Lessons from Elon
Elon Musk has become a household name and will be one of the profound innovators of our time. From being co-founder of PayPal, founder of Tesla, and the founder of SpaceX, his ideas and passion are making a significant effect. I recently read an article on some of the character traits which have helped him along his journey. I encourage each of us to think how we can apply some of these traits to our own day to day lives:
Elon left South Africa to attend college in Canada at Queen's University. At Queen's is where Elon met his first wife, Justine, who shared this story: “He would call very insistently,” Justine Musk, Elon’s first wife about dating Musk in college. “You always knew it was Elon because the phone would never stop ringing. The man does not take no for an answer. You can’t blow him off. I do think of him as the Terminator. He locks his gaze on to something and says, ‘it shall be mine.’”
Justine also said Musk would compare his grades with hers. She and Musk took the same abnormal psychology class, and after an exam, Justine received a 97, Musk a 98. “He went back to the professor, and talked his way into the two points he lost and got a hundred,” Justine said in the book. “It felt like we were always competing.”
There are stories that in the beginning of Tesla, Musk would sleep under his desk and work 75-hour weeks until a particular problem was solved. He didn’t think about anything else, eliminated all distractions, and focused on was the task at hand. Musk's college roommate has made similar comments that when strategy video game Civilization was released in 1991, the two spent hours playing together. “Elon could lose himself for hours on end,” his roommate said.
This focus has allowed Musk to perfect the art of getting into flow - the mental state in which a person performing some activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement and enjoyment in the process of the activity. This flow state is only achieved when the person can perform undistracted by other, less-significant tasks.
Another factor that helps Musk get into and remain in the flow state has to do with the quality of work he’s doing, and his fuel is his passion. He loves what he’s doing because he does what he loves. His passion for his work is so intense that it fuels late-night shifts, motivates 80-hour work weeks, and revolutionary ideas and results.
If we can find passion in the work we’re doing, work stops feeling like work. It turns into a mission or game, and we find ourselves enjoying what we’re doing. Eighty-hour work weeks don’t feel like work weeks because our passion is fueling us.
Think big by thinking small
Many of Musk’s grand ideas come from small questions. The initial question is always small, then the answers grow progressively bigger. He then takes each answer to the question and attempts to flesh it out in the best possible way.
So find a small idea. Give the obvious answers, then put your spin on those answers and pursue them with tenacity. Big ideas always come from small thinking. I encourage each of us to intentionally apply some of these traits to our own lives this week. We might not put someone in space this week, but the impact each of us has been put here to make is capable to make a similar splash if we can maximize our potential. Have a great week! Elon in his 'Civilization' playing days...