Elon Musk: How To Grow to be an Skilled In Any Area
Elon Musk is one of the smartest, richest, and most powerful people in the world, and he’s not afraid to take on new projects.
The mastermind behind SpaceX, Tesla, and The Boring Company is a notoriously hard worker who devotes a grueling 85-hour workweek to his passion projects and businesses.
Musk has a restless pursuit of knowledge and a talent for applying his learning in a number of disciplines. He is the epitome of the modern polymath.
This infographic from Resume.io gathered insights from Musk and other pioneers and entrepreneurs to inspire you to pursue your own ambitions. Musk offers its key to learning and storing new information.
“It is important to think of knowledge as a semantic tree of sorts – make sure you understand the basic principles i.e. the trunk and large branches before delving into the leaves / details, otherwise there is nothing to do with can hold on. “”
An experienced generalist
Musk’s statement contradicts a lot of traditional advice: To be successful, one must specialize in and master a single subject. “The all-rounder is not a master,” is the old saying. Yet Musk has proven multiple times that generalization is not only possible, but also profitable.
An “expert generalist” is, by definition, someone with the ability to master expertise in a variety of disciplines, industries, skills and topics. Polymaths like Leonardo Da Vinci, Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla have used this broad knowledge innovatively throughout history.
As a modern polymath, Elon Musk shows that studying in many different areas of knowledge can give you an information advantage that promotes innovation. Musk is able to integrate unique combinations of skills and knowledge and to transfer his learning across disciplines.
You may not have the time or energy to devote 85 hours per week to honing skills and knowledge, but it is still worth investing a little effort to branch out. The beauty of being a seasoned generalist is that it is most likely easier to accomplish and more rewarding than becoming a leading expert in just one area.
Musk’s “semantic tree” concept
The concept of the “semantic tree” is about breaking knowledge down into basic principles so that you can build your learning on a solid foundation. Musk has read a lot since he was a teenager to quench his thirst for knowledge, and establishing a varied and methodical reading habit is a useful learning technique for any budding generalist.
Here is a simple 4 step process to approach a new topic:
- Identify your topic. Here you can find introductory lessons or basic texts like textbooks for students or serious magazine articles so that you can get a reliable overview of the basics.
- Take notes. Summarize key facts and ideas in your own words to make sure you understand what you read. Reread your notes until they make sense.
- Expand your scope. Once you’ve got the basics from a text, find additional resources by checking your original source’s references and citations.
- Test yourself. If the information you’ve learned is practical, try it in real life. If it is theoretical, try explaining it in simple terms to a friend or colleague to test your understanding.
Expanding your understanding of different areas can be rewarding both personally and professionally. You may find that you actually enjoy being a jack of all trades.
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.