I received the email below this morning and it lingered with me… for what inspiration upcoming South African founders may find in the success of those who walked the same streets they are trodding now…
So, thanks Anubhav for your inspiration today!
Elon Musk is now the richest man in the world (or among the richest depending on when are reading this.)
If you have no idea who Elon Musk is, here is an introduction to one of the great wizards in business today.
Elon Musk is an entrepreneur born in South Africa. At a very young age, he decided that he would create businesses in areas that would be of most benefit to humanity in the future. To him, those three areas were the World Wide Web, Clean Source of Energy and Space travel. He has accomplished all the three and made billions many times over in entirely different industries
At the age of 26, he sold his first company Zip2 for 300 million dollars. He then along with a few others, including now billionaire investor Peter Theil, co-founded Paypal which became a wild success.
After selling Paypal for 1.5 billion dollars, where his share was worth hundreds of millions of dollars, most people would want to just sit and relax on the beach for the rest of their life. But Elon Musk was not one of them. Taking huge risks with his money, he invested almost all of it into two new companies he created. One was Tesla Motors which focused on creating innovative cars that ran on clean energy and the second was SpaceX, that started creating rockets to deliver satellites to space with a long term goal of getting humans to Mars. Despite both of those companies almost going bankrupt during the recession, Musk persevered and bounced back.
Today both the companies are worth hundreds of billions of dollars. In 2020, when many others were losing money, Elon Musk raced past all the billionaires and became among the richest men in the world. In Jan 2021, he became THE richest man in the world!
There are other billionaires in this world but what sets Elon apart from them is that he is not just going after only the money, if that was the case he could pick much safer industries. Instead he entered industries that had incredibly high failure rates just because the would be of great benefit to humanity. Elon Musk, at the time of this article being published is still only 49 years old and has a long way to go.
He Works Very Very Hard!
Elon Musk regularly puts in 80 to 100 hours at work every week. Running two mammoth companies is impossible without having that kid of work week. He goes on to say that working harder than others is essential because life is limited and in order to maximize what you can achieve in life, you need to be able achieve in a few months, what others would take more than an year to achieve. That is only possible when you put in the work necessary as well.
At the same time, it is important to remember that hard work isn’t enough, in fact it is the bare minimum. Focusing your hard work in the right direction by working smart as well is what leads to results.
He doesn’t do what everyone else is doing
If you do what everyone else is doing, you may enter a market where people make money, but that means you have to face a lot of cut throat competition in that market just to survive. And a new innovation might wipe it all out in an year. Just like cars wiped out horse carriages.
Elon Musk focuses on getting into industries where there is a lot less competition, but being so innovative that he creates an entirely new market. By the time others enter the industry, he is so far ahead that he creates a virtual monopoly.
He is really passionate about what he does.
Steve Jobs famously said that it is extremely important to follow your passion because if you don’t, things usually get so hard that any rational person would give up. The only thing that sustains you during the time is your passion for what you do.
Elon Musk is no different, the fact is he went to industries that were making no money and became nearly bankrupt while trying to make them profitable. If he did not care so deeply about doing things that benefited humanity or went to industries he didn’t care about at all, he would be inclined to give up a lot sooner. It was only his passion that fueled his commitment to keep going on no matter what.
He is not afraid to take risks
Elon Musk poured much of the money he made from the sale of Zip2 and Paypal into his two new companies that were almost certain to fail. Both of them in fact very nearly did during the recession of 2008 when they were nearly bankrupt. He then poured almost all of his personal savings worth several million dollars just to companies afloat during the tumultuous time and had to borrow from friends just to cover his living expenses. What sort of billionaire needs to do that? Not many for sure.
At the same time, Musk recommends to take major risks when you are younger when you don’t have a family to feed. Once you have a family to feed, it is still important to take risks but the risks need to be calculated.
He actively asks for criticism.
Most of us want to be praised, which is why there is such a big market for sycophants. However, it is only criticism that helps us improve, especially criticism that is grounded in valid facts.
The only way we improve is when we identify the flaws in ourselves or what we create and then work hard to improve them. The only problem is most of us do not want to hear our flaws and most people will not tell you your flaws so one becomes stagnant and stops improving.
Elon always asked his friends for everything negative they had to say about his cars than be happy about them telling him how great they were. He also listened to the customer which is why he kept improving his product at a rate faster than others.
