Let’s face it: Elon Musk has done some pretty amazing things in his life. His achievements as an entrepreneur, engineer, and inventor have been nothing short of incredible.
He helped start PayPal and revolutionized space travel with SpaceX, among other accomplishments.
Choose a Challenge
Elon was asked what advice he had for students, and it would be tough to find someone better qualified to offer advice. He told them to choose a challenge that is well beyond their current capabilities, to work as hard as they can on it, and then once they succeed at that goal they should push themselves even further with another challenge. The lesson he learned from this is that people rarely achieve more than they believe possible. People who say things like oh I could never do that are usually surprised when they do.
If you want to achieve something, there’s no limit to how much work you need to put in. Just keep pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone. If Elon can launch a rocket into space at his age, then you can definitely do anything with enough time and hard work. As he said in an interview, My rule of thumb is that if something is important enough you should try or at least get as far as possible trying before giving up.
Are you doing things that are important? Are they making a difference? If not, what’s holding you back? Challenge yourself with new goals and don’t stop until you achieve them!
Learn by Doing
It’s easy to talk about wanting to change your situation in life, but it’s a lot harder to put those ideas into action. There are ways of learning how to succeed by doing instead of just talking about it. If you want to change your situation or status in life, do something about it. Don’t just talk about it; start taking action on whatever dream you have that makes you excited. If you spend 10 years trying different things until something sticks, that is a sign of someone who really wants something in their life and isn’t going to stop until they get there.
It’s natural to feel overwhelmed by all of your options, but you have to remember that you can’t possibly do everything. Instead, focus on doing one thing at a time and learning from each experience as it comes. If you take things one step at a time, there are no limits to what you can accomplish in life. The key is learning from each experience as it comes so that eventually what once seemed like an intimidating mountain becomes a path that you walk on every day with confidence.
Elon Musk, once said that he feels like he learns something new every day. He said that when you are done learning, you should start a company. If you want to be successful in life, especially at a young age, it’s important to not let fear stand in your way of doing what you really want. When you are young, there is little holding you back except yourself. Don’t let your own fears stop you from pursuing your dreams because if no one else believes in them, then why should they happen? Whether it is through starting a business or just trying something new every day to learn more about what interests you most in life, just do it! You never know where learning by doing will take you.
Work Long Hours
Don’t cut corners, don’t cheat. Do it right, he says. Do you think you’re working hard now? Just wait. Because at some point in time, you’re going to be working just as hard—but it’ll feel like you’re not. It’s a sentiment that comes up a lot when talking to people who have spent time around Musk.
Work like hell. I mean you just have to put in 80-to-100-hour weeks every week, he said. There’s no other way. I didn’t take a vacation for three years when I was building Tesla up, and it was difficult.
It may sound harsh, but it’ll also likely be some of your most rewarding work ever. If you start taking shortcuts or don’t prioritize getting stuff done above all else, that time will come around very quickly—and you’ll regret not having worked hard enough when you had a chance. Once again, think about those long days at Facebook or Microsoft: You’re building something important to many people, so every hour should count if you want to make an impact as big as those companies did.
Get Used to Rejection
One of my favourite quotes is by Truman Capote, who said that success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose. As true as that may be, I still believe success should be everyone’s ultimate goal in life, but it has to be one that you pursue wisely. Make sure you really think about what it takes to succeed in whatever field you want to go into, because if you don’t get used to rejection, then rejection will get used to you.
Elon Musk, founder of SpaceX, Tesla Motors, PayPal, SolarCity and more than one dozen other companies said: I think if you’re not embarrassed by your first product release then you’ve launched too late. It should be out there with all its warts. Maybe even have a bug or two left in it on purpose… I think it is much better to ask forgiveness than permission. How true these words are! So get used to rejection and go make something great! As they say, the road to success is always under construction. What do you need to accomplish today in order to get closer to your long-term goals? And how can you act on them? Now! Go get it done!
No Action = No Results
If there’s one thing you take away from reading Elon Musk’s advice to college grads, let it be that no dream is too big. When asked by a recent college graduate how he would pursue his passions if he were 25, he had some simple advice: Take action now. The most remarkable thing about my past is that I started [entrepreneurial ventures] when I was young. It takes forever to succeed, but if you are persistent, anything is possible. Take on bigger challenges than you think you can handle or other people think they can handle.
