Without exporting your notes to your email all your writing is lost.
Humans have a natural tendency to choose imitation over innovation.
This is purely due to the body’s attempt to minimize its use of energy. Our brains consume a significant portion of our energy supply. Thinking about everything from the ground up takes a lot of mental power, so our brains create shortcuts.
From the evolutionary standpoint, this was critical for our survival. If you stopped every time you saw a lion and examine its teeth to determine if it’s capable of harming, you wouldn’t get far. Instead, you did what every other human does – run away or hide.
Reasoning from analogy – imitating – was a good strategy for survival, but for innovation, it falls short. If we never take things apart to test our assumptions and beliefs, we end up doing things the way they have always been done, thus failing to innovate.
Break away from the herd mentality and come up with original solutions.
Reasoning from first principles allows us to step outside of the status quo and conventional wisdom to see what’s possible. It’s one of the best ways to solve hard problems and complex situations with many interconnected parts.
First principles thinking is about breaking problems down into core elements and building up from there. A first principle is an assumption that cannot be reduced any further. Everything that is not a law of nature is just a shared belief.
By knowing the first principles of something, you can build from scratch and create something new. Without a solid understanding of the basics, there is little chance of mastering the details that make the difference at elite levels of competition.
The secret to innovating like Elon Musk.
Elon Musk has built three revolutionary multibillion dollar companies. What makes it even more incredible is that they are in entirely different fields — Paypal (Financial Services), Tesla Motors (Automotive), and SpaceX (Aerospace).
When asked about how he managed to do this, he said the following: “I do think there is a good framework for thinking. It is physics – you know the sort of first principles reasoning … What I mean by that is boil things down to their fundamental truths and reason up from there as opposed to reasoning by analogy. Though most of our life we get through it by reasoning through analogy, which essentially means copying what other people do with slight variations. And you have to do that, otherwise mentally you wouldn’t be able to get through the day. But when you want to do something new you have to apply the physics approach. Physics has really figured out how to discover new things that are counter-intuitive, like quantum mechanics … so I think that’s an important thing to do. This may sound like simple advice but hardly anyone does that and it’s incredibly helpful.”
Just like Musk, some of the most brilliant minds of all time — Aristotle, Euclid, Thomas Edison, Feynman, and Nikola Tesla — use this model to accelerate learning, solve difficult problems, and create outstanding work.
It’s not about how hard you think; it’s about how you think.
By looking for ways to improve existing constructs, you create incremental improvements. Reasoning from first principles opens you up for the possibility of creating a paradigm shift.
The best way to think from first principles is to ask powerful questions that structure your thinking so you can see things from a new perspective.
6 steps to reason from first principles
How to think with First Principles Thinking
Read more about how it works.