Albert Einstein? Apocryphal?
Dear Quote Investigator: Einstein famously constructed a foundational equation about energy: E = mc². Apparently, he also fashioned a less-well-known humorous formula about success in life using the terms A, X, Y, and Z. Did Einstein actually craft this quasi-mathematical joke?
Quote Investigator: In 1929 Albert Einstein was interviewed by Samuel J. Woolf in Berlin for a piece published in “The New York Times Magazine”. The following passage appeared at the end of the article. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1
It was time for me to go and as he saw me to the door I asked him what he considered the best formula for success in life. He smiled, that same awkward bashful smile and thought for a minute.
“If A is success in life,” he replied, “I should say the formula is A=X+Y+Z, X being work and Y being play.” “And what,” I asked, “is Z?”
“That,” he answered, “is keeping your mouth shut.”
Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.
- 1929 August 18, New York Times, Section 5: The New York Times Magazine, Einstein’s Own Corner of Space by S. J. Woolf, Start Page SM1, Quote Page SM2, Column 5, New York. (ProQuest) ↩