and it certainly was a surprise. I don’t think you’ll find anybody, maybe I’m wrong, who will say oh yes, we knew all along, this was going to be a major hit.
I had no expectation that it would be the number one bestselling book in the world. Not just here, but Germany, Slovenia, France, Italy, everywhere in the world there was the hope, that someone had found the mystery of life.
From then on, it was just a race to keep the book in print, and marching towards a million copies sold.
It was very gratifying. In the 38 years that I’ve been in this business, I don’t think I’ve ever had a book that’s stayed at the top of the bestseller list that long.
I was amazed at how well it did. I think it worked. He inspired people. He gave people some overall sense of the birth of the universe. It made this subject become a subject of conversation among people in all walks of life.
Woman: Professor Stephen Hawking’s book A Brief History of Time, an unlikely but successful publishing phenomena.
Man: A Brief history of Time has sold about eight million copies.
Man: A popular book about his theories is already topping the American bestsellers list.
Woman: The hugely successful, A Brief History of Time, by Stephen Hawking.
Stephen: A Brief History of Time stayed on the bestseller list for over four years and entered into the Guinness Book of Records for doing so. To date, over 10 million copies have been sold worldwide. Over the next few years a lot of fuss was made about my book. I became famous nationally and around the world, as it was translated into 40 different languages.
Rule #2: Concentrate On The Things You Can Do
If one is disabled, one should concentrate on the things one can do, and not regret the things one can’t do.
Interviewer: : Given how hard it is for you to communicate. You mentioned in the film, how sometimes, when people are chatting, your thoughts drift off into things like how the universe began. Do you think in some ways your disability has made you a better scientist?
Stephen: I must admit I do tend to drift off to thinking about physics or black holes when I get left behind in the conversation. In fact, my disability has been a help in a way.
“If one is disabled, one should concentrate on the things one can do, and not regret the things one can’t do.” – Stephen Hawking
It has freed me from teaching or sitting on boring committees, and given me more time to think and do research. Theoretical physics is one of the few fields in which being disabled is no handicap. It’s all in the mind.
Rule #3: Work Hard
Falling in love and getting engaged was the motivation that I needed. If I were to get married, I had to get a job, and to get a job I had to finish my PhD.
I therefore started working hard for the first time in my life. To my surprise, I found I liked it. Perhaps because I realized I might not have much time, I renewed my efforts to tackle the big question in cosmology in the early ’60s. Did the universe have a beginning or not?
Rule #4: Make The Best Of Your Life
Having lived on this wonderful planet for over 71 years, I feel my proudest achievement has been to inspire people to think about the cosmos and our place in it.
Since I believe there is no afterlife, I think it’s important to realize we only have a very short time alive, and should make the best of it.
Rule #5: Be Positive
All my life I have sought to understand the universe and find answers to these questions. I have been very lucky that my disability has not been a serious handicap.
Indeed, it has probably given me more time than most people to pursue the quest for knowledge.
Rule #6: Challenge Yourself
As a small boy I used to take things apart. I wanted to find out how they worked. That is still what I want, but I’ve moved on to bigger things, like the universe.
The thrill of discovering something no one knew before, is like nothing else I know. I want to share my excitement with everyone.
My main challenge has been Lou Gehrig’s disease, or ALS. I have had it since I was 21, but it has not prevented me from exploring the universe with my mind, or having three wonderful children.
Rule #7: Make Every Minute Count
I have lived over two thirds of my life, with the threat of death hanging over me. Because every new day could be my last, I have developed a desire to make the most of each and every minute.
Rule #8: Maintain a Sense Of Humor
Although I’m 71 now, I still go to work every day at Cambridge University.
Woman: I’ll see you in a bit. Going shopping.
“I find humor and a few jokes are a great help in a lecture on the mysteries of the universe.” – Stephen Hawking
Stephen: Keeping an active mind has been vital to my survival. As has been maintaining a sense of humor.
Man: You clearly have a very good sense of humor. Many will remember your appearance in the Simpsons.
Crowd: Stephen Hawking!
Simpson Character: The world’s smartest man.
Stephen: I’m probably better known for my appearances on The Simpson’s, and The Big Bang Theory, than I am for my scientific discoveries. I’ve made a cameo appearance on Star Trek, my favorite Sci-fi show.
Man: You are bluffing.
Stephen: Wrong again, Albert. I find humor and a few jokes are a great help in a lecture on the mysteries of the universe.
Rule #9: Face The Difficulties Of Life
Ever since the dawn of civilization, people have craved for an understanding of the underlying order of the world. There ought to be something very special about the renditions of the universe.
“However difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at.” – Stephen Hawking
What can be more special, than that there is no boundary? There should be no boundary to human endeavor. The Olympic games are all about transforming our perception of the world.
We are all different. There is no such thing as a standard or run of the mill human being, but we share the same human spirit. However difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at.
Rule #10: Know No Boundaries
I feel a sense of achievement that I have managed to make these contributions, despite having ALS. I have not allowed my disability to stop me doing most things. My motto is there are no boundaries. Thank you.
Thank you guys so much for watching. I made this video because parijatprakash asked me to. If there’s a famous entrepreneur that you want me to profile next, leave it in the comments below, and I’ll see what I can do.
I’m also curious to figure out what did Stephen say that had the biggest and most profound impact on you? What are you going to immediately apply to your life, or to your business? Leave it in the comments. I’m going to join in the discussion.
Finally, I want to give a quick shout out to Ola “Tux”. Thank you so much for hosting me on your YouTube channel and your podcast to talk about my book Your One Word.
It was a blast. I really appreciate it, and thank you for all the love that you are showing entrepreneurs.
Ola “Tux”: When you look at the title, it’s so mild, and so straightforward, that you expect to read, okay I get it. He’s going to talk about just one word.
Thank you guys again for watching. I believe in you. I hope you continue to believe in yourself, and whatever your one word is. Much love, I’ll see you soon.
Stephen: Here are the most important pieces of advice that I’ve passed on to my children. One, remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Two, never give up work. Work gives you meaning and purpose, and life is empty without it.
It’s beautiful advice.
Stephen: Three, if you are lucky enough to find love remember it is rare, and don’t throw it away.