I have incredible respect for people who devote their lives to creating new things. [Musk] told graduates at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana on May 10th, 2017. What I tell people… is to do something meaningful and to work hard at it. Whatever you do, if you work hard at it — if you really throw yourself into it — there’s a chance that you can be successful.
Once you get started, learn from your mistakes: While it’s not easy to take action on your big dreams without fail or setbacks along the way, doing so will help teach important lessons in life that can come in handy later on down the road.
Break Things and Move Fast
If you’re interested in learning how to succeed in life by breaking things, then you should heed entrepreneur and inventor Elon Musk’s advice. He doesn’t mince words when it comes to getting things done: Move fast and break things, he says. Unless you are breaking stuff, you are not moving fast enough. This idea is at the heart of what he calls his innovation method. Answering one of my questions on Quora, he said that if there isn’t sufficient urgency built into a business model, then it probably won’t work long term. A good rule of thumb is that it will take about five years to succeed or fail, he says.
When you ask what’s helped him succeed, he immediately quotes Robert Frost’s line, A promise made is a debt unpaid. When you make a promise or form an intention, that’s like entering into a contract with yourself. If you don’t feel that your time on Earth is short, then it makes no sense to borrow against your future by incurring debts or doing things that don’t advance your goals in life. Instead of thinking about how much time we have left on Earth—which Elon says causes most people to view their lives as linear—we should think about our time as a vertical stack of discrete periods of varying lengths: past, present and future.
One of my biggest lessons has been to test your assumptions. When I was younger, I thought teachers just wanted me to learn a bunch of information. That wasn’t their goal—their goal was to find out what you didn’t know by subjecting you to tough exams. If it had been left up to me, I would have focused on learning all of that stuff in school that would have gotten me good grades. What I should have done instead is approach every class like an engineer. When it came time for a test, if I didn’t already know how to answer a question, I asked myself why someone might think that particular bit of information was important or interesting enough for me to remember it long-term.
If I could break a question down into its component parts, it was much easier to understand. For example, why do you need to know that rivers flow from high ground to low ground? Well, if you’re a farmer trying to irrigate your crops, understanding how water flows is vital—and so is understanding how gravity works. If I had asked myself that question in school, it would have made my study of math much more interesting. You don’t have to become an engineer or physicist—but taking advantage of teachers who want you to learn isn’t bad advice at all. When one of your teachers says something about a subject that doesn’t make sense to you, think about why they might be saying it and then ask them about it!
Start Small and Boring
Well, I think that it’s important to have a feedback loop, where you’re constantly thinking about what you’ve done and how you could be doing it better. I think that’s the single best piece of advice: constantly think about how you could be doing things better and question yourself. Questioning your assumptions. Even if being wrong is uncomfortable, it is very useful. Elon Musk has succeeded because he took one step at a time instead of thinking too big. He learned how to swim before diving into the water. He started with boring technology like PayPal which was easy to understand instead of something revolutionary like Tesla or SpaceX.
From a young age, I was convinced that when I grew up, I would go into technology. But for college, I decided to study economics. It seemed to me like it would give me a more well-rounded perspective on how technology is adopted in society. So what did I do? Well, one thing led to another—I ended up studying physics in grad school at Stanford. It was an accident, really. But physics gave me an even more well-rounded view of technology’s place in society: understanding everything from electrical circuits to quantum mechanics really gave me a great framework to understand how technologies are improving so rapidly today.
If you start a company, it will be hard. It will be super hard. Like, almost certainly harder than you think, and also worse than you think. If it were easy, everyone would do it. So if you start a company, get ready to work harder than you have ever worked in your life. Be prepared to feel like you are always behind. Be prepared to feel chronically stressed out. If that sounds scary or upsetting or annoying—it is!
That said, I think starting a company is one of those rare things that are truly worth it. So despite all these warnings, if you start a company—especially if you are in school or just out of school—it is almost certain to be one of the most formative experiences of your life. It will push you way outside your comfort zone in ways that probably seem unimaginable right now. You will discover new strengths inside yourself that you never knew existed. And you will learn more about yourself than anything else you could possibly do with your time on earth. So when someone asks me how to succeed in life, that’s my answer: Start a company.
I’m not sure exactly what to say about how to succeed in life beyond that. It’s hard enough to succeed in a company, let alone outside of one. I think though if you do start a company, it is useful to remember that you are both a product and producer. And you need to take care of yourself as both—eat well, exercise, sleep well, have fun, see your friends—otherwise you won’t have the strength or endurance to get through those super hard times when they come around.
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