First principles

The term “first principles” was coined more than 2,000 years ago by the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle, who believed that the best way to understand a subject is to break it down to its most fundamental principles.

In a 2012 interview with Digg founder Kevin Rose, Musk explained how to apply the first principles method, using the cost of car batteries as an example:

Step 1: Identify the problem and its common assumptions.

“Somebody could say, ’Battery packs are really expensive, and that’s just the way they will always be. Historically, it has cost $600 per kilowatt hour,” Musk said, referencing the “common assumption” about car batteries.

Therefore, he continued, most people would just accept that “it’s not going to be much better than that in the future.”

Step 2: Break the problem down to its fundamental truths.

This is often the most difficult part, and the key is to ask the right questions — by challenging the common assumptions. Keep digging deeper and deeper until you are left with only the fundamental truths.

“With first principles, you say, ‘What are the material constituents of the batteries? What is the stock market value of the material constituents?’ It’s got cobalt, nickel, aluminum, carbon, some polymers for separation and a seal can,” explained Musk.

Then, he continued, “you’d break that down on a material basis and say, ‘If we bought that on the London Metal Exchange what would each of those things cost?’ It’s like $80 per kilowatt hour.”

Step 3: Use the fundamental truths to plot a new course.

Fundamental truths are like building blocks. Once you’ve gathered them, you can use them to create an entirely new and innovative solution.

With the batteries, “you just need to think of clever ways to take those materials and combine them into the shape of a battery cell,” Musk said. “Then you can have batteries that are much, much cheaper than anyone realizes.”

A ‘powerful, powerful way of thinking’

Musk has referenced the value of first principles thinking several times. “I think it’s important to view knowledge as sort of semantic tree,” he wrote in a 2015 Reddit AMA. “Make sure you understand the fundamental principles, i.e., the trunk and big branches, before you get into the leaves/details, or there is nothing for them to hang on to.”

In a 2014 commencement speech at the University of Southern California, he offered a similar piece of advice: “Don’t just follow the trend. It’s good to think in terms of the physics approach — the first principles,” he said. “This is a good way to figure out if something really makes sense, or if it’s just what everybody else is doing.”

He added: “It’s very hard to do. You can’t think that way about everything. It takes a lot of effort, but if you’re trying to do something new, it’s the best way to think. It’s really a powerful, powerful way of thinking.”

Other cool links

2013 Elon Musk TED talk

Warren Buffet also follows a similar decision-making strategy

tech giants

A great read!

Benedict Evans’ great trends analysis – if you have something that you really should read to put your brain thinking about the future, is this excellent report – mobile & smartphone disruption is reaching its peak and its end in the typical S curve rollercoaster ride… What happens when everyone is online? What will be the next big thing in our lives?

Click here!


I started off with Headspace but lately I’ve used with some success the Calm app, but never wanted to pay for it!

Now I am testing two free alternatives to then stay with one!

Smiling Mind is in testing mode now!


Top picks for the best meditation apps of 2020:

1. Ten Percent Happier

2. Headspace

3. Simple Habit

4. Insight Timer

5. Calm

6. Stop, Breathe & Think

7. Smiling Mind

What is meditation and what does it actually do?
Mindfulness — the goal of meditation — means being fully aware and present in the moment you live in. To achieve it, practitioners recommend paying close attention to your thoughts and feelings, observing your breath, and focusing.
Essentially, mindfulness is “this little kindling of interest in the most mundane fact of your existence,” Clifford Saron, a research scientist at the Center for Mind and Brain, tellsInverse.
Anyone can achieve it. But some people learn how to be mindful by regularly practicing specific techniques, including meditation, yoga, and breathing exercises.
The evidence is mounting that meditation is beneficial for both the mind and the body. Studies show that mindfulness may curb anxiety and depression, and may even improve your heart health. Other research shows mindfulness may treat alcohol addition, or increase resiliency in the face of stress. Other studies show that even just a brief introduction to mindfulness meditation may lessen pain and negative emotions.
Most recently, a pair of research papers to be published in March 2020 suggest that mindfulness may benefit you at work, too, by boosting attention and resilience in high-tension professional settings.
Mindfulness may go even further — a 2012 brain scan study found eight weeks of meditation quite literally changed participants’ brain structure.
But, while the science behind meditation and mindfulness grows, experts in the field believe the lay market in mindfulness may have gotten a little ahead of itself.
“This is a fraught area with inconclusive and highly variable results in which the press about the effects of meditation is way ahead of the actual data and the methodological issues involved,” Saron says.

