Elon Musk on the Power of Thinking for Yourself

First principles thinking, which is sometimes called reasoning from first principles, is one of the most effective strategies you can employ for breaking down complicated problems and generating original solutions. It also might be the single best approach to learn how to think for yourself.

The first principles approach has been used by many great thinkers including inventor Johannes Gutenberg, military strategist John Boyd, and the ancient philosopher Aristotle, but no one embodies the philosophy of first principles thinking more effectively than entrepreneur Elon Musk.

In 2002, Musk began his quest to send the first rocket to Mars—an idea that would eventually become the aerospace company SpaceX.

He ran into a major challenge right off the bat. After visiting a number of aerospace manufacturers around the world, Musk discovered the cost of purchasing a rocket was astronomical—up to $65 million. Given the high price, he began to rethink the problem. [1]

“I tend to approach things from a physics framework,” Musk said in an interview. “Physics teaches you to reason from first principles rather than by analogy. So I said, okay, let’s look at the first principles. What is a rocket made of? Aerospace-grade aluminum alloys, plus some titanium, copper, and carbon fiber. Then I asked, what is the value of those materials on the commodity market? It turned out that the materials cost of a rocket was around two percent of the typical price.” [2]

Instead of buying a finished rocket for tens of millions, Musk decided to create his own company, purchase the raw materials for cheap, and build the rockets himself. SpaceX was born.

Within a few years, SpaceX had cut the price of launching a rocket by nearly 10x while still making a profit. Musk used first principles thinking to break the situation down to the fundamentals, bypass the high prices of the aerospace industry, and create a more effective solution. [3]

First principles thinking is the act of boiling a process down to the fundamental parts that you know are true and building up from there. Let’s discuss how you can utilize first principles thinking in your life and work.

Defining First Principles Thinking

A first principle is a basic assumption that cannot be deduced any further. Over two thousand years ago, Aristotle defined a first principle as “the first basis from which a thing is known.” [4]

First principles thinking is a fancy way of saying “think like a scientist.” Scientists don’t assume anything. They start with questions like, What are we absolutely sure is true? What has been proven?

In theory, first principles thinking requires you to dig deeper and deeper until you are left with only the foundational truths of a situation. Rene Descartes, the French philosopher and scientist, embraced this approach with a method now called Cartesian Doubt in which he would “systematically doubt everything he could possibly doubt until he was left with what he saw as purely indubitable truths.” [5]

In practice, you don’t have to simplify every problem down to the atomic level to get the benefits of first principles thinking. John Boyd, the famous fighter pilot and military strategist, created the following thought experiment which showcases how to use first principles thinking in a practical way.

Imagine you have three things:

  • A motorboat with a skier behind it
  • A military tank
  • A bicycle

Now, let’s break these items down into their constituent parts:

  • Motorboat: motor, the hull of a boat, and a pair of skis.
  • Tank: metal treads, steel armor plates, and a gun.
  • Bicycle: handlebars, wheels, gears, and a seat.

What can you create from these individual parts? One option is to make a snowmobile by combining the handlebars and seat from the bike, the metal treads from the tank, and the motor and skis from the boat.

This is the process of first principles thinking in a nutshell. It is a cycle of breaking a situation down into the core pieces and then putting them all back together in a more effective way. Deconstruct then reconstruct.

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Putting Entrepreneurship on the Curriculum

It is time to shake up education systems around the world and put social entrepreneurship on the curriculum, concludes new thought-provoking report.

The United Nations’ 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights explicitly recognises ‘education’ as a human right. Few would argue against this notion, however fierce debates have emerged regarding the higher purpose of education.

Education is considered one of the fundamental pillars of a healthy society, but how do we measure the success of an educational system? Is it based on:

  • attainment;
  • employability;
  • citizenship;
  • self-determination; or,
  • human advancement?

At this year’s UKFIET conference on Learning and Teaching for Sustainable Development at Oxford, the British Council launched a thought provoking opinion piece – titled ‘Social entrepreneurship in education’ – to discuss these questions. The report, which was also showcased at SOCAP in California this month, concludes that the introduction of social entrepreneurship into educational systems could be a necessary radical reform that will better prepare children to meet the pressing social and environmental challenges that face high and low and middle-income countries alike.

