My favorite album, Midnight Oil’s Redneck Wonderland, contains no particularly memorable tracks. Had Sony demanded hits from the recording, it would never have left the studio. But taken together, the songs add up to one of the boldest albums ever made.
Measuring personal innovation in discrete “units” (patents, daily activity, publications, Nobel Prizes, etc.) is like measuring art by Top 40 rankings. You see snapshots of greatness but miss the complete story. Recognizing deep innovation usually requires stepping back to review the bigger picture.
Major segments of our science careers often resemble the Midnight Oil album: Daily contributions rarely make Top 40, but the whole career arc enriches the world far beyond the sum of our daily activities.