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  • Writer's picturePriya Sharma Shaikh

Do you want to be like Elon Musk?

Do you want to be like Elon Musk? Read on to know how!

I don’t need to introduce Elon Musk to all of you but for those who’ve been living under a rock he’s currently the most visible entrepreneur/ CEO on the planet. He’s taken over the mantle from the late Steve Jobs and has a huge following of fan-boys across the globe that latch on to every action and tweet of his. No one, not even Mark Zuckerberg, who at no. 5 on the Forbes list of billionaires is more than thrice as rich as him, enjoy the adulation that Musk does. He’s the uber entrepreneur of our generation, splattered on the cover of every business magazine as he turns science fiction ideas into reality.


It’s but natural that every young business mind wants to emulate him. From the outside it seems glamorous and heady but the kind of work ethic needed to do what Musk (or anyone who’s busy transforming the world) does, is unimaginable. So what does it take to be Musk?

A couple of years back someone asked a similar question on Quora, that gold mine of insights ranging from the profound to the absurd.

How can I be as great as Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Elon Musk or Sir Richard Branson?

Luckily for us, someone who knew Musk extremely well and had seen him at close quarters as he went about building his businesses, decided to reply to the query. It was Justine Musk, his ex-wife. The answer gives a great insight into why Musk is, well, Musk.

I recommend that you read the complete answer here and then read it again and let it sink in. I loved the answer and just wanted to highlight a few points she made.

  • You aren’t born with it, but you might as well be – It’s not written in your genes but they do play a role. And your upbringing counts for a lot. The kind of house you were born in, the circumstances you faced growing up, the pressures you dealt with, all add up to create your personality. Justine says, “These people tend to be freaks and misfits who were forced to experience the world in an unusually challenging way. They develop strategies to survive, and as they grow older they find ways to apply these strategies to other things, and create for themselves a distinct and powerful advantage. They don't think the way other people think. They see things from angles that unlock new ideas and insights. Other people consider them to be somewhat insane.” If you’ve had a cushioned life and have an easy going personality, chances are, you aren’t going to make it like he has as soon as he has. That doesn’t mean you can’t acquire those skills along the way. You can, but you will have to stretch and if you haven’t done much of it growing up, then well, good luck with it. Most of our attitudes to life and work are set by the time we grow out of our teens and it’s difficult changing those once you are an adult. That also doesn’t mean that you can’t succeed. What matters is how you define success. Like she says in her answer, and that doesn’t require you to be a freak like Musk. There’s still hope for lesser mortals like us.

  • Be obsessed – This one’s fairly clear, isn’t it? Being obsessed with something turns work into play and prevents it from becoming a job. It cannot just be about money, it has to be about something beyond it. An end goal or a vision needs to drive you. Only then can you forget everything, and I mean EVERYTHING – friends, family, parties, vacations, sleep – to achieve the spectacular. There’s only one life with only so many hours in it and changing the world needs all of you, all the time. It’s either an all consuming passion or nothing. There’s no ‘middle-path’ to achieving this.

Justine says, “If the work itself doesn't drive you, you will burn out or fall by the wayside or your extreme competitors will crush you and make you cry.”

  • Don’t follow anyone – Not even Musk. If you aim to achieve the kind of transformative impact that those like Musk are after, you can’t achieve it by following others. You just have to go at your obsessions like a maniac, unconcerned about what the world thinks or believes, and keep knocking at it. That doesn’t mean you don’t listen to anyone else, it just means you follow your intuition and bet on yourself. It helps if you are unconventional, but don’t try to fake it if you are not.

You are who you are and fooling yourself into believing something you are not, is risky. Don’t do it.

  • Never fail – As Guy Kawasaki says, “The opposite of success is not failure. It’s learning. As long as you’re learning, you’re not failing“. If everything you do is an experiment then every result is a lesson learnt. All too often we link outcomes to our self-esteem and when results don’t go in our favour, we take it to heart. I am not saying ‘don’t get hurt’ but get over it and move on. Analyse what you’ve achieved and build on it. Fair better next time. The more things you don't do well at the better your chances of succeeding.

Having someone like Musk as a benchmark is a great way of motivating yourself to achieving better and higher goals. But it’s important not to take the wrong lessons from him.

What works for Musk will most likely, not work for you. Learn from him but don’t imitate him.

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