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Want to Think Like Elon Musk? First You Need to Forget What You Think You Know

Applying First Principles Thinking

1. Deconstruct and look at the components of what you're working on and question all the assumptions you have about them. Think of different ways the same function can be accomplished.

2. Deconstruct it and mash it up with products or concepts from different contexts to generate new ideas. 

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Want to Think Like Elon Musk? First You Need to Forget What You Think You Know

Want to Think Like Elon Musk? First You Need to Forget What You Think You Know

https://www.inc.com/ayse-birsel/want-to-think-like-elon-musk-first-you-need-to-forget-what-you-think-you-know.html

inc.com

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Key Ideas

First Principles Thinking

Also known as Deconstruction, it’s a way of thinking supported by Elon Musk and many scientists. It consists of breaking what you know into its components until its fundamental parts can be understood.

We have a lot of assumptions. Breaking something apart yields more information allowing you to challenge assumptions.

Applying First Principles Thinking

1. Deconstruct and look at the components of what you're working on and question all the assumptions you have about them. Think of different ways the same function can be accomplished.

2. Deconstruct it and mash it up with products or concepts from different contexts to generate new ideas. 

SIMILAR ARTICLES & IDEAS:

First Principles Thinking
First Principles Thinking

Is the act of deconstructing something to the fundamental parts that you know are true and building up from there.

Also called reasoning from first principles, it effectively he...

Elon Musk
Elon Musk

“Physics teaches you to reason from first principles rather than by analogy. So I said, okay, let’s look at the first principles. What is a rocket made of? Aerospace-grade aluminum alloys, plus some titanium, copper, and carbon fiber. Then I asked, what is the value of those materials on the commodity market? It turned out that the materials cost of a rocket was around two percent of the typical price.”

First Principle

A first principle is a basic assumption that cannot be deduced any further. 

6 more ideas

First Principle
First Principle

Is a basic, foundational, self-evident proposition or assumption that cannot be deduced from any other proposition or assumption.

Elon Musk
Elon Musk

"… it's important to reason from first principles rather than by analogy. The normal way we conduct our lives is we reason by analogy. We are doing this because it's like something else that was done, or it is like what other people are doing. But with first principles, you boil things down to the most fundamental truths and then reason up from there."

First-principles thinking

Breaking down complicated problems into basic elements and then reassemble them from the ground up.

It’s one of the best ways to learn to think for yourself, unlock your creative poten...

A first principle

...is a foundational proposition or assumption that stands alone. We cannot deduce first principles from any other proposition or assumption.

Reasoning by first principles removes the impurity of assumptions and conventions. What remains is the essentials. 

Cutting through the dogma

If we never learn to take something apart, test the assumptions, and reconstruct it, we end up trapped in what other people tell us.

We remain trapped in the way things have always been done. When the environment changes, we just continue as if things were the same.

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Elon Musk

"I tend to approach things from a physics framework. And physics teaches you to reason from first principles ra..."

Elon Musk
The Two Types of Thinking

Comparison thinking: comes up with solutions based on pre-existing ideas. It is the way we normally think but it also limits the solutions to possible permutations of what already exists.

First principles thinking: starts free of preconceptions by studying the fundamentals of something and then working your way to a new thing. This helps you understand complex problems.

First Principle
First Principle

Is a foundational truth that is "known by nature". It is not an assumption or deduction based on another theory or supposition but it’s also not an absolute truth but rather an observed one, meanin...

First Principle Thinking In Practice

The CEO might re-envision the way his company tackles development, by bringing in other departments that don't normally get to participate in this work, and creating incentives for original thinking from anyone in the company.

On a personal level, you may make yourself more open to other people's perspectives and find value on discussions that you may not have previously had. 

4 Steps For First Principle Thinking
  1. Identify the problem you want to solve.
  2. List all the reasons you can't solve this problem.
  3. List all obvious solutions that apply but don't solve the problem adequately.
  4. Ask yourself: "If I could create a solution based on my desires, what would that solution be?"

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Elon Musk

"Well, I do think there’s a good framework for thinking. It is physics. You know, the sort of first principles ..."

Elon Musk
First principle vs. analog thinking
  • First principles thinking: actively questioning every assumption you think you know about a given problem or scenario  and then creating new knowledge and solutions from scratch. 
  • Reasoning by analogy: building knowledge and solving problems based on prior assumptions, beliefs and widely held ‘best practices’ approved by majority of people.
Elon Musk's 3 steps Principle Thinking
  1. Identify and define your current assumptions;
  2. Breakdown the problem into its fundamental principles;
  3. Create new solutions from scratch.

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Comparison vs. First Principles Thinking

Comparison Thinking (reason through analogy)

When you make decisions and judgement calls based on what you or others have experienced. An easy mode of thinking but also

Advantages of First Principles Thinking
  • Allows for a more personal, customized mode of thinking and application.
  • A key to doing any sort of systemic inquiry.
  • Even though it does take far more mental energy to work in this mode, the results can be quite staggering.
  • A new and innovative way of thinking.
Applying the First Principles Thinking

Identify the Problem

What is something that I want to change in my life?

Deconstruct the Problem

What are the causes of my problems? How does it affect my life?

Solve the Problem

Start creating your new framework. You could think of multiple ways to achieve your goals easily.

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Connecting With Your Actions
Starting new habits, getting into new actions is a challenge. One way is to connect with your actions better by using context and association with the work you intend to accomp...
Learning to Say No

Learning to say No to certain unproductive or distracting actions is the best way to leave space for what's important in your life.

Obligatory behavior doesn't go well with what you want to do. Every aspect of your life will suffer if you take up too many things.

Focus 

Focus your attention 100% on the task at hand. Anything less is not ideal.

If you are getting distracted all the time, with email notifications, facebook updates, or a ringing telephone, you are essentially getting robbed of your attention.

Say it out loud

Learning and memory benefit from active involvement. When you add speaking to it, the content becomes more defined in long-term memory and more memorable.

Take notes by hand

Most of us can type very fast, but research shows writing your notes by hand will allow you to learn more.

Taking notes by hand enhances both comprehension and retention.

Chunk your study sessions

Studying over a period of time is more effective than waiting until the last minute.

Distributed practice works because each time you try to remember something, the memory becomes harder to forget.

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Make them clear for yourself

You will be ready to build clear expectations if you are able to clearly articulate them verbally and in writing.

Know where you need expectations

Consider where the gaps are. Create a checklist to ensure that they are clear to you.

  • Are the gaps in the work itself? 
  • How will you communicate?
  • What is the time frame?
  • What are the expectations imposed by the organizational culture?
Give context

Having clear expectations is one side of the coin. Understanding the bigger picture, the context and intention, will make it easier for people to commit and follow.

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