He is the eternal student.
I was recently watching the videos of a man named Tai Lopez who is a popular Youtuber in the self help genre. He credits his knowledge to reading one book every day. Tai Lopez recently meet Elon Musk who happened to have heard about him.
Even though Tai wanted to ask Elon a lot of things, it was him who ended up asking Tai Lopez all the tricks he could use to make his brand more popular on Snapchat. Tai Lopez realized that he ended up teaching Elon a lot more than he shared with him! No wonder he is so successful. True masters are constant learners and are humble enough to seek advice even from people who are not as successful as them!
He creates products that are vastly superior to anything else in the market.
To enter a new industry where there are several established players or to create a new industry all together, you cannot just come up with something that’s good. You need to come up with a product or service that is vastly superior to anything else. If you don’t, people will just stick to the existing brands they are comfortable with. If there is nothing worth talking about, no new industry will be created.
You need to create something that is so awesome that you don’t even need large scale advertising to promote it. The existing customers sell it for you. That’s what Apple’s core base did for the Macs and iPhones and that’s what Musk’s company Tesla’s early customers did for the newer versions of the cars.
He bets big on a few core things instead of diversifying too much
Elon Musk’s philosophy is widely different from the philosophy of most entrepreneurs and investors who invest in or start so many businesses that their focus is diluted so much that they are never really able to reap the benefits from any company.
Elon’s philosophy is similar to that of Andrew Carnegie, the 19th century Steel Magnate and Warren Buffett, the legendary investor. They both said that the surest way to maximum returns was to keep all of one’s eggs in one basket as long one had the patience and the focus to watch that basket carefully. In fact, Warren Buffett goes on to say that diversification is for people is protection against ignorance and is for people who don’t know what they are doing.
While not all of us may have the acumen to predict every trend in our respective industries, excessive diversification does more harm than good because it hampers returns. It is better to be master of a few things than be a jack of many.
He has huge goals others would laugh at
The ultimate ambition of Elon Musk is to have SpaceX colonize Mars. In fact he intends to put the first Man on Mars in ten years
This is a goal most people would laugh at as even a massive cash-rich organization such as NASA has been postponing the target forever.
But here is the key, regardless of whether Musk puts a man on Mars in ten years or he does not, I can guarantee you that his company will have made a lot more progress as compared to if he set far smaller goals or gave himself 40 years to do it.
It is a well-known fact that work expands to fill the time available. The more time you give yourself to do something, the bigger the work becomes because the speed is much slower. We almost always underestimate the time and effort it actually takes to accomplish something big. If you set low realistic goals, you are likely to work less hard and miss even that deadline. On the other hand, if you set huge, laughable goals and back that up with the right effort, even if you miss the goal, you will have achieved a lot more than what you would if you set low targets to begin with.
In simple terms, shoot for the moon, even if you miss you will land amongst the stars!
He keeps pushing on despite insurmountable odds!
Not only did Elon Musk take some huge risks in life at a time everyone would want to play it safe, he has also faced some massive failures.
Entering two new industries was a hugely difficult battle to begin with. To add to this, Tesla and SpaceX nearly went bankrupt in 2008 during the recession and Musk was sure the companies would close down. He put in all his remaining savings to keep the companies afloat and prayed that things would turn around soon. At this time he borrowed from others just to cover his living expenses. In December 2008, just a few days before Tesla would run out of cash, Musk finally was able to secure more external funding and has never able looked back since.
Around the same time SpaceX faced a massive failure when it failed to put a rocket into orbit. Most of the team was disheartened but Elon Musk assured them that as far he was concerned he would never give up and he meant it.
The next launch was a huge success and SpaceX became the first private company to achieve earth orbit.
Success comes from never backing down to failure!
As you know I, Anubhav Srivastava regularly send you informative mails on Sales and improving Business Performance.
Would you be interested in a Performance Improvement program for your people? It will be a perfect start for your team as we kick off the New Year. This can be in areas of Motivation and having a positive mindset, Sales and Negotiation, Goal Setting and Productivity, Leadership and Management, Confidence and Communication etc.
The program can be conducted BOTH Online or In-Person and can be Short term or Long Term depending on your needs.
You may check out the page for my sales program at http://anubhavsrivastava.com/sales for a brief overview of my credentials.
If interested, let me know