People should think, well, “I feel fear about this, “and therefore I shouldn’t do it.” It’s normal to feel fear. Like, there’d have to be definitely something mentally wrong if you didn’t feel fear.
And there’s a friend of mine who says, like, “Starting a company is like staring “into the abyss and eating glass,” and there’s some truth to that.
“A successful company is very much more about, “How quick are you to fix the mistakes?” Not, “Will you make mistakes?” – Elon Musk
The one thing I couldn’t compress was the cost of launch ’cause there were only a few options, and the US options were way too expensive, so I ended up going to Russia three times to try to buy the biggest ICBM in the Russian nuclear fleet.
He’s the CEO of SpaceX and Tesla Motors, and the chairman of Solar City.
His goals of starting these businesses always revolve around changing the world and humanity.
He has an estimated net worth of 11.5 billion dollars.
He’s Elon Musk, and here’s my take on his top 10 rules to success, part two.
Rule number one is my personal favorite, and make sure to stick around all the way to the end for some special bonus clips.
Also, as Elon’s talking, if he says something that really resonates with you, please leave it in the comments below. Put quotes around it so other people can be inspired as well. Enjoy.
Rule #1: Act Despite Fear
Interviewer: You are unusually fearless and willing to go in the face of other people telling you something is crazy, and I know a lot of pretty crazy people. You still stand out. Where does that come from, or how do you think about making a decision when everyone tells you, “This is a crazy idea,” or where do you get the internal strength to do that?
Well, first of all, I’d say I actually think I feel fear quite strongly, so it’s not as though I just have the absence of fear. I feel it quite strongly. But there are just times when something is important enough, that you believe in it enough, that you do it in spite of fear.
So, speaking of important things-
“I actually think I feel fear quite strongly, so it’s not as though I just have the absence of fear. I feel it quite strongly. But there are just times when something is important enough, that you believe in it enough, that you do it in spite of fear. ” – Elon Musk
Like, people shouldn’t think, “Well, I feel fear about this, “and therefore I shouldn’t do it.” It’s normal to feel fear. Like, you’d have to definitely have something mentally wrong with you if you didn’t feel fear.
Interviewer: So, you just feel it, and let the importance of it drive you to do it anyway?
Yeah. You know, actually, something that can be helpful is fatalism, at some degree. If you just accept the probabilities, then that diminishes fear, so when starting SpaceX, I thought the odds of success were less than 10%, and I just accepted that actually, probably, I would just lose everything, but that maybe, we would make some progress if we could just move the ball forward.
Even if we died, maybe some other company could pick up the baton and keep moving it forward, so that would still do some good. Yeah, same with Tesla. I thought, you know, odds of a car company succeeding were extremely low.
Rule #2: Focus On The Costumers
I would definitely advise people who are starting a company to expect a long period of quite high difficulty.
But, I mean, as long as people stay super-focused on creating the absolute best product to service that really delights their end customer. If they stay focused on that, then basically, if you get it such that your customers want you to succeed, then you probably will.
Interviewer: All right. You have to focus on the customer and delivering for them.
Yeah. Make sure, if your customers love you, your odds of success of are dramatically higher.
“As long as people stay super-focused on creating the absolute best product to service that really delights their end customer. If they stay focused on that, then basically, if you get it such that your customers want you to succeed, then you probably will. ” – Elon Musk
Rule #3: Have a High Pain Threshold
One does have to be focused on the short-term and money coming in when creating a company, because otherwise, the company will die, so a lot of the times, people will think, like, creating a company is going to be fun. I would say it’s really not that fun. I mean, there are periods of fun, and there are periods where it’s just awful.
And particularly, if you’re CEO of the company, you actually have a distillation of all the worst problems in a company. See, there’s no point in spending your time on things that are going right, so you’re only spending your time on things that are going wrong, and there are things that are going wrong that other people can’t take care of, so you have, like, the worst.
“One does have to be focused on the short-term and money coming in when creating a company, because otherwise, the company will die” – Elon Musk
You have a filter for the crappest problems in the company. The most pernicious and painful problems. So I wouldn’t say it’s, I think you have to feel quite compelled to do it and have a fairly high pain threshold, and there’s a friend of mine who says, like, “Starting a company is like “staring into the abyss and eating glass.”
And there’s some truth to that. The staring into the abyss part is that you’re going to be constantly facing the extermination of the company, ’cause most start-ups fail. Like, 99% of start-ups fail. So, that’s the staring into the abyss part. You’re constantly saying, “Okay, “if I don’t get this right, the company will die.”
