While he wasn’t quite yet a household name, by the time he was 30, Elon Musk was already a major player in the tech space.
Fast-forward to today and the 43-year-old is seemingly everywhere, appearing to work nonstop with Tesla and Solar City to power our lives with sustainable energy that’s affordable. He does that while simultaneously figuring out how to send supplies, satellites and people into space with SpaceX.
It seems like awfully a lot to juggle, that you’d almost have to be a superhero to be able to pull it off. But somehow, Musk does.
So how did the South African businessman metamorphose from a boy teaching himself computer programming to a bona fide entrepreneurial magnate in such a short time?
Well, for starters, he worked like hell.
“You have to put in 80- to 100-hour weeks every week,” Musk says. If your competitors are putting in 40-hour weeks, he reasons, you’re at least twice as productive as them when you’re putting in twice the time.
Of course, putting in the time by itself doesn’t guarantee success. But when you group dedication with four other Musk maxims, you’re bound to be more effective and get more accomplished.
We’ve all certainly lived through awful employment situations. Sometimes, a job’s just a job—we need money to pay the bills.
But Musk proves it’s indeed possible to combine work with your passions. When that happens, work no longer feels like “work” in the traditional sense; it becomes a hobby you get paid for. And in Musk’s case, paid handsomely for.
Don’t be afraid to fail. For Musk, failure is a natural part of success: “If things are not failing, you are not innovating enough,” Musk explains.
Believe it or not, despite the fact he invested $100 million of his own money in the company, Musk started SpaceX with the expectation of failure.
And failure did occur. On Aug. 2, 2008, the company’s third consecutive launch wasn’t successful. Rather than giving up, Musk rallied his downtrodden troops, delivering a speech with such “fortitude and ferocity,” according to a former employee, that his entire staff’s collective morale transformed in a matter of moments.
That failure inspired his rejuvenated team to success: Seven weeks later, the company launched the first privately funded rocket to orbit the Earth.
In SpaceX’s case, persistence in the face of failure paid off.
Solve problems. It’s one thing to have an idea you are committed to. It’s another thing to have an idea that other people value similarly.
In order to be successful in business, Musk says, it’s imperative that you focus on creating something that will solve problems for other people.
To do that, though, you don’t necessarily have to let go of your own dreams. Simply try to find an area that overlaps. Musk proves they do exist.
Never be satisfied. Let’s say you’re a musician. You’ve just wrote the best song of your life. You can now choose to simply bask in that accomplishment, or you could decide to challenge yourself to do better.
Musk does the latter. Despite all of his accomplishments, he consistently tries to improve.
“I think it’s very important to have a feedback loop where you’re constantly thinking about what you’ve done and how you could be doing it better,” Musk says. “I think that’s the single best piece of advice: constantly think about how you could be doing things better.”
The lessons Musk teaches us aren’t necessarily profound. Quite the opposite: They’re simple.
Still, we’d be wise to learn from them: Musk is living proof that sometimes common sense, logic and commitment go a long way.