2 min read

Elon Musk on Solving Problems

What I learned from Elon Musk about using first principles to solve problems.
Elon Musk on Solving Problems

Welcome to Make Daily! This episode contains an idea, reflection, and a simple action you can take on your creative project today.

Listen on Apple Podcasts, or Spotify.

Idea 💡

“I think it’s important to reason from first principles rather than by analogy. The normal way we conduct our lives is we reason by analogy. [With analogy] we are doing this because it’s like something else that was done, or it is like what other people are doing. [With first principles] you boil things down to the most fundamental truths…and then reason up from there.”Elon Musk

Reflection 🤔

Say what you will about the guy, but every entrepreneur knows that Elon Musk is a master operator. He credits his success to first principle thinking.

First principles thinking is removing false assumptions or outdated information to reach a core idea.

An example was how SpaceX dropped NASA’s cost per rocket launch by over 75% in a few years time. They were able to do this by focusing on using new materials and creating reusable rockets instead of following the blueprint that was already there.

How was SpaceX able to do this so quickly? The answer is simple: He didn’t build rockets the same way they’ve always been built.

He removed all of his assumptions, and then found a better way.

Action ✅

What is one bad assumption you have about your creative work? Remove it and take action.

Deeper Dive 🌊

There are plenty of interviews with Elon talking about how he uses first principles. But, truthfully they can be a bit boring and focused on science and manufacturing.

Sahil Bloom does writes about first principles in a way that is easy to digest for any creator to adopt. Here are the core ideas he wrote about:

  • “First principles thinking is the most powerful framework for deconstructing complex problems, generating creative solutions, and driving non-linear outcomes.
  • A first principle is a basic, foundational assumption—one that cannot be deduced or broken down any further. In simple terms, think of first principles as foundational truths that do not require any additional assumptions.
  • As a simple rule of thumb: when speed and efficiency are critical, use reasoning by analogy; when creativity and innovation are required, use first principles thinking.
  • To leverage first principles thinking, use Socratic Questioning to drill down to the foundational truths of a problem. Once you uncover them, you can begin to slowly build up to a more creative, imaginative solution.”

Read Sahil’s full post here

About the creator 👤


Elon Musk is an entrepreneur, investor, and business magnate. He is the founder, CEO, and chief engineer at SpaceX; angel investor, CEO and Product Architect of Tesla, Inc.; founder of The Boring Company; and co-founder of Neuralink and OpenAI. With an estimated net worth of around US $252 billion as of April 2022, Musk is the wealthiest person in the world. (via wikipedia)

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