You might have seen the 2023 blockbuster film Oppenheimer.
Can you guess the two men in the picture below?
I suppose you might have guessed the one on the left is Oppenheimer. But who’s on the right? Well, that is Abdus Salam.
So who was Abdus Salam? Well, for one thing, his office was a few yards from the office I shared with other research students in a quantum field theory and theoretical physics group. But being in the proximity of my presence was the least of his achievements.
He had also been a faculty colleague of my dad around the early 1950s - two young physicists, albeit in different areas. And soon after winning the 1979 Nobel prize for physics he told my maternal uncle in Washington DC that my dad would have won a Nobel much earlier had he stayed in academia. Salam hadn't realised that my uncle was related to my dad, and he was reaching back in memory to talents that he had known.
But that's not the reason I'm bringing him up.
You see I was told by other colleagues of his, many of equal stature, that Salam was so charismatic and original that after he gave a seminar they just wanted to drop whatever they were working on themselves, and start working on whatever topic he had introduced.
And that if you ever knocked on his office and went in and said, “Abdus, you were right,” he had no interest.
But if you said “Abdus, you got this wrong,” his face would break into a broad smile and he'd say, “Come right on in, and tell me.“
You see comfort zone isn't what he was looking for. He was seeking understanding. And that doesn’t come from comfort zone.
You need to know that to be the best you can be, your biggest steps up will come from not being in the comfort zone. It is so with tennis. It is so with physics. It is so with mountain climbing. It is so with life, and adversity.
In illness and in health.
Being comfortable isn't the same as being in the comfort zone. You can be comfortable in effort - sometimes it is necessary. But if you’re sitting back and always looking back you’re in the comfort zone. There is nothing wrong with that either. But if you want to move out of it, you will have to look forward and make effort for some inner goal that fires you.
I can't tell you what that inner goal is for you.
Only you can know.
What is you inner goal?
I've previously shared this video of Salam discussing with Ed Witten and Denis Sciama, who was Stephen Hawking’s PhD advisor.
You will notice that even in his 60s, Salam is still seeking understanding - his inner goal. He is not sitting on the laurels of his 1979 Nobel prize.