Should be quite stressful. And then, the eating glass part is, you’ve got to work on the problems that the company needs you to work on, not the problems you want to work on, and so you end up working on problems that you’ll really wish you weren’t working on, and so that’s the eating glass part. And that goes on for a long time.
“Profit just means that people are paying you more for whatever you’re doing than you’re spending to create it.” – Elon Musk
Audience Member: So, how do you keep your focus on the big picture when you’re constantly faced with, “We could be out of business in a month?”
Well, it’s just a very small percentage of mental energy that’s on the big picture. Like, you know where you’re generally heading for, and the actual path is going to be some sort of zig-zaggy thing in that direction. You’re trying not to deviate too far from the path that you want to be on, but you’re going to have to do that to some degree.
But I don’t want to diminish the, I mean, I think the profit motive is a good one if the rules of an industry are properly set up. So there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with profit.
In fact, profit just means that people are paying you more for whatever you’re doing than you’re spending to create it. That’s a good thing. And if that’s the not the case, then you’ll be out of business, and rightfully so. ‘Cause you’re not adding enough value.
Rule #4: Be Rigorous In Self Analysis
First of all, I really need to give some thought to, like, how can I provide advice that would be most helpful, and I’m not sure I’ve given enough thought to that to give you the best possible answer, but I think, certainly, being focused on something that you’re confident will have high value to someone else, and just being really rigorous in making that assessment, because people tend to, a natural human tendency is wishful thinking, so a challenge for entrepreneurs is to say, “Well, what’s the difference between “really believing in your ideals and sticking to them “versus pursuing some unrealistic dream “that doesn’t actually have merit?” And that is a really difficult thing to, can you tell the difference between those two things. So, you need to be sort of very rigorous in your self-analysis. Certainly extremely tenacious, and then just work like hell. I mean, you just have to put in, you know, 80 to 100 hour weeks every week.
That is a lot of work.
“You need to be sort of very rigorous in your self-analysis. Certainly extremely tenacious, and then just work like hell.” – Elon Musk
All those things improve the odds of success. If other people are putting in 40 hour work weeks and you’re putting in 100 hour work weeks, then even if you’re doing the same thing, you know that in one year, you will achieve in four months what it takes them a year to achieve.
Rule #5: Expect To Fail
Interviewer: So failures are not the most terrible things. You have to learn from it and react to it.
Yeah, exactly. When you’re building something new, there’s going to be mistakes, and it’s important to recognize those mistakes, acknowledge them, and take corrective action. And the success of a company is very much more about “How quick are you to fix the mistakes?” Not, “Will you make mistakes?”
Interviewer: Or admit the mistakes.
Yeah, absolutely. And if you see the difference between a start-up that is successful and one that is not, it is because the successful one, they’re both made of mistakes, but the successful one recognized the mistakes, fixed them very quickly, and the unsuccessful one tries to deny that the mistakes exist.
“When you’re building something new, there’s going to be mistakes, and it’s important to recognize those mistakes, acknowledge them, and take corrective action.” – Elon Musk
Interviewer: You know, extremely smart people are sometimes quite arrogant, because they believe in what they believe in, right, and so when they face criticism, it’s less likely to admit they can make mistakes. Was that in your case?
I learnt it when I was studying physics. In physics, you’re taught to always question yourself, you’re taught to always assume that you’re wrong, not to assume that you’re right, and you have to prove yourself not wrong, and so I think that physics framework is really where I learnt it, and it’s very effective for learning counter-intuitive things that aren’t obvious.
“If you only do things that are certain to succeed, then you’re only going to be doing very obvious things.” – Elon Musk
Interviewer: Mm. So, you are very famous in saying that failure is actually an option, and if you’re not failing that means you’re not innovative enough.
Yeah. I mean, it’s not like I like failure. I mean, who likes failure? But if you only do things that are certain to succeed, then you’re only going to be doing very obvious things.
Rule #6: Have a Sense Of Humor
Interviewer: A question that has been discussed over the past couple of days. Should we be considering one-way only trips to Mars? What’s the best approach to colonize the planet? Is it, well, what’s your view? Is that socially acceptable? You think people will sign up to do it?
I think there’s plenty of people that would sign up for a one-way trip to Mars.
Interviewer: Maybe if I could have a show of hands. Who would consider such an option? I see some. Not many, but perhaps enough for a couple of missions.
Certainly be enough. I think it’s sort of, like, is it a one-way mission and then you die, or is it a one-way mission and you get resupplied? There’s a big difference.
Interviewer: We’re for the second option.
