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Don't underestimate what we learn from experience. There is a falsehood that keeps being repeated that advances in technology mainly come from really smart guys doing engineering - isn't true. Most advances come from practice - not theory. You just need to be smart enough to remember what works. (There are a few exceptions - but the rule is advances in theory come from practice - not the other way round).
Ferinstance - jet engines. Students learn these formulas for designing the blades in a jet engine - it appears that someone really smart figured out how to optimize these engines this way - not at all true. They were designed by trial-and-error. After the progress was made, people noticed the patterns fit formulas - wrote it all down and wrote papers about it that makes it look like the advance came from theory.
Thomas Edison understood this "Genius: one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration."- In 1879, after testing more than 1600 materials, including coconut fiber, fishing line, and even hair, Edison and his team finally figured out that carbonized bamboo was the best material for the job. If you want to be a good engineer - don't forget this - don't get bogged down in theory when trying to improve a design - try things - hands on work. Try 1000 things while your competition is obsessing on the theory - doing computer models etc...
Most advances come from people that have worked with the technology for a long time and have tried lots of things. Most of the real advances are often from errors. Take the big advance in fracking - they made a bad batch of fracking fluid - and it worked much better. Same thing happens in genetics - evolution depends on preserving genetic errors.
Most of what passes as inventive genius is really people making mistakes that work. People that 'do' rather than 'think' make more errors - thus more progress. Embrace failure - it is what make people succeed. (Just keep doing stuff). The list of inventions that came from errors is very long - and the of inventions that came from theories is full of lies - claiming great intellectual ability when it was simply noting a mistake that worked. Clumsy error prone chemists have accidentally created many great products.
The other key is to not give-up. If you give-up you won't succeed. If you try 10 things and give up you will fail. If the other guy tries 20 it works. Then others seeing that it is possible won't give up and recreate the advance. Not giving up when there is no certainty of success is the hard part.
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