Smiling Mind— A go-to for younger users interested in meditation.
Founded in 2012, this Australian app has quickly become a go-to for youth mindfulness meditation.
The app provides users with a survey to assess their base levels of happiness, contentedness, and alertness. It is customizable, meaning it can be tailored to enable younger users — especially those in school — to meet specific goals they have for their mental health and well-being.
Smiling Mind made it into the top picks because of its sports meditation programs: The app includes 6 modules with 12 sessions (made in partnership with Cricket Australia) designed to help users in their athletic performance.
There are longer sessions ideal for training and off-season periods, and shorter booster-style sessions that may help users get ready on the day for the big game.

building blocks

Building Blocks Planning
This is an outline of a simple tool for planning innovative technology businesses which helps consider sequences and consequences.
Powered by:  Mick Liubinskas

Product Focus for tech companies in San Francisco

This method uses the metaphor of building blocks to plan the major steps from now to your big goal. The principle is that each block builds on the block under it and must be a logical extension forward. It stops ‘hope’ as a strategy or ‘dreams’ without structure. It gets you to ask the question, what foundation am I building and, when it is finished and strong, what can I build on that base to grow towards my vision.
It’s useful for the management of tech businesses who are trying to plan when there are complex interactions between parts and many paths to take.
Planning is significantly harder with innovations because there are a number of large unknowns or, at best, hypotheses, including;
Who are we building this for?
What problem are we solving?
What is it we are building?
How should we build it?
What resources will it take to build?
How long will it take to build?
How much will it cost?
Will the customers want/like/use it?
Will the customers pay for it and how much?

Continue reading “building blocks”

Wear sunscreen

The Lyrics
Ladies and gentlemen of the class of ’97
Wear sunscreen
If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it
A long-term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists
Whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable
Than my own meandering experience, I will dispense this advice now
Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth, oh, never mind
You will not understand the power and beauty of your youth
Until they’ve faded, but trust me, in 20 years, you’ll look back
At photos of yourself and recall in a way you can’t grasp now
How much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked
You are not as fat as you imagine
Don’t worry about the future
Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing Bubble gum
The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind
The kind that blindsides you at 4 p.m. On some idle Tuesday
Do one thing every day that scares you
Saying, don’t be reckless with other people’s hearts
Don’t put up with people who are reckless with yours
Don’t waste your time on jealousy
Sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind
The race is long and in the end, it’s only with yourself
Remember compliments you receive, forget the insults, if you succeed in doing this, tell me how
Keep your old love letters, throw away your old bank statements
Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your life.
The most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives
Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don’t
Get plenty of calcium
Be kind to your knees
You’ll miss them when they’re gone
Maybe you’ll marry, maybe you won’t
Maybe you’ll have children, maybe you won’t
Maybe you’ll divorce at 40, maybe you’ll dance the ‘Funky Chicken’
On your 75th wedding anniversary
Whatever you do, don’t congratulate yourself too much
Or berate yourself either
Your choices are half chance, so are everybody else’s
Enjoy your body, use it every way you can
Don’t be afraid of it or what other people think of it
It’s the greatest instrument you’ll ever own
Dance, even if you have nowhere to do it but your own living room
Read the directions even if you don’t follow them
Do not read beauty magazines, they will only make you feel ugly
Brother and sister together we’ll make it through
Some day a spirit will take you and guide you there
I know you’ve been hurting but I’ve been waiting to be there for you
And I’ll be there just helping you out whenever I can
Get to know your parents, you never know when they’ll be gone for good
Be nice to your siblings, they’re your best link to your past
And the people most likely to stick with you in the future
Understand that friends come and go
But a precious few, who should hold on
Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle
For as the older you get, the more you need the people you knew when you were young
Live in New York City once but leave before it makes you hard
Live in northern California once but leave before it makes you soft
Accept certain inalienable truths
Prices will rise, politicians will philander, you too, will get old
And when you do, you’ll fantasize that when you were young
Prices were reasonable, politicians were noble
And children respected their elders
Respect your elders
Don’t expect anyone else to support you
Maybe you have a trust fund, maybe you’ll have a wealthy spouse
But you never know when either one might run out
Never mess too much with your hair
Or by the time you’re 40 it will look 85
Be careful whose advice you buy but be patient with those who supply it
Advice is a form of nostalgia, dispensing it is a way of fishing the past
From the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts
And recycling it for more than it’s worth
But trust me on the sunscreen
Brother and sister together we’ll make it through
Some day a spirit will take you and guide you there
I know you’ve been hurting but I’ve been waiting to be there for you
And I’ll be there just helping you out whenever I can
Everybody see it oh yeah yeah
Everybody see it oh yeah
He want you to feel good!

