Like so many earth-shaking industrialists, Elon Musk’s life has been as controversial as it has been consequential. But when you’re the richest person in the world with a net worth of $244.4 billion, people talk when you listen.
Keith Donovan, startup advisor and founder of Startup Stumbles, said “Elon Musk shares insights that ring true for many, weaving together ideas about value, tenacity, and constant self-growth. While his guidance might be illuminating for many, it’s essential to remember that everyone’s journey to success is as unique as their fingerprint.”
While you might never become a billionaire by heeding Musk’s advice, his wisdom could make you a stronger leader, a bolder entrepreneur and a better wealth builder.
Be Useful to Your Fellow Human Beings
Musk built his personal and corporate brand on the concept of bettering the human race — namely, space exploration and emissions-free vehicles. On a 2021 episode of the Lex Fridman Podcast, Musk told the computer scientist, “Do things that are useful to your fellow human beings, to the world. It’s hard to be useful. Very hard.”
Finn Wheatley, lead writer at The Small Business Blog, executive coach, former risk manager and investment analyst said “‘Be useful’ isn’t just about providing a service or product. It’s about filling a gap, a void in society that needs to be addressed. When I was steering my consultancy, one of my driving principles was identifying the uncharted territories in data science, especially for small businesses. The thought wasn’t solely on profits but on the potential impact. That’s why I resonate with Musk’s sentiment about striving to have a positive impact, and the money will inevitably follow.”
Grow the Pie Instead of Taking Pieces From Other People
In the Fridman interview, Musk shed new light on the mindset of hustling for your piece of the pie. “Some very smart people have taken an attitude of doing things that seemed morally questionable,” he told the interviewer. “It’s often because they have at a base axiomatic level a zero-sum mindset without realizing it… If you have a zero-sum mindset, then the only way to get ahead is by taking things from others. If the pie is fixed, then the only way to have more pie is to take someone else’s pie. But this is false…It’s much better to work on adding to the economic pie. Like I said, creating more than you consume.”
Wheatley thinks the “growing the pie” concept is the essence of success in business. “It’s easy to get caught in the rat race, trying to seize opportunities from others,” he said. “But my experience, particularly during my days as an investment analyst, taught me that the market isn’t zero-sum. Rather than vying for a slice of the existing pie, why not bake a bigger one? Share it with others, collaborate, and create opportunities that weren’t there before. By focusing on value creation, the rewards, both monetary and personal, follow.”
Become a Voracious Reader
Like Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Mark Cuban and countless other successful people, Elon Musk thinks reading is part of the foundation for success.
He said in the Fridman interview: “I would encourage people to read a lot of books. Try to ingest as much information as you can and try to also develop a good general knowledge so you at least have a rough lay of the land of the knowledge landscape.”
Donovan agrees: “Just as a cup of coffee can kickstart our mornings, diving into a good book opens up our minds stimulates creativity and helps in making informed decisions,” he said. “While there’s a whole universe of ways to gain knowledge reading is a timeless classic.”
Reading and Personal Growth
There’s no doubt reading can spur personal growth, but can it also lead to financial success? According to Wheatley, the answer is yes. “It’s through books that I stumbled upon a novel strategy or a different perspective, often changing my course for the better,” said Wheatley. “It was during a deep dive into a book on behavioral economics that I realized how human behavior and money flow are deeply intertwined. Understanding this made me a better businessman and a more compassionate leader.”
Work Hard and Be Persistent
Elon Musk, who is famous for his grueling schedule, is on the record as saying he works 80-100 hours per week. He once tweeted, “… nobody ever changed the world on 40 hours a week.” But Musk doesn’t just work hard. He works through deflating disappointments.
Make Your Money Work Better for You
Musk’s first three Falcon 1 rocket launches with SpaceX were failures, and he’s watched many other rockets crash, burn, run out of propellant or otherwise fall back to earth in catastrophic fashion. But like Jeff Bezos, Thomas Edison, Steve Jobs and all great innovators, he kept pushing forward.
“The landscape of business is littered with tales of failures, mine included,” said Wheatley. “It’s in those valleys of despair that true learning happens. Musk’s emphasis on embracing failure isn’t about celebrating mistakes but understanding that they’re often the stepping stones to monumental success.”