Making science fiction come alive: 5 things entrepreneurs can learn from Elon Musk

Elon Musk is someone who thinks about things that never were and says, ‘Why not?’
Making science fiction come alive: 5 things entrepreneurs can learn from Elon Musk
Making science fiction come alive: 5 things entrepreneurs can learn from Elon Musk
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Elon Musk has been one of the most inspirational figures in modern times. Being at the helm of multiple companies has made him one of the most innovative CEOs of all time. While his focus may not be on short term profit or increasing his margins on products, he wants to make sure that he builds companies that are going above and beyond everyone’s expectations.

No one’s been able to make electric cars work and no one’s been able to capitalize on space travel. He’s doing things that people have only dreamed of. He’s making science fiction come alive.

The ‘Why Not’ attitude

In fact, Billionaire investor Ron Baron has high expectations of Elon, while investing in Tesla and many of his companies. He says that the secret to Elon’s mindset is the ‘why not’ mentality.

"What [Elon Musk] does, it reminded me a little of Robert Kennedy. [Musk] is a guy who thinks about things that never were and says, 'Why not? His history is that he built a business when he was a young man and sold it for $10 or $15 million. Built Paypal, sold it for $150 million. He could have retired but he took everything and put it at risk to develop electric cars,” he was quoted as saying.

That’s key here. He didn’t want to retire with a large fund in his side. He wanted to do things differently. Many in his position would have settled for $150 million and gone ahead with an investment portfolio and take it ahead. This proves that his primary motive is not money or assets.

Be different

Musk wants to do something different. That’s his main aim. He wants to build something and use the philosophy of ‘why not’ to his advantage. He’s realized that he can accomplish a lot by asking ‘why not’ and take things one step ahead.

Elon also loves listening to his critics and trying to figure out why his product or service idea may or may not work. That’s where he shines. He wants to explore all options and figure out where his assumptions may be going wrong.

“When I spoke with someone about the Tesla Model S, I didn’t really want to know what’s right about the car. I want to know what’s wrong about the car. When my friends get a product, I ask them to please not tell me what they like. Rather, tell me what you don’t like. And if I’ve asked that a few times of people, then they will start automatically telling me without me having to always ask the question,” Musk once said.

Work harder than you think you can

While many entrepreneurs might publicize the way that entrepreneurship is, Elon is humble and straight forward. He wants people to understand why they need to work really hard to be able to get enough juice in the system.

“Starting a company is like eating glass and staring into the abyss. That's generally what happens. Because, when you first start a company, there's lots of optimism. And things are great. Happiness at first is high. And then you encounter all sorts of issues--and happiness will steadily decline. Then, you'll go through a whole world of hurt. And, eventually, if you succeed--and in most cases you will not succeed ... And Tesla almost didn't succeed. It came very close to failure. If you succeed, then after a long time, you will finally get back to happiness," Elon Musk once said in an interview.

Product development approach

Another interesting aspect of Elon’s mentality is his approach towards product development. It’s not just that the product or innovation has to be incrementally better than the competition. You need to build something that customers can trust, and trust comes from beating all expectations through the water.

"If you're entering anything where there's an existing marketplace, against large, entrenched competitors, then your product or service needs to be much better than theirs. It can't be a little bit better, because then you put yourself in the shoes of the consumer ... you're always going to buy the trusted brand unless there's a big difference." – Elon

Work, work and work

In order to become truly successful, he had to put in 100 hours a week to be able to make sure that his company flourished above everything. He didn’t want to leave things to his executives working under him. He wanted to micro-manage to ensure that everything went according to plan.

“For a while there I was just doing constant 100-hour weeks [in order to be the CEO of both Tesla Motors and SpaceX], and that's definitely wearing. Now I'm kind of in the 80 to 90 [hours per week range], which is more manageable. But if you divide that by two it's certainly, you know, maybe 45 hours per company, which is not much if you have a lot of things going on,” Elon said in an interview.

What’s made him successful all this while, and what’s driven his passion beyond expectations is his drive and ability to question the things the he’s faced with constantly. That’s what has made him a billionaire in the process.

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