How to Think Like Elon Musk
A first principle is a basic assumption that can’t be deduced from any other proposition.
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It’s the only sure thing in a complex problem.
💡 Elon Musk reasons from first principles, from the ground up, rather than by analogy (such as previous experiences).
In his own words:
“You look at the fundamentals and construct your reasoning from that and then see if you have a conclusion that works or doesn’t work. And it may or may not be different from what people have done in the past. It’s harder to think that way, though.”
How can you think like Elon Musk?
First Principles is a system to help you get to the root cause of the problem. You have to break down the problem into its basic elements.
There are three main steps to apply this thinking framework:
#1 Identify and Define Current Assumptions
When faced with a problem, write down your current assumptions about it.
#2 Break It Down into the Fundamental Principles
Find the most basic truths or elements of the problem.
In Musk’s words: “Boil things down to the most fundamental truths and say ‘okay, what are we sure is true’…and then reason up from there.”
#3 Create New Solutions
If you deconstructed the problem following the first two steps, you are now ready to create new solutions from scratch.
If you want a deeper look into Musk’s mind and reasoning by first principles, read this.