How Elon Musk Started

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Elon Musk is now Earth’s most future-oriented person. How did such a person come to be?

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In a hundred years, when most people reading this and the person writing this are long gone, Musk’s cars and rockets will still be circling the Earth and the skies. How can such a person get started against all odds is the question I ask here. And, more importantly, what can we learn from him?

Learning From The Outlier

Learning from Musk might seem naive. After all he is an outlier even among billionaires. I think this is exactly why he is worth studying – you don’t get insight into the extraordinary by studying the ordinary. Even with a sample size of one Musk we may find something in the way he started out that is fundamentally borrowable.
Sure, we can’t recreate the exact circumstances of his life for ourselves – we all have different parents, live in different countries, and have different bodies. Despite all the differences, we have control over our mindset as much as he does over his. This part of Musk we can borrow. The ways he deals with uncertainty, the books he reads, the ways he makes promises, and patches up his own mistakes are all borrowable, for example.

Thinking From First Principles (And Not Just By Analogy)

You might be skeptical about how studying another person’s life can help. His circumstances are not like yours. Musk would be the first to remind us here to think from first principles, as scientists do, rather than by analogy[1]. Why should you think like Musk? You might know better than him after all. It’s true that thinking from first principles gives a truer result. But it also takes time which is limited for all of us. Yes, it’s best to think about your situation from scratch. But reasoning by analogy makes sense given that life is finite. To minimize our own mistakes we don’t need to borrow the exact decisions Musk made but study the way he makes them. Then we can apply his thinking method to what we know to be true for sure.

It’s Easy to Explain Greatness in Hindsight – The Narrative Fallacy

One psychological barrier to learning from other people’s lives is the narrative fallacy – making a neat story out of facts that at the time of their happening made little sense. As the classic book on improbability