A day in the life of Elon Musk would be gruelling and exhausting, but many people can’t imagine their own lives without it. What drives him to succeed?
What does he do that helps him get so much done? And what can other entrepreneurs learn from his work ethic? We’ll answer these questions and more in today’s episode of the How Successful People Work series!
The Early Days
Born in Pretoria, South Africa, Elon Musk came into the world on June 28, 1971. His parents were both successful executives. His father worked for a satellite communications company and his mother was an accomplished model and dietician. At just 10 years old, Elon began writing computer programs for fun, which eventually led him to teach himself how to code at 12. When he was just 12 years old, he sold his first software – a game called Blastar—for $500 ($1 000 today). Despite living in an area with very little technology infrastructure (South Africa lagged behind most of Europe when it came to computers), young Elon got his hands on his first computer at age 10.
In 1993, Elon attended Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario where he studied economics and physics. He also developed a passion for programming and technology. It was at Queen’s that he met his first wife, Justine Wilson. The couple married in 2000 and had five children together (before divorcing in 2008). In 1995, during his final year of university, Elon moved to California when his father was appointed a professor at Stanford University. It was there that he founded Zip2 Corporation with his brother Kimbal—an online city guide software company used by media companies including The New York Times and Hearst Corporation.
Elon and Kimbal found success with Zip2, which was acquired by Compaq for $307 million in cash and $34 million in stock options ($434 million today). As part of his compensation, Elon netted $22 million from the deal. He made even more money when he went on to co-found PayPal alongside Peter Thiel (another one of Elon’s childhood friends) and Max Levchin. PayPal was sold to eBay for $1.5 billion in 2002, netting Elon a cool $180 million share of PayPal (and nearly 0.25% of eBay stock). The Internet Age had officially begun! More companies were being created via technology than ever before, and people were learning how easy it was to make money online—not just as consumers but as entrepreneurs too.
The Tesla Years
While Elon Musk has worked his way up over time, his work ethic hasn’t. When he was working at Tesla, he worked gruelling hours. When Tesla became successful, and it wasn’t clear how much more successful it could become, he started working harder than ever before—which is saying something for someone who’s had an ungodly amount of success in such a short amount of time. To really understand what motivates Elon Musk, we should look at where he came from—and where he’s headed next.
Elon Musk’s work ethic is legendary. In an interview with Lauren Goode, he admitted that he rarely sleeps, working up to 120-hour weeks at Tesla. If you have your health and you love what you’re doing and you have a great team it really doesn’t feel like work, he said of his 100-hour weeks during production hell on Model 3. He also tweeted in 2013 that he planned to give himself at least 6 months off, but then only ended up taking two days off after his 5th child was born—and still continued doing email in those two days.
The average person needs 8-9 hours of sleep each night, but Elon’s not most people. In fact, he only sleeps a few hours each night, typically around 2 AM to 7 AM. When asked why he’s been able to pull so many long hours on his ambitious projects like Tesla and SpaceX, he explained that it’s because there’s no other option for him. If I don’t do these things I’ll be in pain for the rest of my life…it’s better than having a job you hate, as an engineer at some company.
The SpaceX Years
In 2002, Elon set out to build a private rocket company called SpaceX. His goal was simple: Build rockets that can one day help humanity colonize Mars. Today, SpaceX is one of America’s most innovative and successful aerospace companies—but it hasn’t always been easy. In fact, in 2008, when things looked really bleak for SpaceX, Elon considered abandoning ship and focusing his time on electric cars instead.
Luckily, Elon didn’t give up on SpaceX. And neither should you. Whatever your goal is—whether it’s starting a business or launching a fitness program—things will almost certainly get tough along the way. Most people give up when things get difficult, but if you can remain disciplined in spite of that and keep driving toward your goal no matter what, then you can achieve anything! That’s one thing that makes Elon such an inspiring person to learn from: even though he may be one of the most successful entrepreneurs alive today, he never takes his eyes off of his long-term goals.
So whatever your goal is, remember to never give up! Elon didn’t, and today he’s one of the most successful businessmen alive. Just like him, you can succeed if you work hard enough. So what are you waiting for? Today is a great day to get started!
The Boring Company
How can I be like Elon Musk? While it’s impossible for you to work exactly like him, there are many things you can do to emulate his success. For starters, consider what motivates you. If you really want success, will your own personal drive get you there or is some external help needed? The answer here is different for everyone; if it’s a need for motivation then creating a mentor-mentee relationship could prove useful. Is it instead of something about how Elon works that appeals and inspires you? Then use that as a goal and start working towards improving your own work ethic! You might not ever be Elon Musk but that doesn’t mean you can’t learn from his example and create your own company in an industry you care about.
If you’re not Elon Musk, no need to worry! You can still create your own company in an industry you care about. If it’s something like artificial intelligence or renewable energy that inspires you, then that’s a great place to start. Don’t be afraid of failure either; at times Elon has had setbacks like losing money on SpaceX and Tesla but he never let these things deter him from his ultimate goals. Be careful not to let setbacks discourage you though!
Be careful not to let setbacks discourage you though! You should also try your best to not repeat past mistakes. Elon is always looking for ways to improve on what he’s already built, whether it’s by changing a small part of a design or redesigning a whole car. Try and reflect back on your own work after a project; do you see any ways in which you could have improved on your product or service? If so, how would you do that next time? If something didn’t go right, don’t just assume it was someone else’s fault. Assess what went wrong and ask yourself if there were things that you could have done differently or better.
The Motivational Quotes
Elon Musk is an inspiration for many entrepreneurs, professionals and high school students alike. His work ethic, ethics and motivation are often referenced as critical parts of his success in business. It’s that combination of qualities that draws people in – what drives Elon Musk? Many companies aspire to be like Tesla Motors or SpaceX, but how can you be like Elon Musk? Here are some quotes that highlight what motivates Elon Musk; hopefully they inspire you too!
We’re going to try and do our best to make [the Boring Company] a compelling business proposition. – Elon Musk, The Boring Company I’m convinced that in a capitalist society, real innovation comes from the entrepreneurs. They are much more effective at generating innovation than research laboratories are, though labs help fill in some of the gaps. – Elon Musk, How can I be like Elon Musk?
It is thousand times more difficult – and rare – for a well-established company to avoid retreating into mediocrity than it is for an upstart entrepreneur.
Elon Musk is a man of many titles; founder of SpaceX, CEO of Tesla, chairman of SolarCity and more. But he also has his hand in a number of other projects, from Hyperloop to OpenAI, plus who knows what else is on his mind. His Tesla Model S became the first electric car company to hit $2 billion in sales earlier this year, which makes him appear unstoppable. And he has yet to reach 50 years old! The question is…what drives Elon Musk? It would seem that for Musk his motivation lies in three key areas – Change, Humans and Technology; all interrelated concepts that Mr Musk views as essential not only for humanity but for our very survival as well.
Elon Musk has been quoted as saying that the future is vastly more exciting and interesting if we’re a space-faring civilization than if we’re not. You want to be inspired by things. You want to wake up in the morning and think, ‘The future’s going to be great!’ That’s what being a space-faring civilization is all about. It’s about believing in things that other people think are impossible. How could you disagree with such goals as those of Elon Musk? It may seem like he has too much on his plate, but how can you question his success so far as he grows up with them. Who knows where they will take him! Who knows where they will take us!?
If you have an interest in space and our future, you can keep up with Elon Musk via his Twitter or company updates. Space-faring civilization, who’s in!? I know I am. Let’s do it!
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