How to Think Like Elon Musk

If something is important enough you should try, even if the probable outcome is failures

Defining First Principles Thinking

A first principle is a basic assumption that cannot be deduced any further. Over two thousand years ago, Aristotle defined a first principle as “the first basis from which a thing is known.”

  • A motorboat with a skier behind it
  • A military tank
  • A bicycle
  • Motorboat: motor, the hull of a boat, and a pair of skis.
  • Tank: metal treads, steel armor plates, and a gun.
  • Bicycle: handlebars, wheels, gears, and a seat.

How First Principles Drive Innovation

The snowmobile example also highlights another hallmark of first principles thinking, which is the combination of ideas from seemingly unrelated fields. A tank and a bicycle appear to have nothing in common, but pieces of a tank and a bicycle can be combined to develop innovations like a snowmobile.

The Challenge of Reasoning From First Principles

First principles thinking can be easy to describe, but quite difficult to practice. One of the primary obstacles to first principles thinking is our tendency to optimize form rather than function. The story of the suitcase provides a perfect example.

How to Think for Yourself

The human tendency for imitation is a common roadblock to first principles thinking. When most people envision the future, they project the current form forward rather than projecting the function forward and abandoning the form.

The Power of First Principles

Ironically, perhaps the best way to develop cutting-edge ideas is to start by breaking things down to the fundamentals. Even if you aren’t trying to develop innovative ideas, understanding the first principles of your field is a smart use of your time. Without a firm grasp of the basics, there is little chance of mastering the details that make the difference at elite levels of competition.

Thanks for Reading



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Darwin Limz

Darwin Limz

My writing is about My life journey from miserable to Significant. I hope my unique story inspires, educate & informs others! Entrepreneur, Sales Expert, Actor