First: Thanks to John Sergeant for initially posting the link to Part IV of the Elon Musk series, written by Tim Urban on the exceptional www.waitbutwhy.com site. If you have not read it and have not yet thrown Tim a few bananas, once you do read this four-part series on Elon Musk, you’ll see why Tim deserves an entire plantation of golden fruit.
So John’s link was a tremendous favor to all of us invested in either Tesla or Solar City––or to just those humans who want to stop destroying the planet for the rest of us and who also want to prevent humans from a mass-extinction event. And yet the recommendation basket connected to that post with the above link is currently pitifully underfunded. Do you humans really think you have better things to do than read about someone who is trying save your entire human enterprise? So but this here is Monkey’s attempt to get some of y’all to go back and read what might be one of the most important and mind-expanding works of analysis and good cheer in a good long while. So: stop twiddling your opposable thumbs and click on the above link, and start with Part I: Elon Musk: The World’s Raddest Man. And don’t stop ‘till you get enough.
Monkey really does want y’all to send the author of those essays some ‘naners if you think reading them made you more confident in your investment in Tesla or Solar City. Here’s the link to the Patreon support page: https://www.patreon.com/waitbutwhy?ty=h
Monkey, up in his tree of higher education, is having all his students read this series. Sadly, what this post reveals is that higher-education itself is guilty of many of the flaws uncovered in the analysis. Most students are concerned with grades and GPA and what they need to do to get those grades. Elon Musk suggests doing pretty much the exact opposite. Ours is a culture of excellent sheep: students will to work hard, but only if they’re told what to do and with no desire to ask questions about what they genuinely care about.
For those of you who do care about such things, Monkey is starting his own school, for youths and adult humans alike. If you want to know more, send Monkey an email reply off board and he’ll send you the link.
Monkey owns shares of both Solar City and Tesla. Tesla is up 255%; Solar City is down 39% from original purchase points.
After reading this four-part series, and this latest part twice, Monkey concludes that while no human can do everything, and that sometimes coincidence or bad-luck or poor-timing can ruin anything, there is no human being on this planet that Monkey would rather have in charge of his companies than Elon Musk. It’s a shame that our only investing options in Elon are Tesla and Solar City.
Obviously a company is way more than just the CEO or the management team. But with Musk, I think we have extraordinary cause and evidence to believe that if Tesla and Solar City don’t succeed, it won’t be due to missing something, or due to faulty thinking, or due to not being bold enough. If management is ever a good reason to get behind a company, Musk is the best there is, if quality of thinking is the guiding criteria.
7)Monkey feels it should be ok to quote liberally from the latest post because the links were provided up top. If this is in error, send flares.
So here are a few choice snippets:
For the theologian puzzlers, the starting rules of the game were, “Fact: the Earth began 6,000 years ago and there was at one point an Earth-sweeping flood,” and their puzzling took place strictly within that context. But the scientists started the game with no rules at all. The puzzle was a blank slate where any observations and measurements they found were welcome.
And yet—after thinking about this for a while, I’ve come to an unpleasant conclusion:
When it comes to most of the way we think, the way we make decisions, and the way we live our lives, we’re much more like the flood geologists than the science geologists.
And Elon’s secret? He’s a scientist through and through.
Translation: we often begin with faulty assumptions, often even failing to see that we’ve made any. Elon does not do this. Doesn’t it make you feel better, then, that Musk just bought an extra 7 million worth of SCTY shares? Yes, he wants Solar City to succeed, but he simply does not make his decisions from a place of desire.
Only strong reasoning skills can carve a unique life path, and without them, dogma will quickly have you living someone else’s life. Dogma doesn’t know you or care about you and is often completely wrong for you—it’ll have a would-be happy painter spending their life as a lawyer and a would-be happy lawyer spending their life as a painter. But when you don’t know how to reason, you don’t know how to evolve or adapt. If the dogma you grew up with isn’t working for you, you can reject it, but as a reasoning amateur, going it alone usually ends with you finding another dogma lifeboat to jump onto—another rulebook to follow and another authority to obey. You don’t know how to code your own software, so you install someone else’s.
Elon does not operate from dogma. He operates from first principles, usually grounded in physics. As in, what do the laws of physics say is possible, not whether humans think something is possible because of some unexamined assumptions passed down from big brain to big brain over the generations. Doesn’t it feel comforting knowing that the companies musk is in charge of rely on the laws of physics rather than human assumptions?
The chef says, “Ugh okay, here we go,” rolls up his sleeves, and does what he always does in these situations—he switches on the active decision-making part of his software and starts to go to work. He looks at what data he has and seeks out what more he needs. He thinks about the current state of the world and reflects on where his values and priorities lie. He gathers together those relevant first principles ingredients and starts puzzling together a reasoning pathway. It takes some hard work, but eventually, the pathway brings him to a hypothesis. He knows it’s probably wrong-ish, and as new data emerges, he’ll “taste-test” the hypothesis and adjust it. He keeps the decision-making center on standby for the next few weeks as he makes a bunch of early adjustments to the flawed hypothesis—a little more salt, a little less sugar, one prime ingredient that needs to be swapped out for another. Eventually, he’s satisfied enough with how things are going to move back into auto-pilot mode. This new decision is now part of the automated routine—a new recipe is in the cookbook—and he’ll check in on it to make adjustments every once in a while or as new pertinent data comes in, the way he does for all parts of his software.
