Feynman‘s Dozen – 12 Favorite Problems

Davide Wiest
3 min readMar 29, 2024


“You have to keep a dozen of your favorite problems constantly present in your mind, although by and large they will lay in a dormant state. Every time you hear or read a new trick or a new result, test it against each of your twelve problems to see whether it helps. Every once in a while there will be a hit, and people will say, “How did he do it? He must be a genius!”

Richard Feynman

Your 12 favorite problems are your biggest, thoughest and most important problems. They are your main point of research, where you’ll combine new input with your unique expertise. You should, therefore, have a meaningful connection to them and be sure that a solution to any of them has a profound positive impact on your life. Sources for these problems can be: Life in general, your biggest endeavors, work, pressing issues, or friends and relationships.

Your problems should also be specific. If your process of solving them requires mainly information, formulate them with a reference to the input (How does this …?).

Be content with solving them at a very slow pace, e.g. 1 per quarter or half a year.

As examples, here are my 12 favorite problems:

  • How can I create a lot of value in a small amount of time?
  • How can I be more outgoing, open and confident?
  • Can this help me improve my model of the world, making it more holistic and accurate?
  • What will the world look like in 5, 10 or 25 years?
  • What kind of person do I want to be? What do I want to do in life? What things do I want to do before I die to be satisfied with my life?
  • Can this help me develop the focus, discipline, and environment to make action my default state of being?
  • Can this help me change what I do and how I do it to overcome procrastination and incentivize constant productivity?
  • How do I sleep well and become full of energy? How can I work my ass off every day?
  • Can I make this an asset (no matter its size)? Can it help me leverage existing assets?
  • Can I start my first business with this? How can I monetize that?
  • How can my systems be improved, minimizing maintenance and loss of information, and maximizing automation and efficiency?
  • How can I productize myself and automate the value generating processes I do?

I also recommend you pick a few general questions you can ask yourself after completing a project or reaching a milestone. They are kind in the middle between a post mortem and your favorite problems. Here are some examples:

  • What would this look like if it were easy?
  • Can I automate it?
  • Can I delegate/outsource it?
  • Can I share my experience and knowledge to create extra value?
  • Which pieces of this work can I convert to intermediate packets (templates for next time)?



Davide Wiest

Programmer, Data/AI/QS Enthusiast, Student | Writing technical, knowledge management, PKM, productivity, abstract