Today, I spent about an hour reading Tim Urban’s take on why Elon Musk is able to do what he’s doing, in the article, The Cook and the Chef: Musk’s Secret Sauce, on Wait But Why.

I love the way Tim described a human’s software — our beliefs and thinking processes — and how Elon uses his software like a scientist. (I’m biased since I’m a fan of Elon and the things he’s creating.)

Most human’s software

Human Software Partial


The overlap between what we want and what is possible (in terms of the world’s condition and our abilities) is where our possible goals are. We pick one or several goals and think of a strategy to achieve those goals.

Elon’s software

Human Software

Here’s how Elon uses his software like a scientist:

  • (Orange) By taking actions, he gets results and feedback, which allow him to adjust his strategy accordingly.
  • (Blue) By reflecting, he changes what he wants.
  • (Yellow) By learning new things and keeping up with a changing world, he improves his understanding of what’s possible.
  • (Red) As his goals changes with these feedback loops, he makes big life changes such as dropping out of Stanford to start an internet company.

Looking at the diagram above and reflecting on my life, I see several areas for improvement:

  1. Have a better understanding of my Want
  2. Learn faster to expand my Reality
  3. Get better at choosing my goals
  4. Act and reflect often to gain experience faster

Remember to remember

To end the article, Tim gave a great advice:

If we want to improve ourselves and move our way closer to the chef side of the spectrum, we have to remember to remember. We have to remember that we have software, not just hardware. We have to remember that reasoning is a skill and like any skill, you get better at it if you work on it. And we have to remember the cook/chef distinction, so we can notice when we’re being like one or the other.

(The cook/chef distinction is an analogy Tim used to explain the difference between how Elon thinks and how most people think. In his analogy, a chef is someone who invents recipes while a cook is someone who follows recipes.)

Remembering to remember is something I’m still working on. It’s great learning about such a framework but it only becomes useful when I remember to think and act according to the framework. I’m hoping that writing this post will help me remember this human software framework better and help me remember to be more mindful about the way I think and act.

What do you think about this human software framework? How do you make decisions in your life?

Image credit: Unsplash and Wait But Why

  • Anja Skrba

    And I’m hoping now after I finished reading, that this post will help me remember to be more mindful about the way I think and act…