Yeah, exactly. But I think it ends up being a moot point, because you want to bring the spaceship back. Like, these spaceships are expensive, okay? They’re hard to build. You can’t just leave them there. So whether or not people want to come back or not is kind of, like, they can jump on if they want, but we need the spaceship back.
Interviewer: Thank you.
I mean, it’d be kind of weird if there was, like, this huge collection of spaceships on Mars all the time, like, we would send them back. I mean, of course we would send them back.
Rule #7: Aim For Perfection
Interviewer: Now, with Tesla, your goal has been to make a better car, and you’ve done that with an electric vehicle that people covet, that has quite a cult following, that’s upgradeable, but you also want to achieve, and your turn of phrase is very nice, or try to achieve this “platonic ideal of a car,” right? To reach for perfection. So, what does the perfect car look like?
“We’re in pursuit of the platonic ideal of the perfect car, and who knows what that looks like actually, but you want to try to make every element of the car as flawless as possible, and there’ll always be some degree of imperfection” – Elon Musk
Well, I mean, I do use that phrase with our engineering and science team, that aspirationally, we’re in pursuit of the platonic ideal of the perfect car, and who knows what that looks like actually, but you want to try to make every element of the car as flawless as possible, and there’ll always be some degree of imperfection, but try to minimize that and create a car that is just delightful in every way, and I think if you do that, then the rest kind of takes care of itself.
Rule #8: Do Your Chores
Interviewer: You know, being innovative can be a very exciting life, but doing business sometimes requires, you know, persistence, and sometimes could be very boring. Do you have the fun from innovation as from business, running a business? Or would you rather to be just an innovator, engineer, instead of a business owner or runner.
“To be successful at almost anything, you have to do the tough stuff as well as the enjoyable stuff. ” – Elon Musk
I mean, I’d love to just do innovation and just do engineering, but you raise a good point, because, you know, a lot of life, in general, any job, there is, like, you have to do your chores. You know?
Interviewer: ‘Cause nobody else can do that for you.
Well, yeah. I think to be successful at almost anything, you have to do the tough stuff as well as the enjoyable stuff. You have to do the boring stuff as well as the non-boring stuff. And if you don’t do your chores, then bad things will happen. But if they don’t do the things that they don’t like to do, then the company will be in trouble. Like, you’re basically, like, it’s more fun to cook the meal than to clean the dishes, but you need to clean the dishes.
Interviewer: You need to do both.
Yes, you need to do both. Exactly.
Rule #9: Be An Adventurer
2001, I was just talking to a friend of mine, and he asked me what I was going to do after PayPal, and I thought, well, you know, I was wondering, I’d like to get involved in space, but I just didn’t think there was anything I could do as an individual, but I was curious as to when NASA would be sending a team to Mars, because that was always going to be the thing to do after the moon, and I figured that there’d be some plan and I’d just to the website, and I could read the schedule.
Oh, yeah, it’s like, “Okay, 2017, good, okay.” But actually, there wasn’t anything on the website, or at least, I thought, like, can I not find it? Like, what’s going on here? Is it secret? I don’t know. But it turned out that NASA had done a study on what it would cost to do a man to Mars mission, and this was under Bush the first, and in his first year, he asked for a 90-day study shortly after taking office, and NASA came back with a 500 billion dollar price tag, and he said, “Okay, maybe not.”
That’s when 500 billion dollars was serious money. You know, for the government. So then, that got totally shelved, and it was, like, you are not allowed to talk about any kind of crewed mission to Mars at NASA, and anyways, so I thought, “Well, if I could do something “that would galvanize public interest, “and then that public interest would translate to “additional appropriations for NASA, increase their budget, “then maybe they could do it,” so actually, what I was sort of thinking I would do is send a small greenhouse to the surface of Mars with seeds and dehydrated gel, and then, upon landing, hydrate the gel, grow the plants, and the public tends to respond to precedence and superlative, so this would be the furthest that life’s ever traveled, the first life on Mars.
I was trying to figure out how to do this with the proceeds that I had from PayPal, and I was able to figure out how to get the cost of the spacecraft down and the communications and the little greenhouse and everything, but the one thing I couldn’t compress was the cost to launch. There was only a few options, and the US options were way too expensive, and so I ended up going to Russia three times to try to buy the biggest ICBM in the Russian nuclear fleet.
Interviewer: That’s where I’d start, you know? Go big or go home, right?
I mean, okay. There were some strange trips, that’s for sure. But it was, like, virtually, like, you can buy any, it’s a very capitalist society in some ways. So I actually did negotiate a deal to buy two of the ICBMs, minus the nukes. But I came to the conclusion after that third trip that it wouldn’t really matter.
