There’s one name that seems to have captured the attention of the world in 2020 — Elon Musk. From his success with Tesla’s electric cars — or his quest to revolutionize Space technology with Space X— Elon Musk has become a household name.
Tesla’s unpredictable stock market variations and his grandiose ideas on space have made others question Elon’s sanity. His sanity notwithstanding, there’s no doubt Elon Musk is a success and one of the greatest pioneers of our time.
By January 7, 2020, Elon Musk trumped Jeff Bezos to become the richest person in the world — $187 billion rich to be exact. So what can we learn from the richest man in the world? Plenty.
When researching this piece I was amazed by the life Elon has lived. He has repeatedly defied the odds and taken risks many found laughable. He’s the CEO of 2 companies and has almost lost all his money multiple times. Yet, he continues to persevere. Most of all, he is a living example of fearlessness, grit, and passion — qualities we can all use in our life.
Throughout his life, Elon teaches us 5 important life lessons.
Lesson 1: Embrace the Loner in You
Growing up in South Africa Elon Musk had a lonely and tumultuous childhood. Musk was bullied repeatedly in school. His bullying was so severe, he was once hospitalized for being thrown down a flight of stairs and beaten. As an escape, Musk often spent hours alone pursuing his creativity.
When his parents were away, Elon eschewed parties or social gatherings. According to Musk, he spent much of his time “making explosives and reading books and building rockets.” As a young child, he spent hours alone studying computers and taught himself computer programming. At the age of 12, he sold his first video game called Blaster.
Elon’s penchant for time alone continues to this day. On his 47th birthday, he decided to spend the day in self-imposed isolation. He spent 24 hours that day in his Tesla offices overseeing the production of the Tesla Model 3 sedan.
“All night — no friends, nothing.” Elon Musk
Isolation and loneliness are not a recipe for a successful life. Yet, there’s something to admire about Elon’s ability to embrace his loneliness as an avenue of creative expression. Instead of succumbing to the pressures of having a “social” life, Elon embraced his time alone. In his time alone, he has been able to tap into his creative brilliance. Like him, we too can tap into our creativity a bit more and embrace alone time unapologetically.
Lesson Two: Think Big
“People should pursue what they’re passionate about. That will make them happier than pretty much anything else.” Elon Musk
Elon’s projects have been grandiose, to say the least. Tesla reignited the sustainable energy industry and his electric cars are the best-selling luxury vehicles in the United States. His SpaceX endeavors are even more ambitious. Elon is highly confident SpaceX will land humans on Mars by 2026. The one common denominator Elon’s projects have is that they are all a product of thinking big.
According to Elon, he did not have expectations for Tesla or SpaceX, but he “thought they were important enough to do anyway.” His big dreams are filled with passion and Elon is not afraid to let his creativity run wild.
National Geographic has called Elon “the man with impossible dreams.” Elon is the living testament that all dreams are possible when you think big and confidently pursue what you are passionate about.
Lesson Three: Embrace Negative Feedback
Elon has large dreams and embraces the loner in him, but he doesn’t fear negative feedback. Many times we are often afraid of negative feedback and self-sabotage by not seeking out impartial objective opinions on our ideas and projects. According to Elon,
“it’s very important to actively seek out and listen very carefully to negative feedback. This is something people tend to avoid because it’s painful but I think this is a very common mistake.”
So who should we seek out negative feedback from? Preferably from people who are doing what we want to do. We all have different definitions of success. Seek out opinions and criticism from those who have a similar vision as you and have achieved a certain level of success.
Should we let others dictate our dreams and projects? No. We should guard our dreams and passion projects and share them with those who can give you constructive criticism. Someone who can help you get to the next level.
Lesson Four: Don’t Let Money Dictate Your Goals
One common theme among most of Elon’s interviews is his insistence that money was never a driving force for his career. When he began one of his first ventures, Zip2, he did it because he loved computers and computer games. He was fascinated by computer technology and he never intended to make substantial financial gains. In a CBS interview, Elon Musk insists he is not a businessman but an engineer who loves technology.
After his success with Paypal, Elon was a millionaire who had enough money to retire. Elon had different plans. He thought:
“Well, what are some of the other problems that are likely to most affect the future of humanity?’ Not from the perspective, ‘What’s the best way to make money?’”
For many of us, making money is at the forefront of our decisions and goals. How many of us enter careers for the sake of a high paying salary? Practically speaking money is important for comfort and security. However, Elon teaches us that true success (both financially and personally) comes from having a purpose beyond money. When talking about his SpaceX mission to get to Mars and revolutionize space technology, Elon said:
“ I actually don’t care about money at all. I do care about spacefaring civilization.”
Lesson Five: Have a “Never Quit” Mindset
Elon’s career path is was built on his inability to quit. In his 60 minutes interview, he was asked if he ever thought of quitting after his third business failure in a row. His reply:
“Never. I don’t ever give up. I mean I would have to be dead or completely incapacitated.”
This quote gives us a window into Elon’s mindset. This relentless, stubborn, and inability to quit has helped him create impossible dreams. What would we achieve if we had the same mindset? If we had to be dead to quit on our dreams? I imagine many of us would achieve our wildest dreams if we dared to never give up.
Elon Musk is a revolutionary and an impressive individual. Not for being one of the richest men in the world or for his grandiose projects that come to life. He is an impressive person for never quitting on his dreams and for showing the world the character and mindset needed to achieve the impossible. He is a living testament that you can really do anything with a lot of work and a pure purpose.
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