Is first principle learning making Elon Musk so successful? This is the question that is more and more relevant for thinking and learning in the 21st century. Actually, it was relevant already 20 years ago and it is here to stay for a very long time. The problem with this question is that it is still not considered as a common truth or as general thinking pattern. Because of that we presumably lose a lot of innovation that could enhance the world otherwise (maybe).
So, what lies in first principle thinking?
First principle thinking vs. analogy
We entrepreneurs are under the constant impression that everything was done before and there is a solution or analogy for everything. And generally, it is such a waste of life to spend a valuable time on reinventing what was long done before. There is a reason that Elon Musk and the like are building a laser-like focus to concentrate on what is really important. It is not enough to work hard, but smart these days. So, use the frameworks that had been built before. Unless there is a funny feeling that current stance on things that are not working very well.
Thinking without analogy gives you freedom. Freedom to think a learn without rigid, long-standing beliefs, prejudices – you know that “this can’t be done differently” things.
It also gives you a unique perspective on the nature of things. And can lead you to unique, independent solutions, which may be then valuable in a group – since you provide a unique look at the things.
So, is first principle learning making Elon musk so successful? Let’s look on first principle thinking first.
First principle thinking definition
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. I tend to think about it in programming terms, although I am not sure if I am right. Simply I see it as a primitive. Something like an integer is a number and you can just use it somehow in your algorithm, but you can’t further decompose it. Well, maybe you can decompose it to a sum of smaller integers, but is there really a point? An integer is an integer and that’s it! It is a general truth, a fact!
When we decompose a problem into general truths, we have these things that are pretty much indubitable and we can further build on that.
The best way to uncover these truths is to ask powerful questions. Maybe, this video will help…
Is first principle learning making Elon musk so successful
Yes, indeed. He’s a technological innovator and this way of thinking is helping him tremendously to deliver new innovations.
Many of the most groundbreaking ideas in history have been a result of boiling things down to the first principles and then substituting a more effective solution for one of the key parts.
First principles thinking helps you to cobble together information from different disciplines to create new ideas and innovations. You start by getting to the facts. Once you have a foundation of facts, you can make a plan to improve each little piece. This process naturally leads to exploring widely for better substitutes.
So, your thinking process may look something like this:
- An assumption is: “Growing of my business is gonna cost me a lot of money!”
Your thinking process as of first principles can go like this:
What do I need to grow my business? I need to sell products and services to more customers!
Does it have to cost a lot of money to sell to new customers? Not necessarily, but I’ll probably need access to these new customers inexpensively.
How to create a win-win deal? Sell half of my business to a larger partner with a traffic in exchange for access to that traffic – customers.
First principle learning – making of innovations
Is first principle learning making Elon musk so successful? Yes, indeed! But, there is also a flipped coin to this, which I will talk about in another subheading. Before, I want to say that first principle learning, which is mostly derived from physics (Elon Musk studied physics) is a great way how to change your mindset about learning – Results – oriented learning.
There are challenges in the first principle thinking though. Or there clearly must be a challenge when it took us such a long time to put wheels on the baggage when pushing it through the airport lots.
You know people do focus on the forms. They do not focus on functions of the things. Yet, what innovation really is, it’s not something that is necessarily technologically advanced or something that looks like nothing else. It is more of a new value chain – new value that the product brings and it opens new use for the same thing. It is connecting of first principle things creating a new function with an attached value to it. And is of course tested by the market.
In ancient Rome, soldiers used leather messenger bags and satchels to carry food while riding across the countryside. At the same time, the Romans had many vehicles with wheels like chariots, carriages, and wagons. And yet, for thousands of years, nobody thought to combine the bag and the wheel. The first rolling suitcase wasn’t invented until 1970 when Bernard Sadow was hauling his luggage through an airport and saw a worker rolling a heavy machine on a wheeled skid.
Throughout the 1800s and 1900s, leather bags were specialized for particular uses—backpacks for school, rucksacks for hiking, suitcases for travel. Zippers were added to bags in 1938. Nylon backpacks were first sold in 1967.Despite these improvements, the form of the bag remained largely the same. Innovators spent all of their time making slight iterations on the same theme.
What looks like innovation is often an iteration of previous forms rather than an improvement of the core function. While everyone else was focused on how to build a better bag (form), Sadow considered how to store and move things more efficiently (function).
So, focus on what is really important. Focus on functions that make things better.
Is first principle learning making Elon musk so successful – watch out Mr. Physics
So, I am a big Elon Musk fan. It is pretty obvious that he’s an entrepreneur of our days – he does amazing things. Yet, I am not a fooled by the hysteria.
There is a danger that when you think precisely in just one term like physics that you inadvertently include facts that are based on emotions, not pure physics. I mean there are many different aspects of what creates life or let’s call it a socio-economic environment than just physics.
For example, when developing an electric car, you need to recognize that most of the future greenhouse emissions are expected to come from the developing world and that comes from coal. Now, Elon is doing something in that circle as well, that is to eliminate the coal dependency.
He has this big solar company too, right? But, still most of the electricity in upcoming years will come from coal, therefore an electric car is not a zero emission thing. Of course, building a battery is also not a zero-emission thing and so forth. The point is this. Even Elon Musk does not have a crystal ball to say what is gonna happen in the future. Maybe, the developing world will switch to clean power after all – let’s hope it will be like it.
So, this comes to my strong feeling that being a badass learner does not designate us to be cocky and flawless. Caution is the word. We ought to learn all our lives, yet can we arrive to a final destination of knowledge? Something to think about…
The first principle is a crucial part of Elon Musk’s semantic tree learning. Without it he probably would not be able to perform so damn well in so many various fields of engineering and business. In the end, you need to see the big picture of who you want to become or what is that you want to achieve. You need to define the exact scope of your learning, decompose it and learn the fundamentals. There are many hacks and tricks how to enhance your learning, especially reading and memorization.The first principle is crucial though because it helps you to store the information that is important for your scope, not junk gathering the useless information. Of course, you probably sense, that it is not a perfect strategy anyways. But we just do not understand this world for 100%, deal with it! But, this is how champions like Elon Musk perform.
Click to download the course Results – Oriented Learning for FREE