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How Elon Musk Made Himself The Tech Tycoon He Is Today

Choosing yourself means taking risk, means not being afraid what people think, or your chances of success or failure.

It means doing what you want and hopefully helping the world along the way. Because when you help others, that’s how you get paid in a choose yourself world.

Elon Musk is inspirational to many people, including me.

Inspiration is somewhat of a risk: it takes you outside the world you once knew and introduces you to a new thought, person, idea, or something totally unexpected.

I want to find Elon Musk’s most inspirational quotes. The ones that might give clues to how each inspiration leads to the next. The ticking of the clock.

Here’s his quotes that most stuck with me.

1. “If something is important enough, even if the odds are against you, you should still do it.”

I often get stuck: what if something really is impossible?

But Elon Musk then takes it to the next level always: “let’s go to Mars”.

Or “let’s make a billion dollar battery factory.” So at the very least it’s always worth exploring the delicious curvature of the impossible.

2. “Going from PayPal, I thought: ‘Well, what are some of the other problems that are likely to most affect the future of humanity?’ Not from the perspective, ‘What’s the best way to make money?”

I’ve interviewed over 100 people now on my podcast. Each of the 100 have achieved amazing results in their life.

That’s a subjective opinion. “Amazing” to me.

But none of them have done if for the money. I was talking to Coolio, for instance, who had the best selling song of 1995.

He started writing lyrics every day in 1977. It took him 17 years to have a single hit.

“Never do something for the money,” Coolio told me. “Or the girls”, he added.

3. “(Physics is) a good framework for thinking. … Boil things down to their fundamental truths and reason up from there.”

My guess is he is not referring specifically to the science and theories of physics but the act of visualizing something, coming up with an idea or a theory of why it might be true, and then figuring out how to prove that theory.

To me, thats what physics is. Since the rules are constantly changing, which is another fascinating aspect of physics.

Visualize a possible universe. Prove that it can happen.

4. “The first step is to establish that something is possible; then probability will occur.”

I wonder about this. What’s impossible? Maybe a time machine is too hard to figure out.

But to make an electric car you can imagine first a hybrid car that has a trunk filled with very efficient batteries so you don’t ever need the gas part.

Then it becomes a function of probabilities versus possibilities.

5. “It’s OK to have your eggs in one basket as long as you control what happens to that basket.”

Many people think entrepreneurship is about risk. In fact, it’s the opposite.

Good entrepreneurs don’t learn by failure (the popular “failure porn” all over the Internet).

Good entrepreneurs learn by solving difficult problems.

Elon Musk controlled his outcome with X.com not by destroying the competitor but by merging with it (paypal).

6. “Persistence is very important. You should not give up unless you are forced to give up.”

I always think this is the magic equation:

persistence + love = abundance.

You have to love something enough to persist. You have to persist enough to deepen your love.

This is true for a career. True for a relationship. But only true for YOU and not what someone tells you to do.

And then abundance is the natural outcome. Not just for you but for everyone. Since wealth comes to those who create wealth for others.

7. “You want to have a future where you’re expecting things to be better, not one where you’re expecting things to be worse.”

This is incredibly important. News reporters have zero qualifications to inform people and yet they are all doom and gloom to sell subscriptions.

But people who choose themselves…first imagine a better world and how to make the leap to get there.

8. “It is a mistake to hire huge numbers of people to get a complicated job done. Numbers will never compensate for talent in getting the right answer (two people who don’t know something are no better than one), will tend to slow down progress, and will make the task incredibly expensive.”

When I was running a software company, we always knew it would take one great programmer to solve a hard problem in one night versus 10 mediocre programmers taking a month to screw up a problem even worse.

Ultimately, if you want to make a TV show, don’t rely on the gatekeepers.

Take a camera. Make a youtube video. Make 100 youtube videos. Now you have a show. All by yourself.

9. “If you go back a few hundred years, what we take for granted today would seem like magic – being able to talk to people over long distances, to transmit images, flying, accessing vast amounts of data like an oracle. These are all things that would have been considered magic a few hundred years ago.”

And now imagine what it will be like 300 years from now when people look back at today. “They had to actually ‘connect’ to an Internet then!” or “It took them 7 hours to get from NY to CA!”

10. “My biggest mistake is probably weighing too much on someone’s talent and not someone’s personality. I think it matters whether someone has a good heart.”

I recently watched a company go from a billion in revenues to zero when a founder stole $90 million from the company.

Integrity, humility, and doing your best is by far the most important consideration when evaluating whether to work for someone.

In order to choose yourself, you have to make sure you have completely surrounded yourself with others willing to take the same leaps. Else you will all fall into the ravine you are leaping over.

12. “When I was in college, I wanted to be involved in things that would change the world. Now I am.”

I always wonder about the phrase “change the world”. Can one person change another.

Perhaps the most valuable starting point is to do everything I can to change myself each day: to be physically healthier, to be around emotionally healthy people ,to be create, to be grateful.

