Tweetstorm: Why Elon Musk is just like the rest of us

This is originally a tweetstorm I posted on Twitter. I wanted to share it here as well. Inspired by the great Tim Urban.

Tesla’s stock price is up 571% over the past year. Elon Musk this week became the 7th wealthiest person in the world with a Net Worth of over $70,000,000,000. That’s a lot of zeros.

I read a post last week from 2015, where Tim Urban explored why Elon has been so successful. It was a long read, but great. The most interesting part of the article was where he explained how Elon isn’t much different than you and I. In fact, the main thing that separates Elon from the pack is his independent thinking.

  • Most people attribute Elon’s success to his natural intelligence and talent (His hardware). But that’s not right. It’s more about how he thinks, makes decisions, and pursues his dreams (His software). It’s his software, not his hardware that sets him apart.

  • So how does Elon’s software work? The main difference between him and others is he reasons from first principles. He determines his Goals by overlapping his Wants with Reality. Wants = through a deep & honest reflection of himself. Reality = interpreting facts accurately.

  • Then, he tests his hypotheses by executing his strategy. He adjusts his strategy based on his results. He continually updates his Wants as he grows. He continues to update his view of reality as the world continues to evolve. This sounds easy, but can be very challenging.

  • He’s mentioned he cares deeply about the future well-being of the human species. This helps explain why he bet his own money on SpaceX, Tesla, and SolarCity. It would’ve been easy to sit on his Millions after Paypal. However, he stayed true to his Wants.

  • Most People’s software: We reason by analogy instead of first principles. It’s because of our childhood, the U.S. education system, and blind tribalism. Parents saying, “because I said so”, was the beginning of a slow death of independent reasoning.

  • Chefs vs. Cooks is one way to think of how our software works. The Chef was the first person to create pizza. Everyone else that made a pizza after that person is a Cook. There’s a spectrum of Cooks. Some will follow the recipe by the book, others will be more creative.

  • For even the most innovative Cooks, there’s usually a ceiling on the innovation they can create in the world. Chefs aren’t guaranteed to do anything good, but when there’s a little talent and a lot of persistence, they’re almost certain to make a splash.

  • Being a chef isn’t being like Elon Musk—it’s being yourself. And the difference in outcomes is enormous.

  • We think we’re Chefs. We point to our individual success and believe we’re leaders. Which means that we’re not a Cook. In reality, we most likely followed our tribe’s cookbook that said what we’re doing is impressive. Which means we’re just super-successful followers (Cooks).

  • We need to zoom out until you can see the real leader of the Cooks: The Cookbook. - What feels like personal principles might just be the general tenets of your tribe. - What feels like original opinions may have actually been spoon-fed to us by the media, parents, friends

  • Because of this optical illusion, we’re unable to see the flaws in our own thinking or recognize an unusually great thinker when we see one. Instead, when Elon Musk or Steve Jobs comes around, what do we attribute their success to? Awesome fucking hardware.

  • When we look at Musk, we see someone with genius, vision, and superhuman balls. All things, we assume, he was more or less born with. So to us, the spectrum looks more like this.

  • We think we’re all chefs - and Elon is just an impressive chef. Which is A) overrating Elon and B) overrating ourselves. What makes Elon such an extreme standout isn’t that he’s impressive—it’s that most of us aren’t chefs at all.

  • So, now we want to all be Chefs, right? How do we do this? Simple: Improve our software. Remember, independent thinking and reasoning is part of your Software, not your Hardware. So, Elon is not magical. He has just had more software updates. We can eventually become a Chef.

  • Three epiphanies you need to become a chef: - You don’t know shit - No one else knows shit - We’re playing Grand Theft Life The first two are obvious. We’re all making it up as we go, doing our best with the knowledge we already have.

  • Grand Theft Life is similar to Grand Theft Auto. GTA is fun because it’s a fake video game where you can go around doing whatever the hell you want without getting in trouble. The only difference between Life and GTA is that in Life, the Law and Jail are a thing.

  • Life can be similar to GTA. You can do what you want without breaking the law and not have much to fear. If you live life this way, you can probably be far more successful and much truer to yourself than the real life you’re currently living.

  • But we still have these fears in Life. They are irrational and due to a glitch in our software. Because of this, we do not assess risk correctly. Because Chef’s reason from First principles they play the game of Grand Theft Life and have the 3rd Epiphany: fearlessness.

  • Many of us are the Self-Loathing Cook. We’ve had the first 2 epiphanies. We have the humility to know we don’t know shit and the intelligence to know others don’t know shit. BUT we have these irrational fears.

  • Many of the world’s most able people are stuck in life as the Self-Loathing Cook, 1 epiphany short of the promised land. Eliminate your fears. Take the leap of faith. You will live a life that is much more fulfilling, truer to yourself, and potentially even more successful.

  • You don’t have to be the perfect chef. No one’s a perfect chef—not even Elon. And no one’s a pure cook either—nothing’s black and white when you’re talking about the complexity of humans. We have similarities with Elon. We just might need a few software updates to get there.