Toward the end of Elon’s Ted Talk, the host posted “the” question that’s on everyone’s mind, “How on Earth has one person been able to innovate in this way? What is it about you?” To which, he answered as follow:
EM: Well, thanks. Thank you. Well, I do think there’s a good framework for thinking. It is physics. You know, the sort of first principles reasoning. Generally I think there are — what I mean by that is, boil things down to their fundamental truths and reason up from there, as opposed to reasoning by analogy. Through most of our life, we get through life by reasoning by analogy, which essentially means copying what other people do with slight variations. And you have to do that. Otherwise, mentally, you wouldn’t be able to get through the day. But when you want to do something new,you have to apply the physics approach. Physics is really figuring out how to discovernew things that are counterintuitive, like quantum mechanics. It’s really counterintuitive. So I think that’s an important thing to do, and then also to really pay attention to negative feedback, and solicit it, particularly from friends. This may sound like simple advice, but hardly anyone does that, and it’s incredibly helpful.
To put it simply, it is quite similar to the little trick we learned at business school, which is always asking yourself why you are doing this. Does the reason align with our fundamental truth, value and belief? Like Elon said, we mostly operate on other people’s thoughts/ideas/plans with little variations, because it makes sense, it saves time and most likely they are the right thoughts/ideas/plans. But when it comes to important decisions in our life, first principles reasoning can help us see through the trivial and get “the” answer.