What I’ve Learned From Watching Elon

gauge measuring volts

Elon Musk is one of the few people walking the face of the earth that can simply be referred to by their first name. Like most public figures, opinions about Elon Musk, and his companies, range the spectrum. The point of this post is not to expound on these opinions, but rather to learn from the man himself. I believe that leaders should learn from other leaders and Elon is without question someone others follow. 

In many ways, I see the world much differently than Elon Musk. That said, what he has accomplished is extraordinary. My respect for his leadership style is tied to three characteristics that all leaders should emulate. 

Elon’s most striking characteristic is his vision. Tesla aims to solve climate change by breaking the human addiction to gas-powered automobiles. SpaceX aims to help humans inhabit Mars as a backup plan to earth. Both visions literally are out of this world. 

Many of the weekly readers of this blog are in Director-level, or higher, positions in their respective companies. The question these people, and myself, have to ask is whether the vision of our company is big enough? Does it inspire those that we lead to shoot for the stars? 

Like Elon, as leaders we need to take accountability on vision casting. We need to learn from people like him, develop a vision, and cast it to our team members.   

Secondly, Elon has unmatched tenacity. As I have studied him, he was present when his engineers were troubleshooting Falcon Rockets at 3 a.m., he stayed the course after his first three SpaceX launches literally blew up and failed, and he risked his entire fortune on both Tesla and SpaceX. This is what “all-in” looks like. 

I have come to discover that phrases like “all in” are ones that most people agree with. For example, I would imagine there is not one professional football player (NFL) that would admit to not being “all-in.” Yet, some work harder, last longer, and do the extra work. This is what I mean by tenacity. 

Before going to bed tonight, ask yourself if you are all-in? If not, either course correct or find something that you can be all-in on. 

Life is too short to live a dispassionate life. 

Finally, Elon persevered. Some mistake perseverance for tenacity, but it is different. As I mentioned above, tenacity is being entirely all-in. Perseverance is getting off the mat after you have been knocked out for the third time in a row. It is the ability to overcome the voices around, and inside, and still keep going. 

Elon Musk failed, failed, failed, and then succeeded. His grandiose success blurs our vision to all his failures, but they could have easily derailed him. SpaceX, and Tesla, could have easily fizzled away.  

At one point around 2008, when SpaceX was zero for three in launch attempts and running out of cash, Elon had about 30 million left in cash reserves. His advisors, and family, implored him to kill either Tesla or SpaceX, so that he would not lose the entirety of his fortune. 

Full stop. 

What would you do with 30 million? 

I cannot answer that question for you, but I can for me. 

Without a compelling vision, I would not have the tenacity to persevere. Nor, would I have the tenacity to risk my (much, much, much, less) net worth! But, Elon had a compelling vision. Thus, he had the tenacity to persevere. He risked the 30 million and he eventually succeeded. He could have put his feet up, and lived the supposedly “easy” life. But, instead he did something he believed in, risked everything, and persevered until it became a reality. This is why I respect Elon Musk. 

Our vision might not be for the stars, but let it be something worth being tenacious about and let us be the kind of people that keep going after it no matter the risk or the setbacks.