Elon Musk by Ashlee Vance



Elon Musk is perhaps the most inspiring entrepreneur of our time. As one of the co-founders of PayPal, he helped to revolutionize banking. Tesla was the first American car maker to go public since Ford did in 1956. SpaceX is the only private company to successfully launch, orbit, and recover a spacecraft. Although he is still just in his 40s, Elon Musk continues to have a major impact on multiple industries.

10 lessons

Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future

– by Ashlee Vance –

1) Go after what you want

“The man does not take no for an answer. He does what he wants and he is relentless about it. It’s Elon’s world and the rest of us live in it.” – Justine Musk

2) Find the right questions

“Once you figure out the question, then the answer is relatively easy. We should aspire to increase the scope and scale of human consciousness in order to better understand what questions to ask.” – Elon Musk

3) Give people ownership over their work

Where a typical manager may set the deadline for the employee, Musk guides his engineers into taking ownership of their delivery dates. He doesn’t say “You have to do this by Friday at two P.M.”, he says “I need the impossible done by Friday at two P.M., Can you do it?” Then, when you say yes, you are not working hard because he told you to. You’re working hard for yourself. It’s a distinction you can feel. You have signed up to do your own work.

4) Be open to changing your mind

Musk’s style is aggressive, but he will listen to a well-argued, analytical point and often change his mind if given a good enough reason.

5) Stay focused during a crisis

The ability to stay focused in the midst of a crisis stands as one of Musk’s main advantages over other executives and competitors. Most people can’t handle the kind of pressure. Their decisions go bad. Elon gets hyperrational. He’s still able to make very clear, long-term decisions. The harder it gets, the better he gets.

6) Keep your deadlines short

“Generally you do want to have a timeline where, based on everything you know about, the schedule should be X, and you execute towards that, but with the understanding that there will be all sorts of things that you don’t know about that you will encounter that will push the date beyond that. It doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t have tried to aim for that date from the beginning because aiming for something else would have been an arbitrary time increase.” – Elon Musk

7) Go all in with your ideas

Either you’re trying to make something spectacular with no compromises or you’re not. And if you’re not, Musk considers you a failure.

8) Learn to reason by “first principles”

When approaching a new problem, ask yourself: “What are the physics of it? How much time will it take? How much will it cost? How much cheaper can I make it?” There’s this level of engineering and physics that you need to make judgments about what’s possible and interesting.

9) Don’t hold unnecessary grudges

While Elon was away on his honeymoon, the board of PayPal conspired to replace him as the CEO. You would expect someone in his position to be bitter and vindictive, but he wasn’t. Throughout this whole ordeal, he showed incredible restraint. He embraced the role of being an advisor to the company and kept investing in it, increasing his stake as PayPal’s largest shareholder.

10) Never say that something can’t be done

The absolute worst thing you can do is inform Musk that what he’s asking is impossible. Elon will say, “Fine. You’re off the project, and I am now the CEO of the project. I will do your job and be CEO of two companies at the same time. I will deliver it.” And what’s crazy is that Elon actually does it.