The ‘ab initio’ Power to Think for Yourself

Elon Musk wanted to send the first rocket to Mars. In 2002, he began his quest by visiting a number of aerospace manufacturers, only to be faced by a major challenge: the price for purchasing a rocket is $65 Million! Since the price was astronomically insane, he began to rethink the problem.

Photo by SpaceX on

In an interview, Musk explains:

“I tend to approach things from a physics framework. Physics teaches you to reason from first principles rather than by analogy. So I said, okay, let’s look at the first principles. What is a rocket made of? Aerospace-grade aluminum alloys, plus some titanium, copper, and carbon fiber. Then I asked, what is the value of those materials on the commodity market? It turned out that the material cost of a rocket was around 2% of the typical price.”

So instead of buying a finished rocket, Musk decided to purchase the raw material for cheap and build the rockets himself. SpaceX was born.

By thinking ‘ab initio’ (Latin for ‘From the Beginning’) or first principle thinking, Musk dissected the problem down to the fundamentals to create a viable solution.

Everyone in daily life or work can use first principle thinking. It is one of the most effective ways to think for ourselves and realizing that most things are possible. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, creativity is not something that only some of us are born with, but is rather there from birth for us all. First principle thinking enhances our creativity to find solutions.

One of the biggest hurdles in realizing our dreams or our big ideas is allowing others to tell us what is possible. By forfeiting our creative edge, we outsource our thinking to someone else. The power of ‘ab initio’ thinking is moving away from the shadow of others to the possibility of developing cutting-edge ideas from the fundamentals up. Even if you have a lifestyle problem, understanding first principle thinking makes you think of solutions starting from the basics.

One of the biggest hurdles in realizing our dreams is allowing others to tell us what is possible.

When we are faced with problems, we default to thinking like everybody else. First principles thinking help to innovate new solutions to familiar problems and alter the direction of improvement.


Author: Rana AlBasri Mouawad

I question a lot! My aim is to challenge the old mindset and open doors to creativity in life, at work and in business. We all Make Waves and I am here to help build your brand.

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