Think Like Elon Musk With First Principles Thinking

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First Principles Thinking aliases reasoning from first principles is 1 of nan champion strategies to usage for breaking down analyzable problems and coming up pinch original solutions. It’s besides 1 of nan champion ways to study nan creation of reasoning clearly.

Reasoning from first reasoning has been utilized for years by galore successful group specified arsenic John Boyd (military strategist), Johannes Gutenberg (inventor), and Aristotle (ancient philosopher). However, nary 1 has demonstrated nan benefits of First Principles Thinking successful our modern world amended than Elon Musk.

At 46, Elon Musk has built 3 multibillion-dollar organizations that person revolutionized our world – Tesla Motors (Automotive), PayPal (Financial Services), and SpaceX (Aerospace). His occurrence is linked to his expertise to lick analyzable problems and his unthinkable activity ethic.

While activity ethic plays a cardinal domiciled successful mastering what you do and succeeding, there’s more. When it comes to success, it has small to do pinch really overmuch clip you put successful thing but much to do pinch nan measurement you think.

Read connected and study really First Principles Thinking helps you to lick analyzable problems, summation productivity, and execute your biggest goals.

What Is First Principles Thinking?

A first rule is simply a logical conclusion of an assumption. In short, it cannot beryllium deduced further. Nearly 2 1000 years ago, nan ancient philosopher Aristotle defined nan Frst Principle arsenic nan ground from which an individual knows a thing. This is simply a measurement of reasoning that scientists person embraced for years. Research studies show that scientists do their champion to destruct each forms of bias from their research.

Some of nan questions which they inquire themselves include:

  • What has been proven?
  • What are we judge about?

First Principles Thinking forces you to excavation heavy to find nan existent truths of something. The French philosopher Rene Descartes utilized this reasoning method pinch nan Cartesian Doubt which forced him to uncertainty everything that he could systematically till what he had was axenic undebatable truths.

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In our modern world, you don’t person to excavation heavy to nan atomic level to understand each problem you are facing. All you person to do is spell down 1 aliases 2 levels deeper than nan mean person. At each level, you’ll get different solutions.

John Boyd, a celebrated subject strategist created an research that will thief you study really to usage first principles reasoning successful your regular life:

Imagine you person these things:

  • A subject tank
  • A bicycle

You tin break these items down to their constituent parts:

  • Military vessel – Steel armor plates, metallic treads, and a gun
  • Bicycle – Wheels, seat, gears, and handlebars

You tin usage these individual parts to create thing different yet remarkable. This is really you usage nan rule of first thinking. You break down a business to its halfway and past put them backmost together successful a amended way. In short, it’s deconstructing to reconstruct better.

Example of First Principles Thinking: Elon Musk and SpaceX

The astir fascinating point astir Elon Musk is not what he thinks astir but really he thinks. Here’s what he erstwhile said:

‘I deliberation people’s reasoning process is excessively bound by normal aliases affinity to anterior experiences… You person to build up nan reasoning from nan crushed up—“from nan First Principles” is nan building that’s utilized successful physics. You look astatine nan fundamentals and conception your reasoning from that, and past you spot if you person a conclusion that useful aliases doesn’t work, and it whitethorn aliases whitethorn not beryllium different from what group person done successful nan past.’

To understand reality, he starts pinch bare facts – not intuition. While we deliberation we cognize a batch of things, nan truth is we don’t cognize arsenic overmuch arsenic we think. Studies person shown that decision-making useful champion erstwhile we usage strategies. Therefore, relying connected our intuition isn’t a bully thought erstwhile solving analyzable problems.

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Musk’s measurement of reasoning is wholly different from nan mean person’s thought process. He starts by focusing connected what he wants to execute – opportunity building a rocket. Then he dives into nan first principles of nan problem.

Rockets are expensive. And this is 1 of nan problems that he faced erstwhile he wanted to nonstop group to Mars. Since he didn’t person nan resources to bargain a rocket, he asked himself, “What are rockets made of?” He recovered his reply – c fiber, copper, aerospace-grade aluminum alloys, and titanium.

He past asked himself, “What are nan values of these materials connected nan market?” He recovered that these materials were 2 percent nan costs of a rocket.

So, why is it costly to get a rocket to Mars? Since Musk spends astir of his clip learning, he started learning rocket science. He recovered that getting a rocket is costly because group don’t usage first principles thinking. He past went connected to create SpaceX to observe whether he tin build rockets from scratch.

During an question and reply pinch Kevin Rose, he summarized his attack by saying:

‘I deliberation it’s important to logic from first principles alternatively than by analogy… First rule is benignant of a physics measurement of looking astatine nan world, you boil things down to nan astir basal truths and say, “okay, what are we judge is true?” … and past logic up from there.’

The Power of First Principles Thinking

Most group usage accepted reasoning to understand different situations and lick analyzable problems. Traditional reasoning involves utilizing intuition and analogies. While we’d for illustration to cognize everything to lick problems quickly and efficiently, nan truth is we don’t cognize tons of things. Therefore, relying connected our intuition tin make it harder for america to understand and lick problems.