To try and improve in these areas 1% a day.

Then maybe I can have a head start on changing the world.

13. “I think it’s very important to have a feedback loop, where you’re constantly thinking about what you’ve done and how you could be doing it better. I think that’s the single best piece of advice: constantly think about how you could be doing things better and questioning yourself.”

I’m invested in about 30 companies. The companies that fail are when CEOs smoke their own crack.

Technology, competition, customers are constantly changing. But we have a cognitive bias to think that the activity we have invested the most time in is, of course, a GREAT activity.

What could be wrong with it?

So it’s important to constantly question this evolution-based cognitive bias with constant questioning as if one were an outsider looking in. Without that, businesses fail.

And if you have trouble taking your own feedback, find someone you trust. Find an accountability partner. Ask: am I choosing myself?

And when you find one…find a group. Have a meetup of like-minded people. Together, is how we individually choose ourselves.

14. “I wouldn’t say I have a lack of fear. In fact, I’d like my fear emotion to be less because it’s very distracting and fries my nervous system.”

A small level of fear is motivational. It forces me to have a backup plan. The average multimillionaire supposedly has seven sources of income. They all have backup plans.

Even Elon Musk has Tesla, SpaceX, SolarCity, and probably a dozen other companies he’s peripherally involved in.

Any endeavor I do, I always ask two questions: “What is my plan B?” and “What is my evil plan?” Meaning what do I hope to learn from this that nobody else expects

15. “Life is too short for long-term grudges.”

I always think that I’m the average of the five people I spend the most time with.

So this quote is important to me. Don’t spend time with people who can even incite a grudge. I try to spend time with the people I love and who love me.

Even when something bad happens, rather than blame, I try to think about what I learned. I don’t want to make the same mistake again.

It takes practice. I am very trusting. But I hope to learn a little each day.

16. “Don’t be afraid of new arenas.”

Again, inspiration is a risk. It means stepping out of the comfort zone where you’ve never been before.

I try as an exercise to figure out at least one thing a day to do that is outside my comfort zone.

The other day I went up to people and asked them if I could buy a $1 bill with a $2 bill. Interestingly, everybody who was white avoided me. I was a lunatic. But everyone else took my $2 bill in exchange for a $1 bill.

You never know what you find when you experiment. But it’s always fun and scary and good practice for getting out of the comfort zone.

17. “I think it is possible for ordinary people to choose to be extraordinary.”

I thought about this when I read it. I think it’s ok for “ordinary” people to be ordinary also. Ordinary is beautiful.

But I think every day it’s worth trying to be a little better (1%, an amount so small it can’t be measured) in physical health, emotional health, creativity, and gratitude.

Maybe that is a path to extraordinary as that 1% compounds. But I don’t want the pressure of “future extraordinary”. I just want to be a little better today

18. “I could either watch it happen or be a part of it.”

Sometimes people say to me, “I missed the boat” or “I am too late”. I think it’s never too late to do what you love.

What you love is always on the shore, waiting for you to arrive, waiting with open arms.

19. “Being an Entrepreneur is like eating glass and staring into the abyss of death”

People say to me, “I hate my cubicle. I want to be an entrepreneur.”

Entrepeneurship is a disaster. 85% of entrepreneurs fail and failure is not fun at all. Not to mention you have to deal with customers, employees, investors – they are all your bosses and not the other way around.

Then you have to sell, you have to execute, you have to build, you have to exit, you have to grow.

I like Elon Musks’s approach of having many things to work on. Many Plan Bs. So any one entrepreneurial endeavor doesn’t take up all the mind space.

One secret, though, to beat that 85%. If you start off with a profitably customer, the odds of failure go from 85% to less than 20%.

20. “I would like to die on Mars. Just not on impact.”

I highly recomend Andy Weir’s book, “The Martian”. He self-published it. Then it got picked up by a major publisher. Now Ridley Scott doing the movie.

Discusses this very topic.

21. On his favorite book when he was a teen, “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”: It taught me that the tough thing is figuring out what questions to ask, but that once you do that, the rest is really easy.”

Here’s my favorite part of Hitchher’s Guide to the Galaxy: the idea that all you really need from a materialistic perspective is a towel.

Then the Universe sort of takes care of things after that. Hygiene is key

22. “I just want to retire before I go senile because if I don’t retire before I go senile, then I’ll do more damage than good at that point.”

The two most critical years in terms of dying are the year you are born and the year you retire.

So I doubt Elon Musk will ever retire.


Choosing yourself is not about launching a rocket to Mars. Or making a billion.

Or even creating peace in the world.

It’s about not letting anyone tell you you can’t.

It’s about maneuvering around “can’t”, no matter what the risk.

It’s about having a backup plan.

It’s about health, to prepare you for the war against skeptics.

It’s scary and exhilarating, and requires you to take action, and requires you to persist.

But it’s worth it. Because nobody knows better than you what will set your life on fire and what will lift it into space and beyond.

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