We use first principles to solve problems. Getting to the granular level of a problem, reveals the fault.
The story of Elon Musk of wanting to reach space is legendary. Faced with a huge cost, he asks why? By deconstructing a rocket down to the materials, he discovers it isn’t rocket science to build one himself.
He then started Space X, and reduced NASA’s rocket costs by 90% in the process.
For many, the lesson ends there.
We miss the not-so-secret sauce. What makes us different to Musk is we think of reasoning from first principles as a process with a decision at the end. With Musk, first principles thinking form’s the foundation of his brain software.
It is the way he thinks.
Crucially, he is forming hypothesis’s and testing them – everywhere. It forms the building blocks of his wants, his – and others – ability to deliver them, and his goals and strategy to deliver them.
Musk is living in a continuous feedback loop.
The rest of us make some decisions and live out our lives accordingly. It’s as if we’ve walked into a puddle of quick-drying cement.
Life is a process of trial and error. You form an idea – you test it – and you learn from the outcome, revaluate and test again. With success, you can push the boundaries to make further improvements.
It is this continuous process we miss with Musk’s use of first principles.