Mental Models

“To the man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”

The Best Way to Make Intelligent Decisions

Charlie Munger summed up the approach to practical wisdom through understanding mental models by saying:

“Well, the first rule is that you can’t really know anything if you just remember isolated facts and try and bang ’em back. If the facts don’t hang together on a latticework of theory, you don’t have them in a usable form. You’ve got to have models in your head. And you’ve got to array your experience both vicarious and direct on this latticework of models. You may have noticed students who just try to remember and pound back what is remembered. Well, they fail in school and in life. You’ve got to hang experience on a latticework of models in your head.”


if you know all the concepts and principles listed below (only 109…), you will know how to interpret most of things that will happen to you during your life…

General Thinking Concepts

1. The Map is not the Territory

2. Circle of Competence

3. First Principles Thinking

4. Thought Experiment

5. Second-Order Thinking

6. Probabilistic Thinking

7. Inversion

8. Occam’s Razor

9. Hanlon’s Razor


1. Permutations and Combinations

2. Algebraic Equivalence

3. Randomness

4. Stochastic Processes (Poisson, Markov, Random Walk)

5. Compounding

6. Multiplying by Zero

7. Churn

8. Law of Large Numbers

9. Bell Curve/Normal Distribution

10. Power Laws

11. Regression to the Mean

12. Order of Magnitude


1. Scale

2. Law of Diminishing Returns

3. Pareto Principle

4. Feedback Loops (and Homeostasis)

5. Chaos Dynamics (Butterfly Effect)/ (Sensitivity to Initial Conditions)

6. Preferential Attachment (Cumulative Advantage)

7. Emergence

8. Irreducibility 

9. Tragedy of the Commons

10. Gresham’s Law

11. Algorithms

12. Fragility – Robustness – Antifragility

13. Backup Systems/Redundancy

14. Margin of Safety

15. Criticality

16. Network Effects

17. Via Negativa – Omission/Removal/Avoidance of Harm

18. The Lindy Effect

19. Renormalization Group

20. Spring-loading

21. Complex Adaptive Systems

Physical World

1. Laws of Thermodynamics

2. Reciprocity

3. Velocity

4. Relativity

5. Activation Energy

6. Catalysts

7. Leverage

8. Inertia

9. Alloying

10. Viscosity

The Biological World

1. Incentives

2. Cooperation (Including Symbiosis and Prisoner’s Dilemma)

3. Tendency to Minimize Energy Output (Mental & Physical)

4. Adaptation

5. Evolution by Natural Selection

6. The Red Queen Effect (Co-evolutionary Arms Race)

7. Replication

8. Hierarchical and Other Organizing Instincts

9. Self-Preservation Instincts

10. Simple Physiological Reward-Seeking

11. Exaptation

12. Ecosystems

13. Niches

14. Dunbar’s Number

Human Nature & Judgment

1. Trust

2. Bias from Incentives

3. Pavlovian Association

4. Tendency to Feel Envy & Jealousy

5. Tendency to Distort Due to Liking/Loving or Disliking/Hating

6. Denial 

7. Availability Heuristic

8. Representativeness Heuristic

a. Failure to Account for Base Rates

b. Tendency to Stereotype 

c. Failure to See False Conjunctions

9. Social Proof (Safety in Numbers)

10. Narrative Instinct

11. Curiosity Instinct

12. Language Instinct

13. First-Conclusion Bias

14. Tendency to Overgeneralize from Small Samples

15. Relative Satisfaction/Misery Tendencies

16. Commitment & Consistency Bias

17. Hindsight Bias

18. Sensitivity to Fairness

19. Tendency to Overestimate Consistency of Behavior (Fundamental Attribution Error)

20. Influence of Stress (Including Breaking Points)

21. Survivorship Bias

22. Tendency to Want to Do Something (Fight/Flight, Intervention, Demonstration of Value, etc.)

