How does Elon Musk do what he does? How does one guy start 4 billion dollar companies that are all disruptive? What kind of mind does these kind of things and where do we find more of them? How do we clone Elon Musk?

Besides starting PayPal, SpaceX, Tesla Motors, and SolarCity, Elon has 2 more notable ideas that he just doesn’t have time to work on. He would like to design the Hyperloop, a transportation system that could get people from Los Angeles to San Francisco in 30 minutes. And he wants to design supersonic electric jets. He can do it but he just doesn’t have the time.

Elon tells us a lot about how he thinks and maybe we should be listening and learning to channel Elon Musk? Elon talks about thin king from “First Principles”. The idea being that instead of looking at a problem from the perspective of the way people always have, wipe the slate clean and look at the fundamentals.

For example, making batteries for electric cars. People say, “Batteries are way to expensive so you can’t build electric cars that are cost effective.” But Elon says, “What is a battery made of and what do the raw materials cost?” From that he concludes that batteries can be made far cheaper than they are today if produced in high quantity. So – he’s building the gigafactory, the biggest battery factory in the world.

So – the world needs more Elons, but the technology to copy him isn’t there. So how do we reproduce his abilities so that Elon can spend more time with his 5 kids? How do we learn to think like Elon and teach our children how to think like Elon? How do we make “Thinking like Elon” a college course?

In a lot of ways I think like Elon, but not at his scale. So I’m going to throw out some ideas and let’s come up with new ideas in the mode of “Thinking like Elon”.

I remember 25 years ago being at a Republican political event where I was talking to some state representative about politics. I made this suggestion, “Instead of Republicans and Democrats fighting over who gets the blame for doing the wrong thing, why don’t you do the right thing and fight over who gets the credit?” The guy said, “That’s a brilliant idea!” It never happened, but it was a brilliant idea.

Another example, “Why don’t we start a religion based on believing in everything that is real and then we can tackle the big questions like “Meaning of Life” and “Purpose of Humanity in the Universe” from a totally scientific perspective? That’s my Church of Reality idea.

Today I’m meeting with the Humanists in Palo Alto who are figuring out who they are and what they are doing today. I’m going to suggest a new definition for Humanism as a reality based religion and that we should compete in the religious space to “Win souls for Darwin”.

But – enough of my ideas. The question here is – how do we clone Elon? I want you to share your first principle ideas here giving examples like I have and discuss ways to get more people to do what Elon does so that I can fly in an electric jet.


  1. Matt Jackson says:

    Turns out there are seemingly countless examples of this first principles of analysis, especially in industries that have existed for a while and have well-established incumbents dominating them.

    First principles analysis (I learned it has fundamental principles, but it’s the same thing), allows business owners to get to the heart of how a business model works, and if new technology has rendered incumbents vulnerable for disruption.

    Another example is in Adhesives, where you have a variety of well-known well-established incumbents selling product with very high markup. First principles analysis, unfolds the envelope to share how much margin is actually possible, thus clarifying the challenge of a new entrant to that of a marketing challenge.

    Turns out, about the only limit to disrupt markets right now is one’s own time, energy, and the ability to take those first principles and then communicate your discoveries and ideas to customers and investment partners by using analogy (which ironically tends to prevent first principles thinking to begin with).

    So, the punchline: think in first principles, communicate by analogy.

    • Tim says:

      “”think in first principles, communicate by analogy.

      That’s the quandary of quantum physics. Metaphore and analogy with relatable personal observation and experience seem elusive. I’m not comfortable with a world which is non-metaphorical. Ohh, you’ll hear “Bell’s inequality is *like* the Eigen commutation operator but with an extra wingding… I suspect it’s total gibberish, but still wonder what this type thinking may lead to…

  2. Hugh says:

    There is no sweeter tit then that of the taxpayer. Something Elon has learned well as neither of his two present companies would exist without US taxpayer picking up the tab

    • NewFormatSux says:

      Shh, you’re criticizing Perkel’s God.

      As Steve Rogers said, “There’s only one God, and I’m pretty sure he doesn’t dress like that.”

      • NewFormatSux says:

        My concern is that Marc Perkel is going to be less than clearheaded on reporting on his solar experience. If it does well, he will report that. But if it doesn’t, will he be so unwilling to criticize his new god that he will make excuses, or just not report the problems?

        • Tim says:

          Really?? I’d rather thought he’d go ahead and eat the contract, kicking them to the curb for thorium.

  3. NewFormatSux says:

    “Batteries are way to expensive so you can’t build electric cars that are cost effective.”

    Who says that? The critique for more than 100 years has been the storage capacity of the battery.

    • bobbo, I'm not a science guy, but I can read says:

      Who says that? The critique for more than 100 years has been the storage capacity of the battery. /// Still correct. Now add in the requirement to shrink that storage capacity so it can be used in a car with adequate range ……

      now, what do you think the issue is?

      You know: First Principles: reasoning from what you already think.

      Heh, heh.

  4. bobbo, I'm not a science guy, but I can read says:

    Speaking of reality, heres a nice confirmation of what I posted… (above?)==somewhere about reality, but “listening” to yourself as well.

    I’ve never had this inner voice….. but it must be close to dreams? I awake in awe to some of the dreams I have had. A nice alternative universe. I need to get that rem sleep activator to allow active dreaming. I did it for about a year by accident. $150 the best money I could spend if it works.

    New Scientist–the free subscription is worth the registration:

    • Tim says:

      eww. paywall fail.

      Anyways, I’d guess you are talking about *lucid dreaming*.

      A simple regimine is:

      magnesium about 3 hrs before bed
      melatonine about a half hr before
      passiflora incarnata
      valerian root
      Choline {<– very important.. should be used with inositol}
      Hydroxyzine* {if you can get it — legal over the counter in every country but usa because it is safe and effective — does not potentiate with other sedatives}

      *Hydroxizine has a tendancy in some to induce a SILD {sexually induced lucid dream}. So, if that's not your thing…

      If one is trying to learn the practice by trying the WILD (wake initiated lucid dream) technique then keep in mind that there *may be* some potential for sleep paralysis, which can be terrifying. So, again; use caution with that if getting it on with MothMan is not your thing.

      Scene from Waking Life