I actually came to the conclusion that my initial premise was wrong, because I actually think there’s a tremendous amount of will in the American population, particularly to explore. United States, you know, maybe more than any other country is a distillation of the human spirit of exploration, and it’s really fundamental to the psyche, so if people think there’s a way, I think you could actually get a lot of support.
But it can’t just be banging your head against a wall. You got to believe that this can be done without breaking the federal budget, so that’s when I said, “Okay, well, is there some way “to affect the cost of space transport,” and so I got together with a group of people over a series of Saturdays just to try to say, “Is there something fundamentally super-expensive “about rockets, or can the cost be substantially improved?” And we had a bunch of those kind of brainstorming sessions, and I couldn’t see any fundamental obstacle to improving the cost of the rockets, so that’s when I started SpaceX.
Interviewer: Said, “I’ll just build it myself.”
But I’d say, definitely at that point, the probablity of success was definitely less than 50%. I thought it would most likely not succeed. But it was worth a try.
Rule #10: Inspire Greatness
Interviewer: You’re the CEO of SpaceX, and you’ve said that your ultimate goal is to get humankind to Mars. I’ve heard your response to the question, but these guys need to hear it. Why is Mars important? Why does Mars matter?
Sure, well, I think, it’s really a fundamental decision we need to make as a civilization. What kind of future do we want? Do we want a future where we are forever confined to one planet, until some eventual extinction event, however far in the future that might occur, or do we want to become a multi-planet species and then, ultimately, be out there among the stars, and be among many planets, many star systems?
And I think the latter is a far more exciting and inspiring future than the former. And Mars is the next natural step. In fact, it’s the only planet we really have a shot at establishing a self-sustaining city on, and I think once we do establish such a city, there will be a strong forcing function for the improvement of space flight technology that will then enable us to establish colonies elsewhere in the solar system, and ultimately extend beyond our solar system.
And so, there’s the defensive reason of protecting the future of humanity and ensuring that the light of consciousness is not extinguished should some calamity befall Earth, but also, and that’s the defensive reason, but personally, I find that what gets me more excited is the fact that this would be an incredible adventure. I mean, it’d be, like, the greatest adventure ever.
It would be exciting and inspiring, and there need to be things that excite and inspire people. You know, after your reasons why you get up in the morning, it can’t just be solving problems, it’s got to be, “Yeah, something great’s going to happen in the future.”
Interviewer: Yeah, we talked about this at length yesterday. It’s not an exit strategy or a back-up plan for humankind when Earth fails, it’s also to inspire people on Earth, and to transcend, to go beyond our mental limits of what we think we can achieve.
All right, I mean, think of, sort of, how incredible the Apollo program was, and just, if you ask anyone and say, “Name some of humanity’s greatest achievements “of the 20th century,” the Apollo program, landing on the moon, in many places, would be number one.
Evan: Thank you guys so much for watching the part two series of something that we’re still experimenting with and having some fun with, so let me know what you think, if we should continue it, if there’s someone else you want to see a part two version of. Leave your thoughts in the comments below and we’ll see what we can do.
Also, I’m really curious to figure out what did you learn most from Elon in this video? What message hit home the hardest that you’re going to immediately apply to your life or business somehow? Leave it in the comments, and I’m going to join in the discussion.
Finally, I want to give a quick shout-out to Kalie and Bradley. Thank you guys so much for picking up a copy of my book, Your One Word, and taking that picture. It’s awesome, and I really, really appreciate it.
So, thank you guys again for watching. I believe in you, I hope you continue to believe in yourself and whatever your one word is. Much love. I’ll see you soon.
Interviewer: But you have also said, in terms of where you want to go, that developing a high-performance sports car is not what this is about.
Interviewer: This is about something else, and you want to develop a sedan.
Yeah, the whole purpose behind Tesla, the reason I put so much of my time and money into helping create the business is we want to serve as a catalyst for accelerating the electric car revolution. The price of gas at the pump does not reflect the true cost of gasoline, because you have a consumption of a public good. It’s really a common problem in economics. You have the same thing in fishing, where because there’s no cost to fishing stocks, people just overfish and you have disaster that ensues, and here, we’re not paying for the cost of the CO2 concentrations in the oceans, the atmospheres, we’re not paying for all the auxiliary effects, the wars and the other things at the gas pumps, so you effectively have a subsidy taking place at the gas pump because of that. So the only way to bridge that is with innovation, is to try to make electric cars better sooner than they would otherwise be.
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