Elon Musk, a name synonymous with groundbreaking innovation and often surrounded by controversy, has etched his place in history as one of the most influential industrialists of our time.
With a staggering net worth of $244.4 billion, he stands as the world’s richest person. It’s no wonder that when he speaks, the world listens, dissecting his words for nuggets of wisdom and insights into his colossal success.
Keith Donovan, a seasoned startup advisor and the founder of Startup Stumbles, reflects on Musk’s approach to value, tenacity, and continual self-improvement. “Elon Musk shares insights that ring true for many, weaving together ideas about value, tenacity, and constant self-growth,” he states. However, Donovan also cautions that while Musk’s advice might illuminate the path for many, it’s crucial to remember that each person’s journey is as distinct as their fingerprint.
While emulating Musk’s steps may not guarantee billionaire status, his principles could undoubtedly sculpt stronger leaders, more daring entrepreneurs, and adept wealth builders.
Be Useful to Your Fellow Human Beings
Musk’s personal and corporate ethos revolves around bettering the human race, evident in his endeavors in space exploration and emissions-free vehicles. In a 2021 episode of the Lex Fridman Podcast, Musk shared, “Do things that are useful to your fellow human beings, to the world. It’s hard to be useful. Very hard.” This philosophy not only propelled him to his current status but raises the question of its practicality.
Finn Wheatley, lead writer at The Small Business Blog and an executive coach, expands on this, “‘Be useful’ isn’t just about providing a service or product. It’s about filling a gap, a void in society that needs to be addressed.” During his tenure steering his consultancy, Wheatley focused on uncharted territories in data science for small businesses. He found that prioritizing impact over profits resonates deeply with Musk’s sentiment about striving for a positive impact, with financial success inevitably following.
Grow the Pie Instead of Taking Pieces From Other People
In the same interview with Fridman, Musk enlightened listeners about the mindset of scrambling for one’s piece of the pie. He expressed his concern about individuals adopting morally questionable approaches due to a zero-sum mindset. Musk advocates for a different approach, emphasizing the importance of adding to the economic pie and creating more than one consumes.
Wheatley believes that the concept of “growing the pie” is central to success in business. He advises against getting caught in the rat race of seizing opportunities from others. Drawing from his experience as an investment analyst, he learned that the market isn’t zero-sum. The focus, he suggests, should be on creating value, thereby enabling monetary and personal rewards.
Become a Voracious Reader
Musk, like other successful figures such as Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, considers reading a cornerstone of success. In his conversation with Fridman, Musk encouraged people to read extensively and develop a broad general knowledge. Donovan echoes this sentiment, comparing diving into a good book to kickstarting our mornings with coffee, as it stimulates creativity and informed decision-making.
While personal growth from reading is apparent, does it contribute to financial success? Wheatley attests to this, sharing that his exploration of behavioral economics through books profoundly impacted his approach to business and leadership.
Work Hard and Be Persistent
Musk is renowned for his intense work ethic, often clocking in 80-100 hours per week. He famously tweeted, “… nobody ever changed the world on 40 hours a week.” But his journey wasn’t just about hard work; it involved pushing through disappointments and failures. His initial ventures with SpaceX’s Falcon 1 were met with failures, yet he persisted, ultimately achieving a 99% success rate with Falcon 9.
Wheatley reflects on this, emphasizing the importance of resilience. The business landscape is replete with stories of failures, and it’s in these moments of despair that true learning and growth occur. Musk’s stance on embracing failure is not about glorifying mistakes but recognizing them as essential stepping stones to monumental success. His experience with Falcon 9 is a testament to this, showcasing the power of persistence.
In summary, Elon Musk’s principles offer a blueprint for aspiring leaders and entrepreneurs. His emphasis on utility, growth, learning, and perseverance provides a roadmap for personal and professional development. While the journey to success is unique for each individual, Musk’s insights offer valuable guidance for those looking to navigate the complex terrain of leadership and innovation.