July 11, 2016

Book Reflection: Elon Musk by Ashlee Vance

I must admit, I enjoyed reading this book. A lot. A lot more than I actually expected. Elon Musk may not be the traditional business success story, but I guess that is what makes this such a compelling read.

Elon Musk by Ashlee Vance
Some of the things I picked up from this book:

Don't be afraid to bet on yourself. Musk is stubborn and unreasonable but he put his money where is mouth is. He bet his entire fortune on himself and he delivered, for himself and for the people who took a bet on him. Many people, myself included, are risk averse and will stick to a given path instead of venturing out and trying to build something big. You think you're talented and have a great idea that will change the world? Work hard, learn more about it than anyone else, and then take a leap.

Don't be afraid to dream big. Not everyone will be as lucky or as talented as Musk but it doesn't mean that we all can't aspire to change the world. Musk dared to be different. Instead of just trying to make more money, he created companies with long-term visions that would change the world. I mean, interplanetary travel. Man, doesn't every little boy dream of doing this as a kid. Musk wants to make this a reality, not for money, but to save all mankind.

Don't be afraid to work with and hire people smarter than you. Musk is a genius. And yet he continued to surround himself with the very best people in the respective fields he entered. People who were smarter than him. He might not have gotten along with them all the time, but he sure as hell learned a lot and benefited from them. He got these smart people to buy into his grand visions, and he got them to work twice as hard for twice as long than they would have had they worked for anyone else. Musk was far from nice, but he found people who wanted to be challenged and then he challenged them again and again and again. 

You don't have to have a business background to make money. Musk would consider himself an engineer first and a businessman second. I think this is the ideal background to have for those who aspire to become entrepreneurs in the future. Learn about the sciences first and then learn about business models afterwards. It used to all be about finance, business school, etc. But really, if you are firmly grounded with good knowledge in physics, chemistry, engineering, it is then you can start to see the gaps in our world that can possibly be filled with a great business idea.

The story of Musk continues to be written up until this very day. Just the other week, news came out that Tesla put an offer to purchase Solar City, in effect merging two of the three companies he currently controls (the 3rd company being SpaceX in case you are wondering). He has spun a great story about how this is all part of the plan and who are we to say it isn't? I mean, given a chance, I would not bet against this man. In all likelihood, he probably saw this as a good time to merge both companies while at the same time making sure all the short sellers who bet against him lost some money.

We will not know for another 20 or 30 years if any of the grand plans for space travel and renewable energy becoming the dominant power source will become reality. For now we can all watch with awe as this man pushes the boundaries that many thought could no longer be pushed. And we can all learn from his story, so that we may one day write our own story of how we changed the world.