Seven Important Lessons on Life and Success from Elon Musk

By Bodie Czeladka in Dilate Digital on Aug 12, 2016

If you’re looking for your real world superhero -someone to look up to, minus the cape and stockings- look no further, because we can tell you now that nobody in the 21st century can even come close to Elon Musk- progressive thinker and debatably the most astounding and influential man of today. Haven’t heard of him? Well, okay, maybe you’ve been living under a rock. In that case, let’s get familiar with his list of amazing achievements and jaw-dropping technological feats.

Early Life:

Born in 1971 in South Africa, Elon struggled to fit in at school, and had a difficult home life. Quickly, however, he proved himself to be an avid self-learner from an early age, with his brother saying he often would read for ten hours a day. After years of consuming encyclopaedias and tearing through science fiction, in 1980 he was introduced to his first computer. The Commodore VIC-20 came with just five kilobytes of memory, and a programming guide designed to take the user about six months to complete. Elon finished it in three days.

At seventeen, he moved to Canada, then eventuated down to America, where he saw the Silicon Valley as his portal to achieving his goals of positively affecting the future of humanity. His avenues to achieve this are simply described as “the internet; sustainable energy; space exploration, in particular the permanent extension of life beyond Earth; artificial intelligence; and reprogramming the human genetic code.”

Achievements To Date:

  • Co-Founder of PayPal (Secure online money transfer system)
  • Co-Founder and Chairman of SolarCity (Solar energy services provider)
  • CEO and CTO of SpaceX (Aerospace manufacturer and space transport services)
  • CEO and Product Architect of Tesla Motors (Electric automotive and energy storage company)
  • Co-Chairman of OpenAI (Non-profit artificial intelligence research agency)

Estimated Net Worth: $12.7 Billion

When we heard his story, his motives, and his achievements, we were in awe. And we had to learn more. What can we take away from Elon Musk, and his dazzling list of accomplishments?

1. Take Your Time Assembling Your A-Team

Elon had an exciting concept for a new frontier in transport, which he dubs the Hyperloop. Travelling at 700mph, the Hyperloop needs a team of engineers to put in the time and effort to get it off the ground- time that Elon can’t personally afford. Some of us may want our endeavours to succeed so immediately, that we overlook the importance of a great team foundation and drive from our employees. Elons solution was to take his concept, and publicly open-source it to others who can develop his ideas further. This proves his focus is squarely on the finished product; and this commitment to ensuring his team are the best in the business is what helps him to continue pushing boundaries. Don’t rush decisions when you’re committing to others- if you can find an A-team that will share your drive and passion, whether it’s your employees or your social life, you’ll be able to take your goals to new heights.

2. Failure Is A Building Block, Not An Obstacle

Failure? Disappointment? Nope, Elon never experienced it. Well, except for the time he was replaced as PayPal CEO by his mutineers, while he was on holiday with his wife. Oh, and the years of hardship before anyone would take electric cars seriously. Not to mention a gut-wrenching divorce. In fact, it has only culminated very recently that Elon Musk was able to garner any faith from anyone except Elon Musk. He suffered defeats, disappointments, deficits, and divorces, but he remained true to his goals- and things began to turn around. After a series of failures and difficulties, and facing a rocky road, September of 2008 finally saw the first successful launch and orbit of a SpaceX rocket. NASA noticed, and offered SpaceX a $1.6 billion dollar contract for 12 launches. The very next day, Musk was able to pull together his finances which he staked for Tesla Motors, and convince his investors to match the sum. Tesla is now predicted to be a leader in automotive transportation. If Elon had quit at any of his multiple setbacks, our path of humanity would be at a very different trajectory (and so would his bank balance). Instead, hope for the best and prepare for the worst, while remaining focussed on your target.

3. Let Criticism Fuel You

Not many people are just born lapping up criticisms. The same way not many people are born loving brussel sprouts, or school, or exercise. Some people are, and that’s great, but if you’re still avoiding criticism (and your vegetables), then you need to gain a new understanding of it, and train yourself into loving the benefits that come with it. Elon welcomes and encourages criticisms- it’s how he develops and improves his ideas.

  “When I spoke with someone about the Tesla Model S, I didn’t really want to know what’s right about the car. I want to know what’s wrong about the car.” Elon Musk

Instead of allowing criticism to wound you, or knock your esteem, filter through for the really useful information and apply it to your concept. Not only is this great for character, but you’ll be able to make a huge variety of changes which you may not have thought of, and ultimately, create a greater chance of succeeding.

