Starting in September, I started assisting Tesla with investor communications and therefore have been not blogging as much. For one, my days are full. (I am also still doing executive coaching.) For two, it seems fitting to write less.

But I did want to share some thoughts as we head into 2017.

Working at Tesla, you hear the words “first principles” a lot, which has not yet become a widespread business buzzword, but absolutely colors how employees are encouraged to think. Studying Tesla over the years influenced me so much that I named my company, Solve for X Coaching, after this philosophy.

(Video of Elon Musk talking about the concept is here.)

It’s a concept based on physics, which means you take things down to the physics and mathematical levels and question all assumptions. Put another way, you ask “why” continuously until you get down to science (or in my view, in the case of life, guidance from religion or philosophy, and even then, you could probably still drill down deeper to the atomic level.)

It requires that you eliminate thinking by analogy or comparison with known processes. Analogies look at how something else works and then applies that knowledge to the current situation. But the problem with that is that you end up blind to things that could change. Analogies might help in understanding how something works right now, but they don’t help to build something new and better from scratch.

If you apply this way of thinking to the structure of your own life, sometimes dangerous and miraculous things will happen. Dangerous because it’s hard to maintain the status quo if you’ve questioned everything, miraculous because you discover how much of your own life design is within your own power.

It’s hard to do it on one’s own, though, with is why I like being a coach and working with people as they lean forward into their own life designs. We all have blind spots, myself as well. I can’t believe how many huge ones I’ve seen in my own life through executive coaching.

In my own life, when I boil things down to the science, so many of my recent decisions come down to biology and acceptance of that. I have monetary, career, family and motherhood aspirations that often seem to conflict with each other. As a female member of our species with a biologically and psychologically driven desire to reproduce, for instance, I must birth and nurse my offspring and I accept that is a limiting factor on my overall earnings potential. It also defines what I’m solving for now. What I’m solving for in the future will change.

I accept that my two biggest performance constraints in any corporate environment are 1) my biologically and psychologically driven desire to reproduce and care for offspring and 2) my underdeveloped spatial intelligence, in part caused by nearsightedness and astigmatisms, which make me bad at driving and navigating in any environment. Meh. Luckily, I offer enough strengths to compensate for those two.

I share this self-analysis because we can all do something similar in our own lives. It’s hard to be bitter when we own our choices and recognize what is outside of our control. (The rules of science are outside of our control.)

If you are facing conflicting desires or what seems like an unsolvable problem, take it down to first principles, down to the science. Break it all down, nay, wreck it, and build it back up, even if only in your own head. And see what solutions you come up with.

Happy new year. :)

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Can we treat life like an engineering problem?
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How a year on Wall Street changed his view
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Forgive yourself for not knowing what you didn’t know before you learned it