What Does Elon Musk Do That Most Entrepreneurs Don’t?

OK, so we’ve all heard of Elon Musk and his multi-billion dollar projects, Tesla, Space X, etc. But rather than just simply citing this larger than life individual as a genius. What can we actually learn from the mindset and drive of such an extremely successful person?

In this article, we look to analyse why Elon Musk is so successful, and if there’s anything the rest of us mere mortals can learn from his traits to help us reach for the stars!

So, what does Elon Musk do that most entrepreneurs don’t? Here goes…

He doesn’t take no for an answer.

Most of us are terrified of the word ‘no’, the mere thought of rejection sends a shiver down the spine of many. But looking at Elon he appears not to be caught up in the ‘no’. A ‘no’ is just a temporary state that with more information or a change in circumstances can be converted into a ‘yes’. Persistence is vital, without obnoxiousness or stubbornness. Not giving up and having resolve is essential.

A classic example of Elon’s resolve is the Falcon 1 launch. The launch failed three times and with Space X haemorrhaging money, the fourth needed to be a success, or the company would more than likely go bust. Musk pulled the trigger anyway and the rest is history.

Musk advises, “The number one thing is people should just keep trying, did you try yesterday? Did you try today? It takes a lot of mental exertion to innovate.”

Avoids useless meetings.

Elon Musk hates unproductive meetings. We’ve all been to that ‘meeting that about the meeting’! Elon Musk has been quoted as saying; “Please get rid of all large meetings, unless you’re certain they are providing value to the whole audience, in which case keep them very short.”

He is a strong proponent of leaving any meeting where you cannot add value. Musk advises; “Walk out of a meeting or drop off a call as soon as it is obvious you aren’t adding value.” To Elon, this behaviour is not rude you are simply increasing your available time and productivity. He says, “It is not rude to leave. It is rude to make someone stay and waste their time.”

He doesn’t self-limit himself.

Elon Musk is quoted as saying, “I think most people can learn a lot more than they think they can. They sell themselves short without trying.”

Musk believes that we all have the capacity to learn whatever we want, we should not be limited by our past education or age. Musk taught himself rocketry through reading. He believes that reading is simply a process of downloading information into your brain. He questions traditional education since the “Data rate of information transfer is just too slow”.

A whole universe of information is out there if we choose to read, we can ‘download’ much of it to our benefit.

He applies critical thinking.

Musk strongly believes in ‘First Principle’ thinking. When we make a decision or reason, that reasoning is often based on some assumptions that have been laid down before. Essentially, we copy the core foundations and adjust them slightly to meet our purpose.

First Principle thinking involves breaking down those core foundations into constituent parts and questioning all of them. By doing this, glaring inefficiencies can become apparent.

Musk used the cost of batteries as an example, “People would say, ‘Historically it’s cost $600 per kilowatt-hour, and so it’s not going to be much better than that in the future.”

By breaking down the individual material elements in the battery making process Musk realised that batteries could be made a lot cheaper. Musk is always asking, “Why?” and finding better ways of doing things.

Healthy Intensity.

Musk believes in healthy intensity, ie you should put lots of work in to get the result out. Musk is renowned for his 120-hour working weeks. He is quoted as saying that he was working so hard on the Tesla Model 3, that he missed his own birthday.

Even the mighty Elon realises that working too much can have unwanted side effects, he says, “You’re gonna go a little bonkers if you work 120 hours a week.”

He advises, “If you’re super stressed, you can’t go to sleep. You either have a choice of, like, okay, I’ll have zero sleep and then my brain won’t work tomorrow, or you’re gonna take some kind of sleep medication to fall asleep.” Striking that balance between working hard and enough rest is critical.

Avoids wishful thinking.

Elon Musk is quoted as saying, “One of the biggest mistakes people generally make, and I’m guilty of it too, is wishful thinking. You know, like you want something to be true, even if it isn’t true. You ignore the real truth, because of what you want to be true. This is a very difficult trap to avoid”. Ouch…

Yes, this is a big one. Stop the wishful thinking and get back into reality. Doesn’t necessarily mean we can’t dream, we just need to apply some of that critical thinking mentioned above! Often we use wishful thinking to make ourselves feel better but realistically the best way forward is to face reality.

Here’s what Elon says; “Focus on something that has high value to someone else, be really rigorous in making that assessment, because natural human tendency is wishful thinking, so the challenge to entrepreneurs is telling what’s the difference between really believing in your ideals and sticking to them as opposed to pursuing some unrealistic dream that doesn’t actually have merit, be very rigorous in your self analysis, certainly being extremely tenacious, and just work like hell. Put in 80-100 hours every week. All these things improves the odds of success.”

He has a growth mindset.

Elon Musk is quoted as saying, “You should take the approach that you’re wrong. Your goal is to be less wrong”. He believes that by failing you are given an opportunity to learn something new and to get insight from a different perspective until you find a solution that works.

Elon has also said, “Tesla policy is never to give in to false claims, even if we would lose, and never to fight true claims, even if we would win”. The quote followed claims that a software update temporarily reduced maximum battery voltage in thousands of Model S Sedans. Elon Musk showed honesty and integrity by awarding $625 to each user affected, “If we are wrong, we are wrong. In this case, we were”. he stated.

Food for thought? This article was written by Graham Jules LL.B, author of Business Zero To Superhero and founder of Pop Up World. Pop Up World is a platform that helps entrepreneurs reach for the stars! Via various services such as Investor Connector, Logo Design, Pitch Deck Creation, Company Name AI Generator and more.

Graham Jules – Author and Entrepreneur

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