Either you’re trying to make something spectacular with no compromises or you’re not. And if you’re not, Musk considers you a failure.
Of all the entrepreneurs in the world, none have the same ambition that Elon has to make the future into the present. For that I have a ton of admiration. Science fiction has given us plenty of ideas about what the future might look like with advanced robotics, AI, and city scapes but few people take it upon themselves to make those movie props real.
Musk is taking it upon himself to lead the world into a future where humans live in space, colonize Mars, have self driving electric cars, solar power everywhere, underground highways, 500mph vacuum tube transport, and digitally connected brains. These are visions that millions of people around the world cheer on as we continue to be let down by the dreary future many of us perceive (where are our flying cars?).
The book about Elon Musk provides some insight into the character that it takes to build this kind of future – a level of determination that few in this world have. It’s inspiring in a way that I never expected. His leadership drives people to work all hours of the day, give up weekends to solve technical problems, while he himself is leading by example. There is a work ethic, doggedness and hustle in him that is exceedingly rare and it rubs off on those who work for him and those who are inspired by him.
As an idol Musk raises the bar of all us dreaming entrepreneurs. Can we take the Silicon Valley approach to business and disrupt the entrenched industries? Can we find ways to create better products at 1/10th the price. Where are the opportunities to challenge the accepted status quo and upend the antiquated regulations that stifle innovation. Can we justify the feasibility of our ideas by boiling down to the basic laws of physics? How can we as leaders continually identify the critical path and work to unblock it?
What I came away with most from the book is that, if you’re willing to work hard on things you can tackle hard problems. However success of this magnitude require stepping stones. SpaceX couldn’t have started without the success of PayPal which in turn wouldn’t have happened without Zip2. It’s worth noting that Zip2 was not a trivial undertaking at the time, it wasn’t a get rich quick scheme like affiliate marketing, blogging or YouTube stardom is today. Zip2 was a meaningful attempt to get more businesses on the internet, but it started small enough in scope that few employees were required to bootstrap the company. Musk did start with very little in those days – sleeping at the office, showers at the YMCA and a frugal food budgets.
The world needs more people like Elon Musk who are willing to take risks on bold ideas and provide the sheer will and determination to see them come to life. It will be a fantastic future.