Another facet that you should support successful mind is analogies tin ne'er switch understanding. While it’s easy for you to logic by analogy, you’ll person an easy clip coming up pinch amended answers erstwhile you clasp First Principles Thinking.

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Thinking Out of nan Box When Solving Problems

Reasoning from First Principles will alteration you to measurement retired of accepted and humanities contented and observe caller possibilities. When you understand nan underlying principles, everything will commencement making sense.

First Principles Thinking is useful erstwhile you are:

  • Trying to lick a analyzable problem
  • Doing thing for nan first time
  • Doing your champion to understand a analyzable issue

In these 3 areas, your reasoning will get amended erstwhile you debar making assumptions aliases allowing others to framework and lick problems for you.

Most group judge that productivity is simply a trait that only a fistful of group are calved pinch – that it’s either you person it aliases not. Research studies person shown that this isn’t true.

Every quality being is creative. However, during nan early stages, engaged parents and teachers tin hit retired of us. When we go adults, we commencement reasoning conventionally because it’s easier than utilizing first principles thinking. When you commencement utilizing First Principles Thinking, everything becomes possible.

Applicable to Everyday Problems

First Principle Thinking is not conscionable applicable erstwhile solving rocket subject problems aliases analyzable technological equations. You tin usage it to lick problems successful your day-to-day life.

Here are 2 examples:

Assumption: I’ll request a batch of money to turn my business

First Principle Thinking:

  • What do you require to turn your business? You’ll request to waste products aliases services to much clients.
  • Do you person to put a batch of money to waste products aliases services to caller clients? Not really. However, you’ll request entree to these clients utilizing inexpensive methods.
  • Who tin thief you entree these clients? And really tin you travel up pinch a win-win woody for some parties? You tin see partnering pinch businesses that service these clients and splitting nan profits.

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Assumption: I person to put successful a batch of clip and power to go a successful writer

First Principle Thinking:

  • What do you request to create bully contented and make a surviving arsenic a writer? You would request a bully number of well-paying clients and audiences who admit your activity and are consenting to bargain your articles.
  • What do you request to person a larger audience? You request to study astir nan astir effective trading methods. Focusing connected trading your pieces to amended nan lives of your assemblage will thief you execute your goal.

How to Master First Principles Thinking

First Principle Thinking will thief you create a different position of nan world and lick analyzable problems successful ways nary different tin fathom. Here are 3 elemental steps that Elon Musk recommends you to use:

1. Identify Assumptions

We each make assumptions successful different areas of our lives. Some of nan communal assumptions include:

I’ll request to put successful costly instrumentality to boost my productivity level. I don’t person clip to activity connected analyzable projects…

The adjacent clip you are faced pinch a analyzable problem, constitute down each presumption that comes to mind. You’ll beryllium fascinated by this exercise.

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2. Break Down nan Problem

As we said earlier, basal principles are nan basal elements of nan truths of something. To observe these truths, you request to inquire yourself powerful questions.

Here is simply a awesome illustration that Elon Musk utilized during an question and reply pinch Kevin Rose:

Somebody could say, “Battery packs are really costly and that’s conscionable nan measurement they will ever be. Historically, it has costs $600 per kilowatt-hour. It’s not going to beryllium overmuch amended than that successful nan future.”

With First Principles, I say, “What are nan worldly constituents of nan batteries? What is nan banal marketplace worth of nan worldly constituents?” It’s sewage cobalt, nickel, aluminum, carbon, immoderate polymers for separation and a seal can.

Break that down connected a worldly ground and say, “If we bought that connected nan London Metal Exchange, what would each of those things cost?” It’s for illustration $80 per kilowatt hour.

Conclusion? You conscionable request to deliberation of clever ways to return those materials and harvester them into nan style of a artillery compartment and you tin person batteries that are much, overmuch cheaper than anyone realizes.

You don’t person to travel accepted ways of reasoning to execute your goals. Thinking otherwise is nan measurement to go.

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3. Create New Solutions

After identifying and breaking down your assumptions into basal truths, you request to create insightful solutions. Here’s an illustration that will guideline you:

Assumption: I don’t person clip to workout and execute my wellness goals.

First Principles Thinking:

  • What do you request to execute your wellness goals? You request to workout for 5 hours a week (an hr each day).
  • Can I execute my goals by exercising little frequently? Yes! You tin workout for 15 minutes 3 days a week. Doing high-intensity assemblage workouts (HIIT) will thief you execute your wellness goals easy and quickly.

first principles reasoning steps


As you strive to execute your goals, you’ll beryllium faced pinch a batch of problems. Your mind will ever travel up pinch assumptions erstwhile you are trying to lick a analyzable problem.

Breaking these assumptions down to observe nan underlying truths will thief you travel up pinch solutions to problems that look impossible. Learning really to create First Principles Thinking will salary disconnected successful spades successful nan agelong run. You tin use First Principles Thinking successful your regular life easily.

Featured photograph credit: Per Lööv via

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