On Terrible Ideas
In my experience, the mark of brilliance is an abundance of terrible ideas.
The more ideas a person pursues at any one moment, the more likely it is that one will turn out to be excellent, or popular, or temporally relevant.
This applies to science, invention, politics, romance… you name it.
In romance, it’s the shotgun method. The man who randomly chats up every reasonably attractive girl in the bar vastly increases his chances of hitting his target: the one who’s worthwhile to chat with.
In terms of science, it seems to me that the difference between prestigious scientists and regular people is just lots of hard work. The difference between hotshots and ordinary prestigious scientists on the other hand, seems to be entirely based on the sheer flux of the ideas they’re willing to pursue. If you need an example, think of DaVinci’s tomes of designs for flying devices that could never have flown.
So too with young hotshot professors, who have lots of terrible ideas and work hard to pursue all of them. In so doing, they astronomically increase the likelihood that one will eventually take off, with perfect timing, and revolutionize some research topic of great relevance. At that moment, these hotshots must drop everything else to ride the wave, or be drowned.