Updated: Sep 18, 2020
First-principles thinking is one of the best approaches to get breakthrough ideas and to clarify difficult decisions in your life by a strip down your goals and problems into its basic fundamentals and reasoning from the origin.
Why do you need to think in First-principles approach?
Normally Every people reason from analogy. Commonly Everyone will observe what most of the people do and they try to repeat in the same or iterated way. This ultimately creates the situation of less innovation and solutions for problems faced by humans.
The greatest advantage of using the first-principles approach is we can take a great leap in process/function but using an analogy we only achieve minimal growth.
These days most of them failed to take forward the function and obsessed with form, (Eg: If someone having anger or sorrow, instead of working on a solution of the problem they post their anger & Sorrow on the Internet as Video or blog and converting into virtual form.)
So first principles reasoning is the best approach to have more innovations, solutions and it gives clear guidance to take forward function to next step rather than converting it into some form or iterating it.
If you think first principles thinking is the genius thing which can understand by only highly intellectual people, then you are absolutely wrong. It is not advanced math or ancient myth. It is just a natural way of thinking originally from basic.
First of all, “What is First Principles?”In simple terms, the first principle is the basic fundamental self-evident assumption that cannot be deduced from any other assumption.
For Example informal Logic “All Americans and Indians are human; Santhosh is Indian; So Santhosh is human” the last claim can be deduced from the first two basic fundamentals.
So thinking on the basis of breaking the reality into its fundamental truth/assumption and reasoning from that truth is known as First Principles thinking.
The picture below here shows the difference between normal and first principles thinking of small boys on eating pizza just on the visual level.
Levels/layers of Thinking
Just mentioned before first principle thinking is breaking thing into its fundamentals truth and analyzing it but there is a vital thing to consider on what grounds or level or layer you breaking the fundamental truth.
To explain it I again take the example of pizza again, Just consider boy eating pizza thinks he is not eating pizza,
1STLayer; He is eating a mixture of heated bread, vegetables, tomato sauce, and cheese,
2ndLayer; Later he thinks he is eating a heated mixture of tomatoes, onion, capsicum, a dairy product from milk, yeasted flour made up of water and salt.
3rdLayer; Later he thinks he is eating, a heated mixture of proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, and water.
4thLayer; Later he thinks he is eating, the heated mixture of carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, sodium, fat, and hydrogen.
5thLayer; Later he thinks he is eating, a mixture of heated atoms consists of electron, proton, and nucleus.
6thLayer; Later he thinks he is eating, the mixture of quarks, leptons, and boson particles.
Like this, you can break the thing into its fundamental truth in a deeper level. But for reasoning using the first principle, you do not need to think in atomic levels, you just need to think in the level where basic fundamental truth/thing naturally exists or visually seen or felt.
Again Explaining this with pizza example you need not think in the 6th layer, it is good to think in 2nd layer where raw materials for making pizza naturally exist and visually seen such as tomato, onion, capsicum, etc.
I am not saying you should not think in deeper layers, Because to think in deeper layers you need expertise, need the assistance of technology, and those who do this called scientists. And also thinking in deeper layers in the atomic level will not be helpful for the common man in today’s world, it may help to common man in the future depend upon what technology they possess.
Where you can apply?
You apply this thinking in Topics which is relevant to you like
Choosing your career, Questioning yourself like Why you want this job? Why you should not be job giver instead of a job seeker?
You can simplify the subjects you study by this approach and you can have a holistic functional view rather than studying based only on terminologies.
Maintaining Emotional Intelligence by understanding Why get angry? What triggers your emotion?
Also, you can apply for setting up the motive of STARTUPS and Organization and administrating it like Elon musk and jeff Bezos mention about first principles.