First Principle thinking: Elon Musk’s way to solve the problems

This post is originally posted on, I am reposting it here, please review it any suggestions are welcome as it will help me to improve my writing. And you can also discuss your way to solve problems using first principle methods.

Elon is perhaps the world’s most innovative and successful entrepreneur. He is a  nonconformist and thinks that he can change the world. He is one of those few human beings who think differently, out of league someone can ever imagine.

Elon’s company SpaceX has developed a new technology to reuse the orbital launch system as many times as you want. The idea of reusing the orbital launch system can save a lot of money and make space mission more economical. It’s brilliant, isn’t it? Tesla Sedan S and other electric vehicles are also another examples of his excellent innovative thinking.

So, the question is how does Elon think differently than us? In many of his interview, Elon has talked about his way of think differently and is called First Principle Thinking.  and anyone can use this principle to solve problems in the more generic way.

What is first principle thinking?

In Elon’s  words ” First principle is a physics way of looking at the world, what that really means is that you boil things down to the most fundamental truths and then reason up from there…that takes a lot more mental energy.”

How will it help you?

Reasoning by first principle is important because it helps you to break down the situation at ground level and look at the fundamental facts. Understanding of the fundamental facts of the situation can help you to develop your own way to solve a problem rather than looking it as the rest of world thinks.

Reasoning by analogy is the most common way. The analogical way of thinking is helpful for comparing two different concepts for the same situation. But it has potential to miss the fundamental details required to understand the unknown. First principles lead to the origin and concepts of the situation in details.

How to practice first principles in daily life?

First principle is helpful in solving problems in science and technology. But it can also help us in our day to day life problems too.Here are the basic steps to solve a problem with first principle:

  1. Frame a question: What are the problems that you are facing at work, school, home? Write down on paper. Writing down on the paper will help you to concentrate on the problem that you need to solve.
  2. Break down into smaller parts: Once you have the fundamental question or problem to work on, break them into small segments.
  3. Do introspection (Ask a lot of questions):  Ask questions to yourself what is the actual problem is, what is the origin of the problem? Which segment to solve first and how to proceed? This step is called first principle.
  4. Solve them!: Now you have problems, and the fundamental cause of the problems too. In other words, you have a better understanding of the problem. Now you can easily solve it.

When to apply first principle and when not?

Now the question is when to apply first principle and when to go for the most practical way of solving the problems. In most of the general things or problem, you won’t really have to come up with something new. Like if you want to make cheese bread sandwich you will not start from how to bake bread and make cheese. You will buy bread and sandwich and google some good recipe, your bread sandwich is ready.

On the other hand, sometimes you need to get down to the root of the problem to solve it. For example, you are sick for a long time, you will prefer to go for the treatment of root cause not just for the symptoms.

It is your call when to use first principle when to not. the key is to keep a beginners mind mind. There is a concept in Zen Buddhism called ‘Shoshin’, which means “beginner’s mind”, which refers to having a lack of preconceptions when learning a subject, just like you are reading it for the first time.

In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few.” Shunryu Suzuki

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