It was nothing but sheer determination and luck that helped me get my hands on Elon Musk’s (oft-sold out) biography by Ashlee Vance recently. Having watched TV interviews and documentaries about Musk over the years, I have always been impressed by his “can do” attitude and work ethic.
However, TV interviews can only tell so much of a story so, given that Musk is a voracious reader, I couldn’t think of a better way to learn more about one of the world’s rock star entrepreneurs (who was born in Pretoria no less) than through an entertaining, authorised, written account of his life? Or is that an authorised, written account of his entertaining life?
And I don’t use the words “rock star entrepreneur” lightly either.
You know your entrepreneur celebrity status is stratospheric when you’re the inspiration for the movie Iron Man – to the extent that you make a cameo appearance in a scene in the movie alongside (wait for it…) the lead actor Robert Downey Jr. (who vis-à-vis Musk, we may legitimately call Iron-Man-Wannabe)
Tongue-in-cheek aside, I was gobsmacked when I learned about all the choices and sacrifices that Musk made to get to where he is today but I’ll leave it to you to read his inspiring biography if only to avoid a subjective review of the book.
The purpose of today’s piece is to help you knuckle down and adopt an indestructible, Iron Manesque work ethic by exploring one of the Foundation’s pillars, Personal Initiative through having an Actioning mindset and activating an attitude of Working Hard.
A person who demonstrates Personal Initiative makes things happen and celebrates the satisfaction of bringing new things into being. S/he is an independent, proactive self-starter and is able to make her/his own decisions.
Actioning is getting a process underway and keeping it going to achieve a desired outcome.
Working hard is about having the self-discipline and motivation to devote the time and energy that is required by a project, task or new venture.
Musk knows that it takes more than a good idea to achieve success: good ideas have to be supported by hard work if they ever hope to make the transition from concept to tangible. The tech-savvy entrepreneur knows this well and he said as much in an address to undergraduates at the University of Southern California. Musk’s successful ventures below show what’s possible when you’re the first at your office and the last to leave.
Musk co-founded his first company, Zip2, in 1995. It was an internet software company which was sold to Compaq in 1999 for over $300 million in an all cash transaction when he was just 28 years old.
2. Online payments
Musk helped to pioneer online financial transactions by co-founding PayPal with four other visionaries in 1998. The company was eventually sold to eBay in 2002 for $1.5bn. The sale of Musk’s 11.7% share of PayPal netted him $165m but even this was not enough to stop him from working. He had too many ideas which he wanted to pursue so in the same year he pursued his third entrepreneurial endeavour, and boyhood ambition, space travel.
3. To infinity and beyond
Musk’s BHAG is to make Mars habitable for humans – ostensibly to ensure the survival of the human race. In order to bring this dream to life, SpaceX manufactures rockets then sells inexpensive rides on them. SpaceX and Boeing were the first private companies contracted by NASA to launch astronauts to the International Space Station.
4. Electric cars
Manufacturing electric cars and selling them directly to consumers sans dealers is challenging at the best of times. One of the challenges the Tesla team had in the early days was with the material composition from which the carbon fibre of their Roadster was made. It was challenging getting maximum efficiency for how the carbon fibre handled at high speeds but Musk was, literally, hands-on in remedying this through self-directed action.
5. A place in the sun
Musk is the Chairman of America’s largest solar power provider, SolarCity, which is transforming the new energy economy by making clean energy available to the private and public sectors at a lower cost than energy generated by burning conventional fossil fuels.
Success, which is the sum of small efforts repeated daily, invariably ensues when you resolve to work hard. Devote each day to recognising and eliminating the distractions that keep you from doing so.