First of all my apologies for skipping a few blogs over the past few months. The blogging rule book, which was apparently written by someone that has a lot more time than I do, says to blog 1-3 times a week. RIGHT! As I get busier it’s going to be hard to keep up with one a week but I am going to try my best. I also want to make sure I have something to say vs. just writing stuff to fill a page so there you go. Moving on…
I just finished a great book by Ashlee Vance about the life of Elon Musk. You get a behind the scenes look at how Elon made his mark at companies like PayPal, Tesla Motors, SpaceX and Solar City. The book review says, “first inside look into the extraordinary life and times of Silicon Valley’s most audacious entrepreneur…Vance spent more than 30 hours in conversation with Musk and interviewed close to 300 people to tell the tumultuous stories of Musk’s world-changing companies.” World changing is a big claim but they were absolutely right. This guy thinks big.
There are a few things that really stood out to me so I want to share my thoughts with you.
- Elon put it all on the line more than once. He risked the $22 million he made from selling his first company Zip2 on building PayPal. Then he took his PayPal fortune and spent all of that to create Tesla Motors, SpaceX and Solar City. Bottom line here is that in order to create your fortune, you must be willing to take on risk. Imagine being worth over $200 million at one point, living that lifestyle with large homes and private jets, only to face bankruptcy several different times with the threat of losing it all.
- Great leadership was always necessary when it came to building these companies. Being smart wasn’t enough, the businesses required someone that could bring people together, execute sound business strategy, and build the right team. More than once, Elon had to accept the fact that he could not deliver those things and was forced to take a back seat to someone that was more skilled at leading. Can you imagine having to turn your company over to another person to run after you built it? Know what you don’t know and trust someone better than you.
- Right when you think that you have pushed hard enough; push harder. Elon reminds me a lot of Steve Jobs in terms of his unwillingness to give up. When someone told him that they couldn’t get a rocket part down in cost, he made them go back and work on it some more until they made it happen. If they still didn’t get it done, Elon would take that project over and end up meeting and exceeding the original expectation. No, is not an answer.
- Electric cars, rocket travel at half price, a trip to Mars, and solar power for everyone. How often do you think Elon Musk has been told he “can’t do that” ? It has happened so often for him, he has even contemplated the thought that he could be crazy. There is always going to be someone telling you that your ideas won’t work. They will talk behind your back, be quick to judge you on the direction you are going, and be the first to think you are finished when you are just getting started. For that group of people the only answer is to succeed in spite of their opinion and remember them when you are backing the cash truck up to the bank.
- Purpose is a big deal. Mr. Musk is not building electric cars because he likes electric cars, he is doing it because he wants to help this planet figure out sustainable energy; same for his solar business. He really cares about the things he gets involved in and that passion is what drives him forward. Its not about money, its about much more.
If you haven’t read his book I would recommend it because there is a lot in there to inspire you. Elon Musk is also one of these big thinkers with a brilliant and creative approach to business and life and we need more of them. I aspire to be one of THEM. What big ideas are you working on? If nobody is telling you it can’t be done, maybe you should consider going bigger? Just a thought.
BONUS MATERIAL: Normally when we produce the Dos Marcos podcast we are not rolling video but in this case we did so check that out. It was a special occasion because we had the one and only David Perry with us from Furniture Today and we had a blast. Dave has been a good friend to me over the past 10 years or so and its fun when we get to collaborate on projects. If you watch this please make note that I did NOT realize that the camera was recording anything. I check my Apple watch for messages and am my usual fidgety self so my apologies; I would normally be on my best behavior if I knew YOU would be watching. Enjoy as we tackle a very wide variety of topics. Some very controversial and some just funny so step away from that spreadsheet or e-mail and give it a look. Dos Marcos Episode #47
It’s worth noting that there are a lot of things a lot of entrepreneurs could do with $4.9 billion in taxpayer dollars. It’s probably a little easier to think big when you are burning a virtually unlimited supply of taxpayer money and don’t have to turn a profit. Maybe we need more big thinkers like Musk, I’m just not sure we can afford them. http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-hy-musk-subsidies-20150531-story.html
Great point Jon and I guess the jury is out on that money being a good investment. I stand by my comments that he has developed these businesses in a significant way and early on, at great risk to himself. Many companies take advantage of big tax credits so I don’t think Elon is unique in that way, however to your point, most don’t get the support Elon does. I hope he turns this into something great and WE THE PEOPLE get something significant out of it. I appreciate your comments!