My broad interests (short attention span) help to explain my diverse (incoherent) body of work. My research spans across much of economics. Within macroeconomics, I have published papers on price adjustment, consumer behavior, asset pricing, fiscal policy, monetary policy, and economic growth. I have even ventured outside of macroeconomics and published papers on fertility with imperfect birth control, the taxation of fringe
benefits, entry into imperfectly competitive markets, and the demographic determinants of housing demand. None of this is part of a grand plan. At any moment, I work on whatever then interests me most.
Coming up with ideas is the hardest and least controllable part of the research process. It is somewhat easier if you have broad interests. Most obviously, broad interests give you more opportunities for success. A miner is more likely to strike gold if he looks over a large field than over the same field over and over again. More important, thinking about one topic can generate ideas about other topics. I started thinking about menu costs and macroeconomic price adjustment, for instance, as I sat in a law school seminar that was discussing monopoly pricing and antitrust policy. Research ideas pop up in unexpected
Of course, breadth has its costs. One is that it makes writing grant proposals more difficult. I am always tempted to write, "I want to spend the next few years doing whatever I feel like doing. Please send me money so I can do so." Yet, in most cases, those giving out grant money want at least the pretense of a long-term research plan.
The greatest cost of breadth, however, is lack of depth. I sometimes fear that because I work in so many different areas, each line of work is more superficial than it otherwise would be.
Careful choice of co-authors can solve this problem to some extent, but not completely. I am always certain that whatever topic I am working on at that moment, someone else has spent many more hours thinking about it than I have. There is something to be said for devoting a lifetime to mastering a single subject.
But it won’t be my lifetime. I just don't have the temperament for it.
Aunque, para ser sincero, donde más me gustaría parecerme a él es en la regla nº6: Have fun.
A book I read long ago revealed to me the secret to a happy life:
find out what you like to do, and then find someone who will pay
you to do it.