How Elon Musk Learns Faster Than Everyone Else

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Elon Musk" by Ashlee Vance. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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Do you want to know how Elon Musk learns about so many industries in such a short amount of time? Does it come down to personality or can you use these learning tactics too?

Both his desire to learn and his learning approach contribute to how Elon Musk learns so quickly. In finding out what techniques he uses, you too can become a more efficient learner.

Keep reading to explore how Elon Musk learns faster than everyone else.

How Elon Musk Learns: It Starts With Desire

According to Vance, Musk embraces being a lifelong learner. He is curious about the way things work, which makes him willing to learn new, complex subjects. His willingness to learn new subjects enables him to enter a complex industry or topic without any background knowledge.

You wonder how Elon Musk learns about so many industries. Musk exhibited a desire to learn with all of his businesses. He learned about finance with, rocket engineering with SpaceX, and electric cars with Tesla. Consequently, Musk has a deep understanding of these industries, of how his products work, and of almost every aspect of his companies. 

Musk has found a way to learn subjects quickly, without taking courses or hiring tutors. He believes asking the right questions to the right people is more important than having the right answer. By asking people the right questions, Musk gets to the heart of issues and topics, allowing him to learn what the other person knows. 

Musk’s employees explained that Musk would ask them questions and have them explain how something worked. At first, this made the employees nervous that Musk was testing them. But after time, they realized that he was trying to absorb the knowledge they had so he could understand what they were working on. This approach allows him to fill in the gaps of his knowledge and learn from people who know more about a subject than he does. By doing this, Musk gained a holistic understanding of his companies and products. 

Musk: An Ultralearner

Like Musk’s style of self-directed learning, Scott Young presents his idea of ultralearning to master any skill, advance your career, or stay relevant in your field. In Ultralearning, he defines ultralearning as a strategic approach to learning that is intensive and self-directed, meaning you should take a disciplined approach to learning as deeply as possible at an accelerated pace. Ultralearning should also be tailored to you and your own learning style. 

There are many variations of ultralearning, but ultralearners share several characteristics: 

1. They work independently (but not necessarily alone). Musk often works with and manages his teams, but he always works as a capable unit within that team.
2. They’re obsessive about improving their learning process. Musk found new ways to expand his knowledge, including asking his employees to explain things to him. 
3. They’re motivated primarily by a love of learning, not by the prestige of credentialed achievements.
4. They constantly push the limits of their intellectual comfort zones. Musk took on increasingly more difficult topics, from banking regulations to rocket science.
How Elon Musk Learns Faster Than Everyone Else

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Ashlee Vance's "Elon Musk" at Shortform .

Here's what you'll find in our full Elon Musk summary :

  • A look into Elon Musk’s childhood and early companies
  • Musk's roles in SpaceX and Tesla, and later, in SolarCity
  • The traits and management methods that helped Musk succeed

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