23. Falsification / Confirmation Bias

Microeconomics & Strategy

1. Opportunity Costs

2. Creative Destruction

3. Comparative Advantage

4. Specialization (Pin Factory)

5. Seizing the Middle

6. Trademarks, Patents, and Copyrights

7. Double-Entry Bookkeeping

8. Utility (Marginal, Diminishing, Increasing)

9. Bottlenecks

10. Bribery

11. Arbitrage

12. Supply and Demand

13. Scarcity

14. Mr. Market

Military & War

1. Seeing the Front

2. Asymmetric Warfare

3. Two-Front War

4. Counterinsurgency

5. Mutually Assured Destruction


99 top films of the last decade

I do not agree with a lot of the choices, namely the chosen one for the top spot, but its the wisdom of the (pop) crowds (powered by Consequence of Sound):

  1. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
  2. The Social Network (2010)
  3. Moonlight (2016)
  4. We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011)
  5. Hereditary (2018)
  6. The Act of Killing/The Look of Silence (2015)
  7. Under the Skin (2014)
  8. Phantom Thread (2017)
  9. The Handmaiden (2016)
  10. Inception (2010)
  11. Inside Out (2015)
  12. Blade Runner 2049 (2017)
  13. Bridesmaids (2011)
  14. Get Out (2017)
  15. The Tree of Life (2011)
  16. Boyhood (2014)
  17. 12 Years a Slave (2013)
  18. Tangerine (2015)
  19. Green Room (2016)
  20. The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)
  21. Dunkirk (2017)
  22. The Invitation (2015)
  23. Call Me By Your Name (2017)
  24. Son of Saul (2015)
  25. Logan (2017)
  26. The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
  27. Frances Ha (2012)
  28. OJ: Made in America (2016)
  29. 45 Years (2015)
  30. Zero Dark Thirty (2011)
  31. A Separation (2011)
  32. Her (2013)
  33. Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)
  34. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse (2018)
  35. Carol (2015)
  36. Fruitvale Station (2013)
  37. Before Midnight (2012)
  38. Looper (2012)
  39. The Babadook (2014)
  40. BlackkKlansman (2018)
  41. Silver Linings Playbook (2012)
  42. Melancholia (2011)
  43. Shirkers (2018)
  44. The Revenant (2015)
  45. Inherent Vice (2014)
  46. Jackie (2016)
  47. Exit Through the Gift Shop (2010)
  48. Amour (2012)
  49. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019)
  50. Nightcrawler (2014)
  51. Cold War (2018)
  52. Moneyball (2011)
  53. Roma (2018)
  54. Leviathan (2014)
  55. Young Adult (2011)
  56. First Reformed (2018)
  57. Force Majeure (2014)
  58. American Honey (2016)
  59. Baby Driver (2017)
  60. Amy (2015)
  61. La La Land (2016)
  62. Spring Breakers (2012)
  63. Annihilation (2018)
  64. Drive (2011)
  65. 13th (2016)
  66. Toni Erdmann (2016)
  67. Shoplifters (2018)
  68. What We Do in the Shadows (2014)
  69. Paterson (2017)
  70. Midsommar (2019)
  71. Nocturama (2016)
  72. Good Time (2017)
  73. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
  74. Phoenix (2014)
  75. Blue Valentine (2010)
  76. The Interrupters (2011)
  77. The Master (2012)
  78. The Tale (2018)
  79. Your Name (2017)
  80. Burning (2018)
  81. Manchester by the Sea (2016)
  82. Eighth Grade (2018)
  83. Parasite (2019)
  84. Sing Street (2016)
  85. Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (2011)
  86. The Trip (2010)
  87. Columbus (2017)
  88. Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping (2016)
  89. Attack the Block (2011)
  90. Lady Bird (2017)
  91. Elle (2016)
  92. The Wind Rises (2013)
  93. A Ghost Story (2017)
  94. Krisha (2015)
  95. The Favourite (2018)
  96. Kubo and the Two Strings (2016)
  97. Her Smell (2019)
  98. The Raid 2 (2014)
  99. Gone Girl (2014)