4. If You Want It, Work For It

Very rarely will anything simply fall into place. Elon struggled to edge his way into the industry, with his first attempt at submitting a resume to Netscape being ignored. He then chose to enter their lobby, find a seat, and awkwardly spend time trying to build the courage to actually speak to someone (which he was unable to do, so left again). After this, he found a comrade in his brother, and they created Zip2, which has been likened to Yelp and Google Maps. This was a response to the realisation that the age of online directories was fast approaching, and the brothers slept at their office, showered at the YMCA, and worked around the clock with next to no money. Finally, after years of hard work and sometimes budgeting only $30 a month for groceries, Compaq bought Zip2 for $307 million, $22 million of which went straight into Elon’s pocket. He was 27 at the time. If you want to succeed, in anything you do, you need to want it. And not in the oh-that-would-be-nice way, like how you might want a cup of tea, you need to want to sacrifice any unnecessary creature comforts that will be holding you back, and to push yourself beyond your limits.

5. Acknowledge Your Inevitable Limits

Elon Musk would not have been able to tick off quite so many achievements in so many industries, had he not known his own shortcomings and found the grace to delegate effectively. While there is going to be a time where you have to be the furnace which keeps the dream blazing, there will also be a time when your ideas or approach simply is not the best, and you’ll need to find someone who can take your ideas to the next level. You need to identify your potential weaknesses which are unavoidable; it might be time constraints, geographic location, or capabilities, and it might mean you can’t do everything with your own two hands. This is when it becomes truly valuable to have a team behind you which can empower your progress if your efforts aren’t effective- in short, don’t jump in the lake if you can’t swim, but if you have to jump, then wear a life vest.

6. Listen To Your Intuition

Your instincts can tell you a lot, if you know how to listen. Elon enrolled in a Stanford PhD program, to study a high energy density capacitors- technology aimed at improving the technology of energy storage. ‘Perfect!’, everyone assumed. Clever Elon has enrolled in a clever program, and will become more clever. Two days in, he was watching the internet progress with his mouth watering, and decided to drop out and move into the internet industry. Can you imagine how aghast some people would have been at this news? After all, the security and prestige of Stanford was a fantastic option, and he was bound to succeed.

But Elon had gotten this far by listening to his gut, and this was the path it was calling him down. And who knows where he would be today if he had stuck out the degree- maybe more accredited, yes. But his chance at advancing technology may have been jumped on by another competing entrepreneur and inventor, leaving him in their wake as he completed his program. In the face of adversity, staying true to his instincts led Elon towards forging his gargantuan career, and can likewise lead you to extremely satisfying results.

7. Keep Some Cards Close To Your Chest

2009 saw a multinational electronics company named Panasonic making the move to buy Sanyo, another electronics company which was holding a few important ace’s of energy storage and solar panel capabilities. Business is business, so far, and it went largely unnoticed. Well, except for Elon. While the major players in gadgets such as Apple, Sony, and Samsung continued their efforts to claw on top of one another, Elon watched as Panasonic absorbed a ‘green’ approach to energy. As Tesla continued to climb in popularity, there were murmurings of Samsung providing batteries for his new inventions, and everyone was probably pretty happy with their places on the ladder. Until Elon decided to clear up a few things. Actually, while he thought Samsung had some great purposes, he was now working exclusively with Panasonic for Model 3 cells. In one day, the industry saw a huge upset, as Panasonic stock instantly soared, and Samsung suffered a loss of hundreds of millions of dollars. Now, Elon and Panasonic laughing all the way to the Gigafactory, a lithium-ion factory which is under construction, and purported to be the second largest building measured by usable space, after the Boeing Everett Factory. By watching the other players, and waiting for the opportune moment, Elon was able to create a brand new opportunity for himself and Panasonic, without giving any competitors an advantage. If his intentions had been made public earlier and Panasonic had risen in popularity before the deal was sealed, he may have had to compete with other businesses eager to acquire Panasonic’s services first, to try head him off at his own game.

The director of the Iron Man movies, based around fictional billionaire Tony Stark, has openly credited their modern-day inspiration behind the character as coming from Elon Musk. He actually hung out with director Jon Favreau and Robert Downey Jr in order to prepare them for the role, and even got a cameo as an aspiring jet plane designer. Looking back on his path, it can seem that it was all ‘meant to be’, but Elon was forced to confront many fractures in the road, which he turned into bridges- each one bigger and better than the last. Create your own success story, and put everything you’ve got into your business- including a strong online presence. The digital age is upon us, as Elon predicted, and if your business digital marketing strategies are falling behind, call Dilate Digital to bring them back up to speed.

We’re a Perth based agency, specialising in SEO services, Adwords, content and copywriting, videography, graphic design, and all other aspects of your online business.

Bodie Czeladka

Hi I am Bodie Czeladka, surfer and devoted dad from Perth Western Australia and founder of Dilate Digital. I crafted Dilate Digital from a home theatre room in 2012 and worked solo as a freelancer until hiring my first staff member in early 2014. Dilate Digital now has the privilege of employing over 50 superstars world wide and this is just the start. I believe the best of me is still hiding up my sleeve.

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