While following an entirely different thread, I stumbled on a blog post by Giacomo 'Peldi' Guilizzoni which lead me to the transcript of this really significant talk that Richard Hamming gave in March 1986. I printed it out a few weeks ago and just read it today.
His title is "You and Your Research" and he discusses what it takes to do really great work and what are the differences, among otherwise smart people, that cause some to do great work and others to be forgotten. Hamming was a mathematician (familiar to EEs for Hamming codes and to DSP engineers for Hamming windows) and this talk is about what he saw among scientific colleagues at Los Alamos, Bell Labs and the Navel Post Graduate School. However, what he says is broadly applicable to any field of endeavor.
Read "You and Your Research."