Lindsay Hall is the CEO of Real Ideas Organisation (RIO), which is an early adopter of the concept of embedding social entrepreneurship education into curriculums. She reflects on the education system in England, where RIO is based: “There’s a definite move away from coursework, from any of the more practical stuff.”

RIO has worked with over 350 schools, including Victoria Park Primary Academy in the West Midlands, to embed the principles of social enterprise into the curriculum. For example, Victoria Park Primary has a social enterprise lead, who is responsible for driving social enterprise activity throughout the whole school and leading the school’s own social enterprise.

Called Ballot Street Spice, this social enterprise was launched in 2014 and sells unique spice blends. Students, parents, the school’s staff and members of the community are all involved in the business – making decisions and marketing it to the wider community.

Hall believes that operating social enterprises within schools “is a very practical way for parents and lots of community members to get involved” in young people’s educational experience. There is increasingly “recognition from schools that if you’re going to have successful outcomes in children and young people, it is the whole community that creates that.”

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Successful People Start Before They Feel Ready.

In 1966, a dyslexic sixteen-year-old boy dropped out of school. With the help of a friend, he started a magazine for students and made money by selling advertisements to local businesses. With only a little bit of money to get started, he ran the operation out of the crypt inside a local church.

Four years later, he was looking for ways to grow his small magazine and started selling mail order records to the students who bought the magazine. The records sold well enough that he built his first record store the next year. After two years of selling records, he decided to open his own record label and recording studio.

He rented the recording studio out to local artists, including one named Mike Oldfield. In that small recording studio, Oldfield created his hit song, Tubular Bells, which became the record label’s first release. The song went on to sell over 5 million copies.

Over the next decade, the young boy grew his record label by adding bands like the Sex Pistols, Culture Club, and the Rolling Stones. Along the way, he continued starting companies: an airline business, then trains, then mobile phones, and on and on. Almost 50 years later, there were over 400 companies under his direction.

Today, that young boy who dropped out of school and kept starting things despite his inexperience and lack of knowledge is a billionaire. His name is Sir Richard Branson.  Two weeks ago, I walked into a conference room in Moscow, Russia and sat down ten feet from Branson. There were 100 other people around us, but it felt like we were having a conversation in my living room. He was smiling and laughing. His answers seemed unrehearsed and genuine.

At one point, he told the story of how he started Virgin Airlines, a tale that seems to capture his entire approach to business and life. Here’s the version he told us, as best I can remember it:

“I was in my late twenties, so I had a business, but nobody knew who I was at the time. I was headed to the Virgin Islands and I had a very pretty girl waiting for me, so I was, umm, determined to get there on time.

At the airport, my final flight to the Virgin Islands was cancelled because of maintenance or something. It was the last flight out that night. I thought this was ridiculous, so I went and chartered a private airplane to take me to the Virgin Islands, which I did not have the money to do.

Then, I picked up a small blackboard, wrote “Virgin Airlines. $29.” on it, and went over to the group of people who had been on the flight that was cancelled. I sold tickets for the rest of the seats on the plane, used their money to pay for the chartered plane, and we all went to the Virgin Islands that night.”Richard Branson

Thanks to JamesClear.com for this article.

Billion Dollar Founders Attended These Universities.

A Unicorn is a private company value at more than 1 billion USD. Becoming a founder of a unicorn company is a dream that many entrepreneurs hope to achieve.

To be considered a unicorn, the private business must reach a valuation of at least one billion dollars, and that’s no small feat.

People often attempt to break down what it takes to become a unicorn founder. While hard work and dedication are usually assumed requirements, along with a stellar concept, everyone knows that it takes more than that to reach the stars.

A recent chart was released that hoped to shed some light on the question, showing which universities can claim the most unicorn company founders as alumni. Here’s what it had to say.

Unicorn Universities

Statista used data from Sage to create an infographic showing which schools come out on top in regards to molding unicorn founders. The included educational institutions hail from all around the world including, but not limited to, the US, India, England, Israel, and Canada.

