Why you should stop your whining and listen to Elon Musk.
How was your day?
Did you whine because your boss gave you a little extra work at the end of the day? Did you feel good about yourself because you wrote a nice little blog post, closed a sale, or balanced your budget? Or maybe you had a really productive meeting?
Well, it doesn’t really matter because you’re still a total loser.
You heard me! Are you complaining about the ONE little job that you have? Are you puffing your chest out because your Vice-President replied all to your group email and said “Nice work!”?
Well, you’re pathetic because you’re not Elon Effing Musk.
Who or What is Elon Musk?
No, Elon Musk is not the latest Obsession fragrance from Calvin Klein or an Eau De Parfum from Chanel
He’s a California-based man-god-entrepreneur and all he did today was:
Work on how to revolutionize the space program
Overhaul the entire transportation industry
Oh yeah, try and solve the energy crisis
I saw him speak at SXSW in March, immediately became enthralled by him, built a keynote speech around him in April and 2 days later noted that he was named one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World.
Oh, and he was the inspiration for the character of Tony Stark in the movie Iron Man.
So once again I’ll ask, what did YOU do at the office today?
At SXSW I was surprised at his demeanor on stage… a little giddy, assuredly geeky, ever so slightly nervous, but able to make fun of himself in one breath and then talk intricately about rocket propulsion technology in the next.
One of my favorite moments was the casualness of one of the biggest “name drops” I had ever heard, when he began a story with, “So there’s a friend of mine, Richard Branson…”
As the co-founder of PayPal, Musk has already made a great contribution to technology, using the proceeds from the $1.5 billion sale to eBay to fund his future endeavors.
Going to Mars
So he tells the story about how he wanted to go to Mars, so he went to the NASA website to see their progress, and when they were going. What he found was that they didn’t have anything. There were no plans. Budgets were being cut. He couldn’t get answers.
So he decided to do it himself!
He wanted to get people excited and increase NASA’s budget. So he went to Russia to check out some ICBMs. Oh, and he put up $100 million of his own money in the process. Now as CEO of SpaceX, the company collaborates directly with NASA, with the goal of building something sustaining beyond earth.
I think disruption is one of the most interesting stories of the last 20 years. Everything has been disrupted… the music industry was turned upside down, giant companies like Kodak were left behind by digital photography, the way the iPod killed CDs, the way Netflix killed Blockbuster, the way the iPhone created a multi-billion dollar app industry, the way eBooks are creating chaos for publishers, the way social media has infected our lives, and so much more.
At a time when American car production in Detroit had clearly stagnated, Musk did something novel… he treated a car company like a startup. In fact, his success was probably due to the fact that he was NOT in Detroit, and able to look at things from an entrepreneur’s perspective.
Let’s look at the Toyota Prius hybrid car. According to Wikipedia, first put on sale in Japan in 1997, it was introduced worldwide by 2000 and nearly 3,000,000 cars have now been old worldwide.
Meanwhile in 2001, the US was still creating cars such as the Pontiac Aztec.
This is considered one of the most hideous looking cars of all time and was sold up until 2005!
Were the engineers blind? Forget about the aesthetics of a Mercedes or BMW or Audi at that time in comparison. Even a Toyota Rav 4 or a Hyundai Sante Fe were nicer than this.
He tapped into his network, focused on design and performance, marketed his first prototypes to early adopters, and engineered efficient lithium-ion batteries.
GM Vice-Chairman Robert Lutz once said, “How come some tiny little California startup, run by guys who know nothing about the car business, can do this, and we can’t?”
See any resemblance between the Aztec and Tesla’s cars? Me neither.
Hey, global warming is a problem. Maybe we should harness that thing called the sun. OK, sounds good to me. I’ll be chairman of a solar panel company in my spare time. Let’s do this.
Of course I was thrilled to hear his thoughts on this, as I am going all-in on this trend, having announced my Salary Negotiation course here last week and seeing the results first-hand… 1,000 students in just over 6 weeks.
He said “Education is wrong. Khan Academy is going in the right direction. Education should be like a good video game. You don’t need to tell kids to go play a video game. Make it interactive and engaging. People do different things at different paces. It’s not all linear. Follow your own pace.”
“Current education is doing the same lectures several years in a row. It’s like seeing a vaudeville show. Contrast that with Batman, The Dark Knight. The editing, the cuts, the special effects. Imagine if instructors treated education like a 1 man play of Batman.”
“Peter Thiel of Paypal said higher education is unnecessary. You learn the most in the first 2 years, and during that you learn the most from classmates, not the studies. Otherwise, you would just read textbooks or go online. If your goal is to start a company, there is no need for college. I would have quit sooner if I knew that.”
Musk’s goal is not necessarily to solve every problem in the universe – although sometimes it seems it — but to advance development by a factor of 10. He has gone through the struggles that any entrepreneur faces, admitting, “There were a number of years that sucked horribly.”
Through it all, he has relied on his physics training as a framework to look at things that weren’t obvious. He cautioned against judging people and putting too much weight on talent vs. personality. He urged the audience not to make the mistake of looking too much at the brain, saying that what matters is that you have a good heart.
By the end of the interview, while impressed with his accomplishments, I started to feel less like a loser and more inspired to make my own difference in this world. You don’t have to launch rockets or build sports cars or run three companies to change someone’s life.
After all, everything is relative.
Just ask Elon’s good friend Richard Branson, who also has his own little space project going, while overseeing 400 companies.
Maybe you HAVEN’T sold your startup for $1.5 Billion? Wish you were paid a little bit more? Check out my free online salary negotiation course, “How to Negotiate Salary: The Negotiation Mindset.”
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