Learn, Share, Grow – How to Think Like Elon Musk

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Below is an article from on what Elon Musk did differently to be so successful, as well as key learnings.

The Blue Courage team is dedicated to continual learning and growth.  We have adopted a concept from Simon Sinek’s Start With Why team called “Learn, Share, Grow”.  We are constantly finding great articles, videos, and readings that have so much learning.  As we learn new and great things, this new knowledge should be shared for everyone to then grow from.


How to Think Like Elon Musk

By Michael Simmons and Ian Chew August 11, 2016

How is it even possible that Elon Musk could build four multibillion companies by his mid-40s — in four separate fields (software, energy, transportation, and aerospace)?

To explain Musk’s success, others have pointed to his heroic work ethic (he regularly works 85-hour weeks), his ability to set reality-distorting visions for the future, and his incredible resilience.

But all of these felt unsatisfactory to me. Plenty of people have these traits. I wanted to know what he did differently.

As I kept reading dozens of articles, videos, and books about Musk, I noticed a huge piece of the puzzle was missing. Conventional wisdom says that in order to become world-class, we should only focus on one field. Musk breaks that rule. His expertise ranges from rocket science, engineering, physics, and artificial intelligence to solar power and energy.

In a previous article, I call people like Elon Musk “expert-generalists” (a term coined by Orit Gadiesh, chairman of Bain & Company). Expert-generalists study widely in many different fields, understand deeper principles that connect those fields, and then apply the principles to their core specialty.

Based on my own unscientific review of Musk’s life and the academic literature related to learning and expertise, I’m convinced that we should learn across multiple fields in order to increase our odds of breakthrough success.

(Continue reading the article here.)


Key Learnings:

  • Expert-generalist – studies widely in many different fields, understands deeper principles that connect those fields, applies the principles to their core specialty.
  • We should learn across multiple fields to increase odds of breakthrough success.
  • Learning across multiple fields provides an information advantage, therefore an innovation advantage.
  • Most people focus in just one field.
  • Each new field we learn that’s unfamiliar to others in our field gives us the ability to make combinations they cannot.
  • Musk would read 2 books per day in various topics – thirst for knowledge.
  • Learning transfer – taking what we learn in one context and applying it to another.  Musk uses a 2 step process.
    • Step 1: deconstruct knowledge into fundamental principles – view knowledge as a semantic tree. Understand the fundamental principles (trunk and big branches) before the leaves/details or there is nothing for them to hang on.
      • Contrast case – by looking at lots of diverse cases when we learn anything, you begin to instinctively understand what is essential and craft your own unique combinations.
      • Explore lots of different approaches, deconstruct each one, compare and contrast them – helps to uncover underlying principles.
    • Step 2: Reconstruct foundational principles into new ways (for Musk, it was artificial intelligence, technology, physics, engineering).
  • Ask yourself 2 questions to hone your skills – which build brain muscles to make connections across traditional boundaries:
    • What does this remind me of?
    • Why does it remind me of it?
  • Learn core concepts across fields and relate those concepts back to our life and the world – transferring between areas becomes much easier and faster.

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