The cook has no idea what’s going on in the last paragraph. The reasoning cook’s software is called “Because the recipe said so,” and it’s more of a computerized catalog of recipes than a computer program. When the cook needs to make a life decision, he goes through his collection of authority-written recipes, finds the one he trusts in that particular walk of life, and reads through the steps to see what to do—kind of like WWJD, except the J is replaced by whatever authority is most trusted in that area. For most questions, the authority is the tribe, since the cook’s tribal dogma covers most standard decisions. But in this particular case, the cook leafed through the tribe’s cookbook and couldn’t find any section about this type of decision. So he needs to get a hold of a recipe from another authority he trusts with this type of thing. Once the cook finds the right recipe, he can put it in his catalog and use it for all future decisions on this matter.
Elon is a Chef, the maker of new original creations, not least of which are Tesla, SpaceX and Solar City. And the rest of us, thanks in part to this analysis, can learn how to be Chefs more often in our own lives, if not only in investing matters. That plan has several key ingredients according to Tim Urban:
We mistake the chef’s clear view of the present for vision into the future. In other words, Elon Musk and Tesla and Solar City are not some futuristic gambles, as many humans think of them. Rather, they’re companies run by people who realize that there’s a lot that’s possible now and we don’t need to wait for some future technologies to realize those possibilities. Tesla just couldn’t exist, could it? But now it does. Monkey’s own personal equivalent: schools that don’t have grades and test scores that focus on wisdom just can’t exist, can they? No, not until Monkey sets up his own Jungle Bungalow of Higher Education, redefining what “higher” means along the way.
- We mistake the chef’s accurate understanding of risk for courage. Doesn’t this make you feel better about the risk’s involved in Tesla and Solar City? That while there’s no such thing as no-risk, at the heart of both operations is a man who understands how to think about risk without being foolhardy? Remember when both Tesla and SpaceX almost when kablooey? They didn’t and what are the odds Musk will mess up now that the path is much more stable?
Three things chefs know that cooks don’t
- You don’t know poop. This first epiphany is about humility. Humility is by definition a starting point—and it sends you off on a journey from there. The arrogance of certainty is both a starting point and an ending point—no journeys needed. That’s why it’s so important that we begin with “I don’t know poop.” That’s when we know we’re in the lab.
Here’s Isaac Newton: To myself I am only a child playing on the beach, while vast oceans of truth lie undiscovered before me.
And Richard Feynman: I was born not knowing and have had only a little time to change that here and there.
And Niels Bohr: Every sentence I utter must be understood not as an affirmation, but as a question.
Musk has said his own version: You should take the approach that you’re wrong. Your goal is to be less wrong.
If we want to become more chef-like, we have to make sure we’re doing our thinking in a lab. Which means identifying which parts of our thinking are currently sitting in church.
If we want to understand our own thinking, we have to stop being the dumb user of our own software and start being the pro—the auto mechanic, the electrician, the computer geek.
No one else knows poop either. (anti-dogma of tribe) This second epiphany is about confidence—the confidence to emerge from that humility through a pathway built on first principles instead of by analogy.
When you grow up, you tend to get told the world is the way it is and your life is just to live your life inside the world. Try not to bash into the walls too much. Try to have a nice family life, have fun, save a little money. That’s a very limited life. Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact. And that is: Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you. And you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use. Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.
This is Jobs’ way of saying, “You might not know poop. But no one knows poop. If the emperor looks naked to you and everyone else is saying he has clothes, trust your eyes since other people don’t know anything you don’t.”
It’s an easy message to understand, a harder one to believe, and an even harder one to act on.
3) Overcome fear.
So that was a long quote from the end of Part IV of the Elon Musk series written by Tim Urban on waitbutwhy.com
Monkey’s own conclusion
This is somewhat contradictory given the above about doing your own due diligence based on first principles and physics and all that, but Monkey don’t know him no physics. And yet his banana trees have never felt more firmly planted in the soil tilled by Elon Musk’s companies. As long as it is Elon’s big brain and its continuously upgradeable software that runs the shows, Monkey will keep sleeping deeply and peacefully in his hammock in the jungle, no matter what the share prices of TSLA and SCTY do on a daily basis. Ten years from now, odds are extraordinarily high that the shares will be worth way way more than they are now, and planet earth will be less likely to explode.
Lastly, Monkey wouldn’t be posting this on this board if there weren’t a lot of talented Muskian-thinkers here to begin with. Thanks Saul for leading the way and getting this bunch of ruffians together. And thank you to everyone on this board for consistently putting this kind of analytical thinking to practice.
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