Elon Musk said he would caution his 20-year-old self against doing ‘dumb things’ if he had a time machine

  • During a Q&A at a satellite industry conference on Monday, Elon Musk was asked what he would tell his 20-year-old self if he could go back in time.
  • “Here’s a list of all the dumb things you’re about to do, please do not do them,” Musk responded, although he was non-specific about what “dumb things” he would caution against.
  • Musk also referred back to his “management by rhyming” mantra: “If the schedule’s long, the design is wrong.”
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Tesla billionaire Elon Musk was asked what he would tell his 20-year-old self if he could go back in time while appearing at the Satellite 2020 conference in Washington, DC on Monday.

“I think I would make far fewer mistakes obviously — ‘Here’s a list of all the dumb things you’re about to do, please do not do them.’ It would be a very long list,” replied Musk.

He wasn’t specific about what “dumb things” he would counsel against, although just in the last few years Musk has had to grapple with multi-million dollar SEC fines, Tesla’s year of what he dubbed “production hell,” and a high-profile defamation case brought against him by a rescue cave diver after Musk called him “pedo guy” on Twitter — although Musk was found not guilty in that instance.

“Hindsight’s 20/20 so it’s hard to say. I’ve made so many foolish mistakes I’ve lost count, honestly,” he added.

Musk then referred to what he calls his “management by rhyming” mantra: “If the schedule’s long, the design is wrong. If we’ve overcomplicated the design many times, I think we should have just gone with a simpler design, with the acid test being: how long will it take for this to fly, and if it’s going take a long time don’t do it, do something else,” he said.

“Simplify your product as much as possible,” he later added.

Musk first mentioned his “management by rhyming” philosophy last year, which runs: “If the schedule is long, it’s wrong; if it’s tight, it’s right.”

Musk spoke for just under 45 minutes at the conference and touched on a wide range of topics, including his belief that unless human innovation accelerates significantly he doesn’t think he’ll achieve his dream of dying on Mars, his dislike of Apple’s newest iPhone updates, and his belief that college degrees are not evidence of “exceptional ability.”

You can watch Musk’s full discussion here:

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