How Tesla CEO Elon Musk makes impossible goals possible [Infographic]

In yesterday's post, we discussed the path to 500,000 electric vehicles from Tesla Motors [NASDAQ:TSLA] by... gulp, 2018. To review, Tesla CEO Elon Musk sped up his forecast two years earlier from his original target of 2020. Oh yeah... what about 2020? Musk saidthe "2020 target for vehicles is closer to a million." Yes, that's double Tesla’s prior forecast. Is Musk on "ludicrous" mode setting these new ultra-aggressive targets? Are these targets audacious, bold... ummm, wait... are these targets even remotely possible?

After reading endless analysis from Wall Street to Main Street, I landed on one sensible explanation. According to Will Oremus at Slate*, he writes: "I don’t believe that Musk’s insane-seeming ambitions are just about motivating his employees and suppliers. They’re also about motivating Musk. Musk is the kind of person who runs on adrenaline, works best—or perhaps only—under insane pressure, and is gripped by existential dread the moment he finds himself working on a problem that feels the slightest bit quotidian or mundane. And he expects the same of the people who work for him."

So what motivates Musk? "Sending a rocket to Mars is a problem that gets Musk’s blood flowing. So is building an electric supercar, building the greatest sedan ever made, and building the biggest battery factory the world has ever seen. For that matter, so is running both Tesla and SpaceX at the same time, while also helping to lead SolarCity. But mass production? Logistics, supply chains, assembly lines? Taking orders, fulfilling orders, setting and meeting reasonable timetables? Those aren’t Muskian problems. They’re normal human problems. And that petrifies him. The day that Tesla becomes just another car company will be the day Musk can no longer find a thrill in running it, and may in fact be unfit for the job."

So how does Musk overcome this problem? "Simply mastering the complex science of mass production was not enough. 'Tesla,' Musk said, 'is going to be hell-bent on becoming the best manufacturer on Earth.'  And with that grand pronouncement, Musk can breathe again, the catastrophe of becoming an ordinary person running an ordinary company averted. The pressure to meet people’s reasonable expectations lifted, he can now refuel himself on the pressure of his own unreasonable ones—and push everyone around him to do the same. Those who do not wish to toil under such conditions know where to find the door."

In conclusion, Oremus writes: "Welcome to Musk’s own version of Steve Jobs’ reality-distortion field.... Musk’s track record of promising the impossible is matched only by his track record of delivering the wildly improbable. It’s rare that Tesla fully meets its own incredibly ambitious timelines for delivering new cars. And yet, by coming even remotely close to meeting them, the company routinely blows away the expectations of its skeptics, dazzles the press and the public, and leaves competitors choking on its nonexistent exhaust."

This is Elon Musk's modus operandi. While there is a path for Tesla to get to 500,000 vehicles in 2018, part of understanding that path is understanding the psychology of Elon Musk. To better understand Musk, its best to read his fantastic biography written by Ashlee Vance. But for a quick snapshot, let's rewind back to Musk's early days when he made his first measly $1 Billion. This earlier infographic provides proof-positive that Musk knows how to make the seemingly impossible, possible.


*Source: Slate; Infographic and second photo: Brand Champion