The top school on the list, Stanford University, claims 51 unicorn founders as alumni while runner-up Harvard University has 37. Rounding out the top three is the University of California with 18 (Go Bears!). (more…)

What All Successful Millennial Entrepreneurs Have in Common

 

With movies, such as Jobs and The Social Network presenting millennial entrepreneurs as brilliant and youthful gladiators, it is important to stay focused on the underlying trends with successful young entrepreneurs. After inspecting the current landscape, there are a number of traits, besides sheer genius or age, that are accurate predictors of success.

Despite having a less typical entrepreneurship story, David Kurzmann, the co-founder and CEO of Women’s Best, has built a brand reach of 150 million people and 8-figures in annual revenue. His business helps women lead healthy and positive lifestyles. As a non-traditional entrepreneur, his work and personality is the perfect counterpoint of Silicon Valley to sum up successful millennials.

1. Risk aversion

While entrepreneurs love to claim that they are fearless, taking unnecessary risks is foolish. Risk is not a good thing. While it may be enticing to wager everything you have on your startup’s vision, the odds say you will lose everything. This means the most successful entrepreneurs look for opportunities where the odds are skewed in their favor and where, no matter what the worst-case scenario is, they will still be able to rebound.

Everyone unconsciously underestimates disasters with low odds of happening. Furthermore, it can be easy to allow tunnel vision to block out awareness of risk probability. Overall, if you want to be an entrepreneur, you need to work on ensuring you are aware of all of your risks and avoid them where you can.

2. Passion

Entrepreneurship requires both extreme commitment and skill, which means passion is usually a requirement for success. If you are not in love with what you are doing, it will be hard to push yourself through long hours or dark times.  Even more so though, entrepreneurs need to be able to look at the world with a unique perspective and that uniqueness mostly frequently comes from passion.

Kurzmann has always had a passion for fitness and helping people. Each day, he is able to make a tremendous impact in millions of women’s health. Without his background in fitness, supplements, and health lifestyles, he would have never been able to develop his product line or consumer following.

3. Results-oriented

At the end of the day, the only thing that matters is the money. Most organizations say they are results-oriented, but most organizations are also not results-oriented. Truly being results-oriented requires that you have consequences for negative performance. While you are running a startup, you are not able to afford losses on campaigns. As such, you need to make a positive ROI your first priority at all times.

Even more so, as you decide what products to sell and what content to produce, running tests over Instagram can be an incredible way of conducting market research. Kurzmann has an extensive testing process across all of his content platforms that allows him to always make decisions based on data and evaluate the decisions on a results basis.

4. Time management

It is not new knowledge that successful people need to balance their time and work on time management skills. But with the influx of digital media and technical solutions, time management has never looked so different. First off, simply using social media, watching Netflix, and consuming other digital stimulation makes it harder for you to focus. As such, time management also necessitates eliminating different modern activities that make it hard to focus.  Reducing usage of social media, Netflix, and screens as a whole will help make you more efficient.

Furthermore, different solutions such as Google Calendars, AI assistants, virtual assistants, and SAAS platforms allow tech savvy millennials to streamline most of their work and never let anything slip through the cracks. Staying on top of your game will further allow you to focus, since you will no longer need to worry about reacting to what is next.

5. Creative problem solving

Every great startup revolves around a unique solution to a serious problem. Entrepreneurs are inherently creative problem solvers. But the biggest requisite is that the solution matches consumer needs. Without consumer centricity, startup ideas are merely theories with minimal chance of success.

If a product or service does not meet every consumer requirement, then it simply will never sell. The best millennial entrepreneurs are able to bring their fresh perspectives to the table, but still utilize a level of business maturity to evaluate market positioning and value creation. Kurzmann praised Elon Musk for his ability to think outside-the-box while creating value for society.

By George Beall on TNW, The Next Web, https://thenextweb.com/x/

AI Will Put 10 Million Jobs at High Risk.

Research Brief: AI Will Put 10 Million Jobs At High Risk — More Than Were Eliminated By The Great Recession.  Gig Economy Here.

A Day in the Life as an Entrepreneur.

It all looks so easy, doesn’t it? Well, let me let you in on a secret. It can actually be really hard, stressful and exhausting.  But, being an entrepreneur can also be incredibly liberating, exhilarating and unbelievably rewarding. Now here’s the thing. Most of the time, it’s all of these things (and so many more) at the same time and often all on the same day.

From failure to million-dollar business. Current in Entrepreneurship.

