Elon Musk is a man of the future. Born in South Africa, he’s an inventor, entrepreneur, investor, and visionary—now a hugely successful businessman and leader. You’d hardly think to look at him that he was bullied in school, a product of divorce, and raised thousands of miles away from centers of global commerce.
His computer skills and interests, however, took him to college in Canada, and then towards the founding of a software company called Zip2 with his brother Kimbal. Musk used the profits from that sale to co-found X.com, which, together with Confinity, would later become PayPal.
Since then, he’s founded SpaceX to advance rocket technology for future space travel. This company has only grown while NASA has been stymied with budget cuts. In 2008, he took over leadership of Tesla Motors, which is now a leading automotive innovator. He also is responsible for Solar City, in an effort to combat global warming by reducing emissions through solar energy innovation.
He’s worth over $12.5 billion and still isn’t done. Remember, this is the guy who taught himself to code in only three days. What can you learn from him for your own career inspiration?
1. Have a goal.
Don’t just make your goal to “make a lot of money” or “get promoted to X.” Have a goal that’s both compelling and meaningful. Figure out how to make things better, or to do something significant. If the company or product doesn’t exist yet, be on the forefront of making it real.
2. Seek criticism.
Don’t be delusional and think you and your ideas are infallible. Get as much feedback as you possibly can from people you trust. Make sure you keep examining yourself to make sure you truly believe in your ideals and aren’t just after some unrealistic dream for the wrong reasons. Be gracious when someone tells you to rethink one aspect of your plans.
3. Don’t spread yourself too thin.
Don’t try to run multiple empires or companies. Concentrate on doing one thing, or building one company at a time, and giving that project your all. On the other hand, you should be working harder and longer than everybody else. That’s how you get more done in less time, and how you get ahead.
4. Don’t fear failure.
Failure is a normal part of the innovation process. Make friends with this. If you think something is probably going to end up in failure, but it’s important enough to try, make sure you go for it. Failure is generative. Failure is a necessary component of innovation.
5. Choose to be extraordinary.
According to Musk, “people can choose to be ordinary.” Choose the opposite. Challenge and question norms. Do the unexpected. Strive always for greater goals and deeds.