Posted on August 05, 2016 by Matt Pressman
After selling Paypal for $1.5 Billion to eBay and transforming the financial industry with its online payments platform, Elon Musk has gone on to revolutionize three other massive industry sectors: energy, automotive, and aerospace. As Chairman of America's largest solar provider, SolarCity, Elon Musk is currently on the verge of pulling together a merger with Tesla Motors [NASDAQ: TSLA]. And as CEO of SpaceX, Musk continues to be at the vanguard of cost-efficient space travel and reusable rockets as he breaks boundaries in the aerospace industry.
To expand on this, Bramble* explains that, "Elon Musk is CEO of two separate billion dollar companies; Tesla - the silicon valley electric car company changing the future of transport and causing the oil industry sleepless nights, and SpaceX - the space transportation company that has pioneered recyclable rockets, dramatically reduced the cost of space travel and won $1.6 billion worth of contracts from NASA. Musk is 44 years old and as of March 2016 is worth $13.5 billion." Following are three keys to Musk's winning formula.
1. Updating your software
No, we're not talking about the software updates that Tesla vehicles receive to continually improve. We're talking about the mind itself, "Musk's greatest tool is his software, his mind, and it's [this] tool that he constantly sharpens, builds, refines, reflects on and improves. Realizing that your mind is your greatest asset, and treating it with the respect it deserves is key to unlocking your potential... he views people as computer systems, being made up of hardware (body) and software (mind). Recognizing that your software is one of the most powerful tools that you possess, Musk works tirelessly on updating his, feeding it with more knowledge and information when he wants to understand a problem."
Musk is a voracious reader and, "This habit of self learning and forcing himself to understand new concepts, gives him a huge internal database of knowledge that he is then able to run through his internal problem solving tool... [Musk explains] 'I think most people can learn a lot more than they think they can. They sell themselves short without trying. One bit of advice: it is important to view knowledge as sort of a semantic tree -- make sure you understand the fundamental principles, i.e. the trunk and big branches, before you get into the leaves/details or there is nothing for them to hang on to.'"
2. Reasoning from first principles
How does one get to the nucleus of a problem and really understand the facts? Musk focuses on a physics framework that includes first principles: "Aristotle described a first principle as, '[the] first basis from which a thing is known'. It means basing conclusions on fundamental truths, not on assumption or analogy... It means boiling things down to their most basic truths, and reasoning up from those truths... The alternative to this is reasoning by analogy. Assuming something is true or correct because it's similar to something else that has been done before."
Image: Take Back the Sky
Musk explains, "Historically, all rockets have been expensive, so therefore, in the future, all rockets will be expensive. But actually that’s not true. If you say, what is a rocket made of? It’s made of aluminium, titanium, copper, carbon fiber. And you can break it down and say, what is the raw material cost of all these components? If you have them stacked on the floor and could wave a magic wand so that the cost of rearranging the atoms was zero, then what would the cost of the rocket be? And I was like, wow, okay, it’s really small—it’s like 2% of what a rocket costs. So clearly it would be in how the atoms are arranged—so you’ve got to figure out how can we get the atoms in the right shape much more efficiently."
He continues, "And so I had a series of meetings on Saturdays with people, some of whom were still working at the big aerospace companies, just to try to figure out if there’s some catch here that I’m not appreciating. And I couldn’t figure it out. There doesn’t seem to be any catch. So I started SpaceX.”
3. Hard work
How do you give your ideas the greatest chance of success? "Highly intelligent, fast learning, dynamic problem solving ability and lots of money, they’ve all contributed to the success of Musk’s endeavours. But there’s another key character trait to the man which has been critical to his success - an incredible and highly efficient work ethic... When commenting on the crazy hours he works, he mentions, ‘this improves the odds of success’. It's a key point to bear in mind."
Musk's work ethic is legendary. "The fact is that Elon Musk gets a lot done. Running two separate billion dollar companies requires making a lot of decisions and having eyes on many moving parts." That said, how does he do it? He explains, 'Work like hell. I mean you just have to put in 80 to 100 hour weeks every week. [This] improves the odds of success. If other people are putting in 40 hour work weeks and you’re putting in 100 hour work weeks, then even if you’re doing the same thing you know that… you will achieve in 4 months what it takes them a year to achieve.'"
Source: Dallas Morning News
Want more? Well... maybe you can hang an autographed photo of Musk on your wall for more inspiration. And, you can learn even more by checking out this insightful, new mini-documentary* posted last week, The Story of Elon Musk, and immediately following that, we've got another, older mini-doc (from the same director) telling the story of Musk's incredible triumph with Tesla Motors. These short films provide an absolutely fascinating look into the mind of Elon Musk. Enjoy!
Video: Elon Musk (Part 1)
Video: Tesla Motors (Part 2)