David Weisburd here.

No entrepreneur alive today is more revered than Elon Musk. In fact, many entrepreneurs and investors (including yours truly) look up to Elon Musk as the greatest entrepreneur of our generation.

Between his ability to revolutionize the internet (by co-founding Paypal), make electric vehicles popular (Tesla), install solar panels at scale (Solar City), and his next ambitious goal of developing a civilization on Mars (SpaceX), Elon and his team have managed to significantly alter the future prospects of humanity.

With Tesla’s rise on the NASDAQ this past week (up nearly 7% in the last 5 sessions), Elon has become the 7th richest person on the planet, surpassing the legendary Warren Buffett.

On the heels of this milestone, I wanted to share the top 3 things that I’ve learned from Elon Musk. I utilize them in business and investing on a daily basis. They’ve taken my process to the next level – and I know they’ll do the same for you.

Let’s get into it.

Lesson 3: Dream Big, Act Small

Elon Musk, together with co-founder Peter Thiel and a team of exceptional entrepreneurs, were more than a decade ahead of some of the largest trends in fintech (financial technology), including digital tokenization, virtual payments, and fintech-as-a-service.

Despite this, the team focused in the early 2000’s on one very basic problem: how internet users could email money back and forth.

This singular issue was significantly less technically challenging than many of the projects that PayPal was initially focused on, but Musk and his co-founders understood that in order to gain the resources needed to build some of their more ambitious projects, PayPal had to first solve a basic pain point that customers experienced on a daily basis.

Elon continued this trend of dreaming big and acting small with both Tesla and Space X. While Elon’s goal for SpaceX was to get to Mars, Elon had the humility to “start small” by partnering with NASA on over 20 missions to the International Space Station (ISS).

Elon applied the same strategy at Tesla, a company he hoped would replace the world’s gas powered with electric ones. Despite having an ambitious goal, Elon started with the comparatively simple goal of making electric vehicles stylish and desirable before moving onto the larger goal of developing electric cars for the mass market.

Lesson 2: Physics Laws are Static; Business Laws are Dynamic

If there’s one thing that Elon Musk doesn’t respect, it’s the “laws” of business. Every project that Elon has started has been a fundamental attack on business orthodoxy.

For example, everyone knew that the idea of starting an electric car company had been tried for over 100 years, but was always met with insurmountable hurdles and financials losses. Even more audacious was Elon’s goal of a private space company, which even befuddled his closest friends; in fact, they actively pleaded with him not to pursue SpaceX as they believed it would bankrupt him (which might have come true if it were not for the fourth successful launch of Falcon 1).

To the untrained eye, Elon seems like an iconoclast that breaks all the rules and marches forward without consideration to any laws, but this is a mischaracterization. In fact, Elon Musk pays more attention to laws than the average entrepreneur. The difference is that he focuses on physics laws, which are very static and inflexible, versus business laws which are fluid by nature.

In other words, Elon Musk studies very closely what he can or cannot achieve within the constraints of physics. Once he’s sure that something is physically possible, Elon focuses on how to achieve these goals – regardless of the current fashions of the business world.

Lesson 1: Start with First Principles

First principles:

A bottoms-up thinking process that starts with known facts and builds an intuition based on facts vs. mainstream opinion.
While Elon Musk didn’t invest the idea of first principles, Elon was the first to popularize it and to take its applications to an extreme level.

When Elon Musk hears someone say, “you can’t go to Mars,” rather than deciding whether he can or can’t, he asks, “Why not?”

In fact, this is how Elon Musk started SpaceX – by talking to hundreds of individuals in the space and aviation industries in order to understand all the basic constraints to private space travel.

Elon doesn’t see these objections as insurmountable hurdles, but rather as the roadmap he uses in order to achieve his end goals. By addressing these constraints systematically over the last two decades, Elon and his team have built SpaceX into a $40 billion company.

Bonus: One high-profile trader on Wall Street once told me about the difference between a good manager and Elon Musk. A good manager, he shared, shoots for 1X, and hits 1X consistently. Elon Musk, he said, shoots for 10X and always comes up short, but ends up at 7X or 8X what the “good manager” achieves. In other words, Elon Musk pushes his team towards impossible goals, and is rewarded with bigger returns.

Elon Musk has taken entrepreneurship into a whole new orbit (pun intended). That being said – Musk is still human and we can still learn from him and his strategies.

As investors, if we find even one PayPal, Tesla, or SpaceX in our careers, we would never have to worry about money again. That’s why we should always look for entrepreneurs like Elon, who have that perfect blend of knowing the laws while breaking them, having high ambitions but practicing humility, and seeking feedback while moving forward.