Elon Must

Lessons we can learn from Elon Musk

Elon Musk is nothing short of a titan of industry. With nine companies under his belt and notable relevance in popular culture, Musk is one of South Africa’s proudest sons. Recently, Elon Musk joined the exclusive club of centibillionaires. The strange term means that Musk is worth more than $100 billion. If you were wondering, there are only eight centibillionaires in the world, including Jeff Bezos and Warren Buffett.

With 22 years of founding, funding, developing and selling behind his name, Elon Musk is a visionary worth learning from. Below we explore some of the most important lessons that Musk has inadvertently taught young people everywhere. Therein lies the first lesson; You can’t do everything yourself. Spin the online roulette wheel of brilliant minds and their contributions to society, and learn from their hits and misses.

Lesson #1 – What’s the big idea?

The secret of successful innovation is to create more than just a product. You need to create a new way of achieving a societally relevant goal. If you consider PayPal one of Elon’s creations, it didn’t just provide a financial service as a bank does. It changed the financial industry by becoming an internationally used platform for transferring funds internally and externally of a country’s jurisdiction.

The operative word here is changed. Your idea needs to change the way people do things or think about things. Create a way of life, not just a product or a brand.

Lesson #2 – Criticism can be constructive

While most people have shied away from criticism, Elon Musk has always embraced and welcomed it. There is much to be learned from your failures if you’re willing to keep an open mind and see the criticism as an opportunity to do better.

When Elon developed Tesla’s first electric vehicle, he encouraged the automotive engineers to provide constructive criticism. Instead of asking them to praise the design and focus on the positives, he outright asked them what the design’s flaws were. This way, he could tackle problems and develop a better vehicle.

Lesson #3 – Don’t just plan for sunny days

Failure is going to happen. It’s irrational to believe that nothing will go awry with the development, distribution or public reception of your product or innovation. Elon Musk dedicated $100 million to the launch of SpaceX. He went into the project intending to shut everything down if the launch cost a cent more than his budget.

The first two launches cost Musk $90 million. He was close to the limit of his budget but managed to get the third launch to be a success with just $10 million. Instead of sinking billions into an innovation convinced that the next test run would be the one, he stuck to his budget.

Final Word

Elon Musk has had countless successes and failures while becoming a centibillionaire and titan of industry. There are thus myriad lessons that you can learn from him. Applying his work ethic, attention to detail, and commitment to your ideas and innovations can be the difference between a small company and a worldwide empire. Don’t let your big ideas scare you, prepare for failure while planning for success and encourage constructive criticism.

Photograph by Tumisu / SpaceX

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