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Don't Be An A-hole

Few people will ever be as successful as Elon Musk (though you might be one of those few). You might not have the cars, space ships, and incredibly successful startups to your name. But, you can still have a rock star career like he does.

Elon Musk has set an incredible example for entrepreneurialism and leadership, but also for how to be a good human being. He’s worth over $6.7 billion, and he’s the founder of SpaceX, Tesla Motors, and PayPal. Yet, he’s remarkably down-to-earth and realistic. There are few people that better model the businessperson we’d all like to be. Here are seven pieces of entrepreneurial advice gleaned from this remarkable man.

Work Like Crazy – It’s reported that Elon spends about 100 hours a week between his businesses. He’s quoted as saying, “Work like hell. I mean you just have to put in 80 to 100 hour weeks every week. [This] improves the odds of success. If other people are putting in 40 hour work weeks and you’re putting in 100 hour work weeks, then even if you’re doing the same thing you know that….you will achieve in 4 months what it takes them a year to achieve.” But, take another leaf from Elon’s book – work passionately. There’s no point in working hard and hating every minute of it.

Change Your Direction – Imagine what would have happened if Elon stayed with PayPal rather than selling up and moving on. There’s no way to know for sure, but it would be a much sadder world for us gear heads without Tesla. Elon thinks of himself as an engineer first and does the CEO thing because he must. “I think of myself more [like] an engineer, who, in order to invent the things I want to invent and create them, that I have to do the company thing as well. So I’m more reluctantly the CEO. It’s not my preference, actually.” If he hadn’t changed direction, his creativity may have suffered. And we wouldn’t have the Model S.

Don’t Overextend Yourself - "It's OK to have your eggs in one basket as long as you control what happens to that basket." Elon involves himself in projects he believes in. In fact, he’s quoted as saying, "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?" When Elon wanted to further solar energy initiatives, he passed the idea along so he could focus on Tesla.

Invest in Your Projects – Okay, you might not have the cash needed to pump into your plans and businesses (as Elon does). But you can always pour positive energy into everything that you do. Even though Elon is quoted as saying, “I started SpaceX with the expectation of failure,” he still pumped over $100 million of his own money into the project. That’s dedication and conviction. Two must-haves for every successful entrepreneur. 

Act Like a Leader – When SpaceX failed to launch, the employees were (understandably) heartbroken… and concerned about their jobs. Yet, Elon stood up to announce that he’d already secured additional funding for the project – leading his people into the future. More than that, he told them, “For my part, I will never give up, and I mean never.” Afterwards, team members expressed sentiments to the effect that they would follow Elon to the ends of the earth. This speaks volumes toward Elon’s leadership abilities.

Don’t Be an Asshole – Elon is a big supporter of being a nice guy. He wants to like the people he works with and even handles the hiring side of SpaceX himself. He claims to look for these qualities in an employee: “… a positive attitude, are they easy to work with,and are people gonna like working with them? It's very important to like the people you work with, otherwise life [and your job] is gonna be quite miserable. And, in fact, we have a strict 'no-assholes policy' at SpaceX. We fire people if they are. I mean, we give them a little bit of warning. But if they continue to be an asshole, then they're fired." Nobody likes an asshole. Too bad humanity doesn’t come with a ‘no-assholes policy’.

Think Big – Not only is Elon changing the world, he’s pushing the boundaries beyond this world. There are endless nuggets of Elon-isms that speak directly to this idea, but perhaps the most powerful is: "When I was in college, I wanted to be involved in things that would change the world. And now I am." If you take one piece of advice from Elon, it should be to consistently push the limits of what you believe you’re capable of and to challenge yourself to think bigger than you ever thought you could. And then take action.

World changers don’t just dream. They do. What will you do with your dreams?

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