Ever heard of the saying, “Jack of all trades, master of none”?
Normally, you hear people tell you to find your niche and stick to it. To not have your sight set on too many goals or too many dreams all at once. While focusing on one or two aspects may make you an expert, that way of thinking is not cut out for Mr. Elon Musk. Aside from having one of the most brilliant minds in today’s day and age, Elon Musk has an exceptional work ethic. From his insane appetite for books to his 85-hour work week, Musk’s dedication to his work is truly remarkable.
However, how did he really get so smart, so fast? Aside from being born gifted, for someone who is only in his 40s, Musk has built 4-multibillion-dollar companies in 4 separate fields – transportation, software, energy and aerospace. With so much on his plate, it’s only natural that he would have to learn how to learn and digest an insane amount of information in the shortest amount of time. And he has. Hence, here is Elon Musk’s secrets to become smarter, faster in any subject or field.
1. Build a Tree of Knowledge
Musk believes that as humans, we tend to underestimate our own mind’s potential and capabilities. In a Reddit AMA, he began by describing the act of gaining knowledge as a tree:
“One bit of advice: it is important to view knowledge as sort of a semantic tree — 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.”
As Musk explains it, when it comes to learning, there’s a difference between materials that hangs from a branch and materials that makes up the base of the tree trunk. Musk is known for not being picky when it comes to learning. He can jump from Artificial Intelligence and biographies to space and economics while still managing to grasp each sector thoroughly.
Musk’s way of learning is that he will first and foremost ensure he has the best possible grasp on the trunk before moving on to the branches and leaves. If you want to learn anything faster, take the slower route and start with the materials that make up the trunk. By understanding the basics first, it will ensure that you won’t end up with a tree that has toothpick as a trunk and an overload of teeming branches, just waiting to snap off when we cram in one more thought or idea into our brains.
2. You Can’t Remember What You Can’t Connect
This is where Musk truly shines. His brilliance doesn’t only come from his ability to understand core central concepts but also his ability to build vast and towering trees of intellect that covers multiple fields.
As most of us are used to, we tend to load up on periphery facts without fully grasping or understanding why or how it relates back to the trunk. This outward-facing-in method will leave us feeling overwhelmed and our brain overcrowded with information that is unidentified or sometimes, unimportant. That is what we call cramming.
Musk is able to allow himself to learn about anything because he has mastered the Art of Learning Transfer. This is his way of making connections with knowledge from diverse and seemingly unrelated field and applying them from one area to another. For example, he blended economics and software together to create PayPal.
These methods of learning might be a tad bit slower but without a sturdy trunk, you won’t have the base to support any additional knowledge or information. Musk’s entire career is based on these 2 principles. He first learned the fundamentals of AI, physics, and engineering; which then he deconstructed these ideas and reconstructed them into his own to create PayPal, SpaceX, Tesla and more.
To compare our mind’s ability to a know genius such as Elon Musk may sound pointless, however, as the man himself would say it,
“I think most people can learn a lot more than they think they can. They sell themselves short without trying.”
So, give yourself the benefit of the doubt and give it a try. You may discover things about your mind that you never knew you were capable of.