10 Lessons From The Life of Elon Musk to Take Challenges Head On

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Elon Musk

Elon Musk has been described as the most imaginative business magnate of the 21st Century. His dynamism and versatility gifted mankind a lot of things starting from PayPal to Tesla Motor’s all-electric luxury vehicles. Musk is the man behind the most ambitious SpaceX project to explore the space with private investments. He is also engaged with a revolutionary transportation concept named ‘Hyperloop’ which would redefine the transportation system of the future. The life of such a talented personality gives us an opportunity to learn a few lessons that we can apply in our life too.

1. Relationships- personal and professional reap you the best fruit

Elon Musk who was born and brought up in South Africa in the 1970s was very dynamic and full of entrepreneurial skills from his childhood. After leaving high school he felt that his skills were not going to get exposure in South Africa and decided to move out of there.

As his mother was Canadian domiciled, he got a chance to settle in Canada. He immigrated to Canada and got citizenship rights without many hurdles. He enrolled at Queen’s University in 1989 and two years later he entered the University of Pennsylvania where he met Adeo Ressi (who went on to become the founder and CEO of TheFunded and The Founder Institute). They both purchased a 10 bedroom fraternity house and rented it as a nightclub. This was the beginning of his entrepreneurial journey.

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2. You should know what is important to you

Elon Musk went to Stanford University to do his doctorate but left midway within a few days. He was then, just a 24-year-old guy fascinated by the world of Silicon Valley, its innovation and success stories. He was wondering about the future of humanity- how’s that going to be changed. The five things that emerged in his mind was- the internet, space exploration, renewable energy, artificial intelligence and reprogramming of human genetic code. He found that these would determine the directions of human life and he forecasted the future in it as an entrepreneur.

3. Hard work has no substitute

Elon Musk started his first software company Zip2 along with his brother Kimbal Musk in the year 1995. The Company primarily provided and licensed online city guide software to newspapers. Musk worked round the clock, sleeping in his office and showering at the local YMCA. He says-“Work like hell. I mean you just have to put in 80 to 100 hour weeks every week. This improves the odds of success. If other people are putting in 40-hour workweeks and you’re putting in 100-hour workweeks, then even if you’re doing the same thing, you know that you will achieve in four months what it takes them a year to achieve.” You may have some great idea to work on, but you have to work hard, until and unless you meet with your fortune.

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4. Money alone cannot create credibility, you need the right amount of expertise for that

As we know about SpaceX today, it was not built in a day. In its budding days of SpaceX, Musk along with Jim Cantrell and Adeo Ressi, traveled to Russia to buy refurbished Dnepr-1 rockets and converted intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) that can be used to launch artificial satellites into space.

They met with some major Russian aerospace companies, including NPO Lavochkin and Kosmotras, but the Russians didn’t take them seriously: they had no experience in satellites or other areas of space technology, and look just to be wealthy time wasters. They returned home empty-handed. A year later, Musk went to Russia again, but this time with Mike Griffin, formerly of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. They were looking more convincing and professionally credible to the Russian and as a result, they offered Musk one rocket for $8 million.

5. The best product should match the best people

“I think it is a mistake to hire huge numbers of people to get a complicated job done. Numbers will never compensate for talent in getting the right answer (two people who don’t know something are no better than one), will tend to slow down progress, and will make the task incredibly expensive.”- Elon Musk. If you want to make the very best products you have to hire the very best people in their field.

6. You don’t need to be an inventor, but can be an improviser

Both PayPal and Tesla Motors are not the original ideas of Elon Musk. For Tesla, the whole concept credit goes to Nikola Tesla (1856-1943) who is best known for his contributions to the design of the modern alternating current electricity supply system. Tesla Motors was incorporated in July 2003 by Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning. Both men played active roles in the company’s early development prior to Elon Musk’s involvement. Elon Musk joined the Tesla Board in 2004 and contributed much to product development categories, the result of which is before us.

7. Be confident whatever you do

The journey of Tesla Motors was not a cakewalk at all. Though the Company won many awards for its design concepts, it was far behind from materializing its dreams. The Company was running out of money as new investors were not interested in the project and many more articles and blogs were published covering Tesla’s failure stories. In 2007, Musk was at stretch and was forced to cut his team 10%. Even some groups anticipated the end very near. But Elon Musk was determined and he was confident that his dream would materialize sooner or later. Tesla delivered its first 147 cars by January 2009, proving its credibility to the world. The Company saw profit for the first time since inception and its future looked promising.

8. Commercial secrecy is not always fruitful

Elon Musk is an international business magnate, but with unconventional thinking. He tries to address regular earthly problems with a non-conventional approach. Musk entered into a venture of high-speed public transportation named as ‘Hyperloop’. Hyperloop is a proposed mode of passenger and freight transportation that propels a pod-like vehicle through a near-vacuum tube at more than airline speed.

To see if he could make it happen, Musk put together a team of engineers from Tesla and SpaceX. They worked on the conceptual foundation and modeling of Hyperloop and produced a white paper, inviting comments from the wider tech-minded community. Unusually, the design was open-source: Musk wanted anyone to be able to understand it and to contribute ideas that might improve the design. He then announced his plan to build a prototype to test the concept in practice.

9. Be politically neutral

Elon Musk described himself as “half-Democrat and half-Republican… I am somewhere in the middle, socially liberal and fiscally conservative.” He never leaned towards a single political party, rather contributed to the election campaigns of both the mainstream political parties. Because political rivalry is much worse than business rivalry.

10. Never hide behind fear

Musk says “I wouldn’t say I have a lack of fear. In fact, I’d like my fear emotion to be less because it’s very distracting and fries my nervous system.”
Nobody is super-natural without fear and emotion, but that shouldn’t overpower our course of life. Instead, think about what you can do to overcome the threat and tackle it head-on.

The life of Elon Musk is very eventful. A glimpse of a few events gives us the inspiration to grow in our life and infuses confidence in our entrepreneurial skills to launch our own startups.

(image courtesy: flickr.com)

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Nikki Pham

Nikki Pham

The author is studying MA in Creative Enterprise in Cardiff. In her spare time, she loves writing, particularly in the space of business and enterprise.

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