What We Can Learn from Elon Musk

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When it comes to the vision, mind, and innovative spirit of Elon Musk, we cannot help but stand in awe of the possibilities that he has created for the world. The South African-born Canadian-American business and engineering entrepreneur routinely exceeds the expectations placed on him, and raises the standards for others in his respective fields. Musk’s vision behind the possible colonization of Mars, his role as a driving force with Tesla Motors and his revelations on renewable energy sources have transformed the public’s perception of the near future. Through each venture, Elon Musk seems to harness a heady goal into a tangible objective or plan of action – that will ultimately better the global community.

“I think it is possible for ordinary people to choose to be extraordinary.”

During his adolescent years, Elon Musk always showed a propensity for making the impossible dream a reality. At the age of 10, he became obsessed with computers and eventually taught himself how to program. By age 12, he sold his code for a BASIC-based video game called Blastar to a magazine for approximately $500.00 USD. At age 19, Musk continued his studies at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, only to transfer to the University of Pennsylvania.  While at the University of Pennsylvania, Musk would eventually earn two bachelor’s degrees; a Bachelors of Science degree in physics and a second in economics. While he decided to further his studies at Stanford University with a PhD in applied physics, Musk’s ambitions and aspirations for entrepreneurship in areas of the Internet, renewable energy, and space eventually forced him to leave his program and begin his journey to the man he is today.

The Big Break

With only $28,000 dollars loaned by their father Musk and his brother launched Zip2, a web software company in 1995. The company developed and marketed a city guide for the newspaper publishing industry. After the immediate success from Zip2, Musk used the money to co-found and establish his new venture, X.com. X.com, now commonly known as PayPal, is an online financial service and e-mail payment company. For many people during that time, the idea of transferring funds was unheard of, especially for everyday purchases. The growth was driven by a viral marketing campaign and was eventually renamed and sold to eBay for $1.5 billion in stock, leaving Musk $165 million dollars for a buyout. Even with this financial success, Musk’s interests in space and technology pushed him to forego early retirement and dive into the unexplored world of Mars.

“If something is important enough you should try, even if the probable outcome is failure.”

Mars, the Red Mystery

Driven by the desire and fascination of space, Musk founded SpaceX in 2002. Even though the idea to colonize on Mars had been discussed for decades, the resources, manpower and overall endeavors of his predecessors were always obstructed by the financial burden. For Musk, the cost was not seen as a financial risk, but as a necessity to reach a critical point that would one day change the course of human history. Thus began his work of revolutionizing space transportation equipment. After a holistic view of the materials, production cost and assembly methods with aerospace industry and years of engineering and manpower, SpaceX was successfully able to launch its first rocket in 2008. Since then, SpaceX has tested various ways to create reusable rockets and has also partnered with NASA for transporting astronauts to the ISS.

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The Road to the Future

While Mars was in itself a mission for Musk, creating a fully functional electric car was also on his agenda. Martin Ederhard and Marc Tarpenning incorporated Tesla Motors in July of 2003. Musk led the Series A round of investments in 2004 and took active roles within the company during the production and design of the Roadster. During the 2008 financial crisis, Musk decided to assume leadership of Tesla as CEO and product architect. Because of this decision, Tesla Motors was able to build its first electric sports car, the Tesla Roadster. Like Steve Jobs and the first generation Macintosh computer, Musk wasn’t done. He saw the Roadster as the key to unlocking new and innovative ideas that, today, have changed the design and functionality for cars for the future.

Oil and Gas, Uncharted Territory

With Musk already knocking on the door of renewable energy through his electrical cars, it seems like his work is not yet done. Since the early 2000s, oil companies in the United States have invested a large amount of money on wind, solar, and biofuel technologies. With Musk’s new ventures; SolarCity and Hyperloop already making great strides with the public, it will only be a matter of time before we see the new wave for standard transportation and energy. For SolarCity, the mission is to accelerate a mass adoption of sustainable energy. Musk’s work and focus on solar panel energy will eventually produce the necessary resources for the entire human civilization. While it is still in its development phase, one thing we can note for sure is that whatever the end result is, we will definitely see a significant impact on our lives.

Lessons to Learn from Elon

Whatever skeptics have said it cannot be done, Elon Musk has gone out and made the fantasy into a reality. His ideas, drive, and mentality for innovation and business still goes beyond the status quo of a CEO within the private and tech sector of the world. For any leader, you cannot dream yourself a character; you must hammer and forge yourself into one. As a CEO of a security company and mentor to my community, strong culture relies on a single vision, a single belief. Once that belief is intact, it will take a nation of millions to hold us back from our goals. Similar to Elon, our goals should not be just about financial gain, but rather the betterment of our future. It is like what Elon has said, “some people do not like change, but you need to embrace change if the alternative is a disaster.” For every business leader out there, we hold the keys for success. We can change the world.

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