Always Be Learning and Growing - Elon Musk Does

in LeoFinance7 months ago


A couple of weeks ago I put a post up about taking notes when reading books. Note-taking is something I’ve been doing for years but have been exploring find and using effective methods to not only take notes but to also make connections and find the information later.

The process of exploring and thinking about the concepts captured in note-taking helps to strengthen learning and retention of information we read about. It’s something I’ve been working on doing more of.

Speciality or Multipassioned Learning?

Conventional wisdom has held that we should develop an interest in one area and learn it fully. The argument is we put our full attention on to mastering one field and that will contribute to getting the good jobs and overall success in life.

To divert our attention to other fields is a distraction and weakens the level of expertise.

Yet many people find themselves unfulfilled trying to lock themselves into one area of expertise as their life work. Their desire to broaden their knowledge and the application may not be as contrary as some think.

What Makes Elon Musk What He Is?

We’ve been hearing a lot about Musk these days as he negotiates to acquire control of the social media platform, Twitter. He’s the richest man in the world having built four multibillion dollar companies across different technologies before reaching his mid-40s.

Is he really a once in a lifetime genius? Or does he cut across the convential wisdom to embrace learning methods we’re not taught in schools?

The answer may be yes to both questions. He’s a bit of an extreme example of what could be. Or is he? If our educational system shifted to embrace the same learning methods would we start to see more versions of Musk?

What Does Musk Do Differently Than Most People?

One common thread among highly successful people is they are consistent readers. Musk has read an average of two books per day since he was a teenager. His reading is across multiple disciplines.

His current areas of expertise include:

  • rocket science
  • engineering
  • physics
  • artificial intelligence
  • solar power
  • energy

People like Musk are considered to be “expert-generalists” also referred to as polymaths. They include people who:

  • study widely in many fields
  • deeply understand the principles of the fields
  • sees the connections between fields
  • is able to apply the principle to core specialty

Musk has honed his ability to transfer learning across fields. He views knowledge much like a tree:

  • the fundamental principles are the trunk and large branches
  • details are the leaves and small branches
  • without the fundamentals there is nothing for the details

It’s knowledge broken into deep, abstract principle that creates his strength in transfer learning. He’s able to apply a technique known as “contrasting cases” using the knowledge he’s learned.

Contrasting cases looks at fields for what is the same and what is different between them. Breaking them down into their most basic levels is a powerful method of understanding underlying principles and transferring learning from one field to another.

Can We Use These Methods?

Amongst all this acquired knowledge there are two core questions to use when exploring the knowledge and connections:

  • What does this remind me of?
  • Why does it remind me of it?

Two simple but powerful questions. Using them regularly can help build your own ability to make connections across traditional boundaries. To help you see links and connections you’d never considered before. To gain ideas of new areas and ideas to explore.

That’s one of the reasons note-taking can be such a powerful way to learn. It gives us a base to explore and find connections between materials we’d never have made. It gives us the ability to go back and review what we’ve learned as we add more ideas and information to it.

So yes, we can use the methods Musk uses. It’s unlikely we’ll become a Musk but, we can always be learning.

The wisdom of specialization needs to be questioned and indeed challenged.

NOTE: Header image from


Shadowspub is a writer from Ontario, Canada. She writes on a variety of subjects as she pursues her passion for learning. She also writes on other platforms and enjoys creating books you use like journals, notebooks, coloring books etc.

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Best essay I've read on Polymathy this year,Shadows!!

I am pondering those two highly useful questions, "what does this remind you of?" and, "why does this remind me of it?" Who is known for posing those? It's not Richard Feymann, is it?

I'm still a noob. I accidentally 🤍 my own comment. Embarrassing.

Musk is one known for posing them ... as are others.

During my time in education, I had the privilege of working as a consultant for the local education board within the district I had taught in. My job allowed me time to re-read and reflect upon educational theories that I had first covered as a student-teacher years before. The benefit of this was that I got to look at my own practice as a teacher, and actually see how the theories played out.

One of the areas that fascinated me was the development of teaching metacognition within the classroom. It was powerful stuff. It crossed all subjects and allowed students to understand themselves as learners.

Much of what you have written in this article reminds me of this. Asking pertinent questions regarding your learning is key. Questions like:

What do I already know about this topic? Before beginning new research.
What did I find most confusing about what I studied? Both during, and at the end of exploration on a new topic.
How did my understanding/thinking change (or not change)? Following a course of study.

There are many more questions but they all tie into becoming a reflective learner, who is able to evaluate the process of learning, which in turn enables said learner to go much deeper into the acquisition of knowledge.

Like you, I'm an advocate of deep (and wide) learning. 😊

It was really rare to hear any of my teachers actively integrate learning in one subject with another. It was like they were all silos. It took a long time for me to start making the integrations on my own. Probably one of the reasons I was a bored student most of the time but would happily dive into books to learn other stuff. Made my own connections.

It's a shame that it has not moved on more. I think mixing elements of different subjects and working on cross-curricular projects allows for both more enjoyable learning and better interaction between students.

I agree.. understanding how things interact and overlap can help people understand the bigger picture of what is going on in the world. Their not understanding makes them vulnerable to charlatans and manipulation.

Absolutely. It would probably do away with kid mantra, "How is this useful in real life?" too. Or at least, it would lessen it. Imagine a project where you have to create something for a Spanish Tech boss. The overlap of subjects and creativity would be so much closer to the way the world works and open up opportunities for teamwork, leadership and so so much more.

Thanks for the ongoing conversation, Shadows. It's been a while since I explored the possibilities in education. ☺️

I would hope by now schools are moving into a more real world application style of teaching kids. It has been a few decades since I graced the doors of a school.

Unfortunately, schools have not moved very far yet.

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I couldnt agree more. Whilst it is good to be specialised in some cases, you cant beat being a good "All Rounder". And the reasons for me are the compounded gains add up over time.

Being able to do a multitude of jobs increases your interest through variety but also can save you money/earn you more.

I've always had a range of interest and desire to learn. I've also often came butt up against the .. pick something and stick to it admonition. No more.. I've given myself permission to explore, learn and use the knowledge.

That's awesome!