Elon Musk’s 5 Steps to Build Better Products

Elon Musk discussing the 5 steps to write better requirements at Starbase in Texas in 2021.

During a June 2021 a tour of Starbase, by space journalist Everyday Astronaut, Elon Musk talked about previously private methods that his companies (Tesla, SpaceX, Neuralink and The Boring Company) use to make better products. Elon described the method he uses to effectively build software, cars, rockets, solar arrays, or anything. His steps are (1) make the requirement less dumb, (2) try to delete the requirement, (3) optimize, (4) accelerate, and (5) automate.

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What it takes to be James Bond 007

Sean Connery holding pistol as James Bond

James Bond is an MI6 British secret agent codenamed 007 portrayed in books and film. There wasn’t a reasonable skillset list for him online. So I assembled a list of James Bond skills. Turns out, 007 has many skills.

A list of skills and abilities held by James Bond 007:

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Dropping a falcon feather and hammer on the moon

On the moon in 1971, Commander David Scott dropped a hammer and a falcon feather to validate Galileo’s theory that without air resistance, objects fall at the same rate due to gravity regardless of mass. Given the negligible lunar atmosphere, there was no drag on the feather, both experienced the same acceleration, and both hit the ground at the same time. NASA did this because they wanted a memorable popular science experiment to do on the Moon, for kids. Very cool to watch.

The Feynman Technique

The Feynman Technique is the best way to learn anything quickly. Devised by a Nobel Prize-winning physicist, it uses the power of teaching for better learning.

There are four steps to the Feynman Learning Technique:

  1. Pretend to teach a concept you want to learn about to a student in the sixth grade.
  2. Identify gaps in your explanation. Go back to the source material to better understand it.
  3. Organize and simplify.
  4. Transmit (optional).

How we’ll get to Mars

We’re fortunate to live in a time when we have two new launch rockets intended to enable crewed launches to Mars.

The two rockets on the left have flown already. The Falcon Heavy flew in 2018 and is currently 32M miles from home traveling at 58K mph. The Saturn V launched the Apollo Missions between 1967-1973.

The two rockets on the right haven’t flown yet. Boeing’s Space Launch System is more expensive and also is not reusable, so it has larger expected price (green bar graph) and $ per kilogram (blue bar graph) characteristics.

Super Heavy Lift Launcher Capabilities Falcon Heavy vs Saturn V vs SLS vs Starship