Elon Musk's, Steve Jobs', Albert Einstein's Secret Sauce

A young man decided to travel the world in search of a place where he could find happiness and maybe the love of his life. One day he arrived in a small town and met an old man sitting by a fountain in the central square.

The young man approached the old man and asked, “Excuse me, I’m new to this town. Can you tell me what the women are like here?”

The old man looked at the traveler and replied, “How were the women in the place you came from?”

The young man frowned and said, “Oh, they were terrible! They were manipulative, selfish, and dishonest. I couldn’t trust any of them, and they always seemed to be causing problems in my life.”

The old man nodded slowly and said, “I see. You’ll find that the women here are very much the same.”

Disappointed, the young man thanked the wise man and continued on his journey.

A few days later, another young traveler arrived in the same town and approached the old man with the same question, “Excuse me, I’m new to this town. Can you tell me what the women are like here?”

Once again, the wise man asked, “How were the women in the place you came from?”

This traveler smiled and said, “They were amazing! They were kind, compassionate, and honest. I had wonderful relationships with many of them, and they brought so much joy and love into my life.”

The wise man smiled and replied, “I see. You’ll find that the women here are very much the same.”

I can’t remember where I first read this story but it contains a kernel of truth I keep coming back to.

It’s really hard to grasp and easy to forget how much influence you have over reality.

And even if you’ve internalized how this works in some aspect of your life, you are probably not realizing how much it’s affecting you in other areas.

When you are convinced that other people don’t like you, you will indeed find that other people don’t like you.

When you are convinced that other people are trying to sabotage you, you will indeed find that other people are trying to sabotage you.

“Even if a donkey goes to Mecca, he is still a donkey.”

The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

One reason why this happens is of course confirmation bias. You only see what you are looking for.

The second reason is that your attitude and behavior does have a real affect on your environment.

When you approach people with an attitude that subconsciously signals that you expect them not to like you, they will pick up on that and most people will behave exactly in the way you expect them to.

When you walk around truly convinced you’re the most attractive or interesting person in the room, people will perceive you as such and start treating you accordingly.

Only very recently I’ve started to understand how much this also affects my entrepreneurial journey.

I do believe that the world is an efficient place.

All of my personal experiences seem to confirm that this is true.

I might be able to make a lot of money one month, but then things take a downturn and on average my returns are pretty average.

But as, for example, Peter Thiel points out, to generate outsized returns you have to believe that violations of the efficient market hypothesis are indeed possible.

You must “believe that there are lucrative secrets hidden in plain sight” in order to find one.

If you are not truly convinced that you can leave a dent in the universe, the odds of you doing so are zero.

As before, this is true for two reasons.

First, if you don’t believe you can do it, you won’t even try. You won’t even dare to pick ambitious projects and stick to small, safe ones.

Second, even if you do pick an ambitious project, the world will pick up on the fact that you’re not truly convinced that you can do it.

Subconsciously, you keep signaling that you’re just dicking around.

You will not have the stamina to stick with it when things get tough. And ambitious projects always get tough.

The universe will conspire to work against you.

Self-doubt becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

“The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones that do.” - Steve Jobs

The Secret Sauce Question

One thing I keep coming back to is the secret sauce question.

What exactly is it that allows some people to have such an outsized impact?

What is their secret sauce?

I do believe this is the answer.

More than innate talents, first-principles thinking, having a theory of change, or systemic factors, it’s their deep belief that they can have a meaningful impact that makes all the difference.

I recently argued that productivity is largely downstream of your biological health and your sense of purpose.

In the same way, your belief, attitude, mindset, self-image, whatever you want to call it is largely upstream of you capacity to leave a dent in the universe.

It might not be sufficient but it’s definitely necessary.

So before you obsess over mental models or daily habits of successful people, you have to figure out this piece of the puzzle.


I have no fucking clue.

It seems more a right-brain than left-brain issue.

I doubt this is something you can logically talk yourself into.

It’s not rational to be delusional.

Maybe the daily affirmation weirdos were right all along.

Maybe… I really wish I knew the answer.

It of course would be cool to come up with a neat step-by-step protocol at this point.

But one thing I’m working on is being content arriving at a better question and resisting the urge to jump to quick answers.

My answer would sound logical but it most definitely would be completely wrong.

What I’m confident in, however, is that I now arrived at the next right question to explore.

Written on May 4, 2024

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