Derek understands how difficult it can be as an entrepreneur because he didn’t just rise to success on a linear path. In fact, it was quite the opposite, as he points to the critical role that failure played in building a million-dollar business.

Halpern started his first blog after accidentally clicking on someone else’s site and realizing he could get paid by advertisers. He figured this would be an easy way to make money. He was wrong. It bombed.

Then he accidentally clicked on another blog and decided he’d try again…this time “making fun of celebrities instead of sharing the dumb things he did in college.

He was right. It worked. He was starting to climb the ladder of success that everyone dreams of.

And while he was suddenly doing better than he’d ever had, he still struggled from time to time, like when he decided to run his blog and hold a corporate job, which went great until he got a mediocre review, starting a downward spiral of hating himself and “drinking too much.” Or when he decided to launch a website for conferences and speakers, working on it for months before realizing that others were doing the same — and failing.

In a 2015 interview with Halpern, Tim Ferriss, author of “The 4-Hour Workweek” shared how, at one point, he was so down that he actually considered suicide.

Fortunately he didn’t, and he learned something very important from that time in his life: neither ups nor downs are permanent.

In other words, when you’re up, enjoy it because it’s not going to last forever. Soak it in, revel in it, bask in its glory.

And if you’re down, remember that relief is ahead because you can’t stay down forever either.

Or, as Tim says, it’s about “…realizing that there is no darkness without the light, that the light can come afterwards. And it does always come afterwards.”

This is critical because entrepreneurship and depression often go hand-in-hand.

Current in Entrepreneurship.

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Global C. E. O. Conference in Tampa Oct. 26-28th

Current in Entrepreneurship  Conference and Pitch Competition       

Entrepreneurship as a field of study at colleges and universities across the U.S. and around the world has become a leading subject at the undergraduate and graduate level. With this increased attention, it is more important than ever to give students the opportunities to network not only with their student peers, but with fellow entrepreneurs in the business world to promote entrepreneurship at all levels and in all environments. And, this is CEO.

 

 

Entrepreneurship as a field of study at colleges and universities across the U.S. and around the world has become a leading subject at the undergraduate and graduate level. According to the 2011 Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) U.S. Report, younger adults (18-24 years old) are more likely to start a business, and college graduates or those pursuing higher education are particularly more included to pursue entrepreneurship. With this increased attention, it is more important than ever to give students the opportunities to network not only with their student peers, but with fellow entrepreneurs in the business world to promote entrepreneurship at all levels and in all environments. Collegiate Entrepreneurs’ Organization (CEO) is the premier entrepreneurship network with chapters on university campuses across North America and beyond. CEO currently supports entrepreneurship in over 250 chapters in all 50 states and worldwide.

Each year, CEO sponsors an informative, action packed national conference that attracts nearly 1,500 collegiate level students (and their faculty advisors) from around the United States. During the three-day conference, attendees network with other entrepreneurial-minded students and listen to presentations from seasoned and nascent entrepreneurs, business owners, subject matter experts, motivational speakers and fellow students who are making the transition from dreamers to doers.

Current in Entrepreneurship

 

Premier Entrepreneurship Podcast.

Current in Entrepreneurship – Thanks to Doan Winkel, an active entrepreneurship faculty chair, USASBE is launching what will be a terrific resource for entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship educators. Called USASBE Teaching Tuesday, Doan will interview a prominent entrepreneurship person to share tips for a more engaging classroom.  To start with he will interview the current USASBE President and Timmons Chair of Entrepreneurship at Babson College, Dr. Heidi Neck.

Heidi Neck, Ph.D., is a Babson College Professor and the Jeffry A. Timmons Professor of Entrepreneurial Studies. She teaches entrepreneurship at the MBA and executive levels. Her research interests include entrepreneurship education, entrepreneurship inside organizations, and creative thinking. Neck is the lead author of Teaching Entrepreneurship: A Practice-Based Approach–a book written to help educators teach entrepreneurship in more experiential and engaging ways.

To access the U. S. Association of Small Business and Entrepreneurship organization go to – http://www.usasbe.org, and to access the podcast on iTunes go to – https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/usasbe-teaching-tuesdays/id1286450772?mt=2.

Current in Entrepreneurship.