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Elon Musk, One Of The Most Successful Entrepreneurs Of All Time, Calls This A Powerful Yet Difficult Way of Thinking

The success story of Elon Musk didn’t stop at building PayPal and SpaceX. The 48-year-old entrepreneur also runs one of the world’s most groundbreaking vehicle companies and has many other medals pinned on his shirt.

In a 2013 TED talk, Musk shared his secret to fulfilling amazing accomplishments. He attributed his success to “first principles” thinking. But by all means, the billionaire still acknowledges that rationalizing through analogy—or imitating what others do with slight alterations—is something we need to do through most of our lifetimes. Otherwise, mentally, we won’t be able to survive our daily hustles and bustles. But what exactly is “first principles” thinking, anyway?

Deconstructing complex problems

Aristotle was the first person in the whole world to use the term “first principles” just about 2000 years ago. The philosopher insisted that to understand even the most complex subject, one must break it down first.

According to Musk, this way of thinking can take a lot of effort, but if you want to do something original and new, this is the best way to think. After all, “first principles” thinking is a decision-making tactic that condenses ideas to their fundamental truths, reasoning up from there.

One of the most powerful ways to look at things

Elon Musk has given hints to “first principles” thinking a couple of times already. He thinks of knowledge as a semantic tree. One must understand that the fundamental aspects, i.e., the trunk and the branches before getting to know the latter parts, i.e., leaves and fruits.

While giving a speech at the University of South California, Musk advised students not to do what others are doing and not to run after trends, but instead, start thinking about things with a physics approach. At the end of the day, things will start making sense, and it is also an excellent way to assess if you are running behind a trend or if the thing you are running after really makes sense.

Musk added further that this is the hardest thing about being human. To reason with oneself is not an easy task and requires a lot of effort. But if you are running after something new, thinking with reason is the most powerful thing that a person can do.

“First principles” thinking can lead you to a good life

The term that Aristotle coined isn’t just made for technical stuff and space programs. This simple change of thinking process can really fix daily problems, whether it be a personal relationship, work, finances, or any other situation.

It usually happens that we base our most important decisions on outdated or false information. However, in a fast-evolving world, old truths and experiences may not always be practical. This reason is why it’s often essential to step back and utilize the “first principles” approach in order to generate a more fitting and creative solution.

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