In light of recent events such as the Tesla Model S receiving the highest owner-satisfaction score consumer reports have seen in years, to the latest news of the hyperloop, I found it fitting to explore the man who is challenging all of us to rethink what’s possible.
Often referred to as the modern day Iron Man; the movie Iron Man was in many ways inspired by the present day persona of Elon Musk. Musk has challenged every standard for what many would deem “normal.”
Every era has a visionary, someone who truly captures to every dimension, the essence of Steve Jobs’s words: “Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They are not fond of rules and they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may seem them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.” – Steve Jobs
As we all know in August, Elon had revealed his next ambitious project, the hyperloop. The hyperloop is the solar-powered high-speed future of city to city transportation.
In Musk’s vision, the hyperloop would transport people via aluminum pods enclosed inside of steel tubes. He describes the design as looking like a shotgun with the tubes running side by side for most of the journey, and closing the loop at either end. These tubes would be mounted on columns 50 to 100 yards apart, and the pods inside would travel up to 800 miles per hour.
At the time, he made it clear that given his heavy responsibilities for his companies SpaceX and Tesla, he wouldn’t have the time to contribute towards building the hyperloop and therefore published his designs to encourage the public to build it. But recently, Musk spoke at Business Insider’s IGNITION conference and delivered some different details.
Elon publicly announces that if no one else builds it, that he would. This seems to be a recurring theme in his life: the mindset that if no one else dared to do what most deemed impossible, that he would accomplish it.
Looking back at his past, the bold entrepreneur and founder of Paypal, SolarCity, Tesla Motors, and SpaceX has always dared to dream big and accomplish the impossible. Time and time again, he has succeeded. So what is it? What allows him to dream so big? How can you emulate elements of what makes him successful into your own life to release the “Tony Stark”/Elon Musk within you?
Read below to find out.
He read a lot as a child
Musk was an obsessive reader. Maye Musk, Elon’s model-nutritionist mother, in interviews would mention how as a child Elon often played by himself, mostly reading books or working on solitary games. “If I was walking down the street with the children and he disappeared, it was always because he ducked into a book store to go read,” she says. At his house in Bel Air, Musk has an entire white-paneled library filled with books about art, space, photography, design, history, current events, and space. He is omnivorous in his appetite for words, and he is better off for it. His reading allowed him to consume knowledge unlike most individuals. This shows in his endeavors. Elon never possessed a background in Aeronautical engineering, yet he’s the founder of SpaceX. He is single-handedly shouldering up the responsibility to propel the human race forward in space exploration and Mars. When people ask him how he learned aeronautical engineering, he would reply, “I read a lot of books.”
We live in a world where the access to information is so easy. Leverage it and allow your intellectual curiosity drive you to learn.
He’s got international perspective
Born in South Africa, Musk worked on a farm in Canada before attending university in Pennsylvania and California. He travels extensively for work and pleasure (islands, road trips) which puts him in touch with people from different backgrounds, people with different perspectives and values in life. Confronting and exploring new people, places, ideas and things helps stimulate new thoughts and perspectives. The key takeaway here is to take advantage of every opportunity to travel. You will always learn so much more than you bargained for.
He has children
One thing I hear repeatedly is that once people have kids, their whole perspective on sustainability and quality of life changes. Musk has five sons from his first marriage with Justine Musk, and he has often referred to future generations as the reason why humans must move toward colonizing mars. “I want my children to grow up with a future where space travel and exploration is a reality rather than a myth. A future with space travel in it is more exciting than one without it,” Musk says. You should have seen the excitement on his face as he explained that the backward-facing rear seat in the Tesla Model S was the coveted position among his kids and their friends.
He studies history
Throughout his interviews in regards to the hyperloop, Musk references Nicola Tesla “back in the day,” and he has tweeted about such historical figures as Catherine the Great and Henry Fielding. Those who know and understand history can affect the future. You learn what inspirational figures had done in the time and society they lived in. You learn what opportunities they had relative to the problems that were going on, by leveraging whatever resources they had at their disposal. For those who are familiar with history, they would recognize that history tends to repeat itself. Understanding and recognizing the patterns and framework of the past can help us in the present in future and learn from civilizations’ past failures and successes.
He’s pop culture savvy
Musk is not a wealth enhanced nerd sheltered away from reality. He’s acclimated into pop culture. The guy listens to everyone from Adele to Robbie Williams. He likes to watch movies. He goes to clubs (where he famously met his second wife, British actress Talulah Riley). He knows how to have fun and meet people. He plays video games. These are good, healthy, and fun outlets for relaxation and potential sources of inspiration (his idea for SpaceX came from his obsession with comics back when he was a child, for instance). It’s also important to keep up with the new trends and thoughts of younger generations to avoid becoming a dinosaur in this digital age.
He has a sense of humor
He has been known to wear ridiculous outfits to parties, such as an afro and leisure suit. He tweets bawdy anecdotes and funny kids’ jokes. He watches Stephen Colbert. He placed an enormous block of cheese in the dragon rocket he sent to space (supposedly an inside joke). He likes Henry Fielding partly because “He had the most excellent pen name of Captain Hercules Vinegar.” At the end of the day, people want to associate themselves with people they enjoy being around. Whether that means grabbing a few cold ones at happy hour or building a rocket to ship people to Mars, being funny always lightens the mood a bit to facilitate a more fun atmosphere.
He’s an effective communicator
One sign of intelligence is when an individual is able to communicate complex ideas in simple terms. To be able to describe, for instance, the technology and physics behind a jet-quick tube train in a 57-page report that the average reader can easily digest and (even better) find interesting. He’s done this time and time again. For many intellectual and engineering types, impatience hinders their ability to communicate their thoughts to others who “don’t get it.” But Musk always leverages patience when dealing with others and has the understanding that the way he communicates his thoughts to the world is important. For the more people who understand his vision, the more support he will generate, and the more people end up rooting for him and his ambitious projects.
Elon Musk has served as a great inspiration to me… Reading and keeping up with him has definitely helped fuel the burning fire of passion I have for startups and solving the problems that exist in our world.
Here’s to Elon Musk, the visionary of our time.
Image credit: CC by pestoverde