Why is Elon Musk Successful – A personal theory.

I approach all my problems the same way. Define a problem, Research, Act, Record, Repeat. My problem: I would really like to be someone like Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Nikola Tesla, and the continuing list of tech heroes. I am consistently not someone like that. Though I would like to believe that I am consistently more. I am on my millionth repeat by now. I have lost count of the experiments. I’ve read biographies. I’ve imitated sleep schedules (damn you Buckminster Fuller). I’ve changed diets.  I’ve thrown myself in and out of an assortment of physical ailments through these experiments. I’ve done all manner of things to unlock the secrets of these people. I truly think I’ve got all the pieces and parts in me to be someone like that. I, like everyone else, just was not fortunate enough to be born with the assembly guide.

I think I’ve got it. I have the secret to their success. It’s simple. It’s dumb.

It’s the ability to do chores. Or by my definition. Something you do every day, that has to be done, has a cumulative positive effect if done, and a cumulative negative effect if not done. Studying, dishes, exercise, emails, budgeting, etc.

Hard work is easy. I have worked on a fun, but extremely difficult engineering problem for days. I have been unable to sleep because I just have so much dang fun doing it. My head will ache, my eyes will have not blinked in hours; leaving them itchy for days. Hard work is easy.

Chores are extremely hard. Not in the actual doing. They’re usually easy. It’s in the mental strain of putting aside what you’d rather do. I have to send that email, even though it’s not really pushing the company forward as much as this one innovation might. I have to document this change, but it’s slow and I really want to test.  However, my experience in industry has told me that the email you didn’t send was a contact you lost and that documentation you didn’t write is four hours of lost time down the road.

Elon has come out and said as much, “You are in constant danger of the company dying and if you are the co-founder or CEO, you’ve got to do all sorts of jobs and tasks that you might not wish to do, that are not intrinsically interesting to you.  … And if you don’t do your chores, essentially, then the company won’t succeed. You’ve got to be prepared to do whatever it takes, work whatever hours. No task is too menial. I think, that’s the right attitude for CEO of a start-up.”

Alright fine, but you listed some other names up these. What about Tesla? Well, for one, Tesla was quoted as saying “By an irony of fate, my first employment was as a draughtsman. I hated drawing; it was for me the very worst of annoyances.”. Yet if you take a look at his Colorado Springs Notebook, it’s not only orderly, but beautifully drawn. Plus, if you’ve ever once tried to wind a copper coil. You’ve had  the meaning of tedious burned into your fingertips.

Fine, what about Bill Gates? Well, remember the email example I had earlier. Here’s an excerpt from an interview with the man“We’re at the point now where the challenge isn’t how to communicate effectively with e-mail, it’s ensuring that you spend your time on the e-mail that matters most. I use tools like “in-box rules” and search folders to mark and group messages based on their content and importance.” He’s often mentioned that he’d much rather being doing pure software design, but his days and his company needed him to correspond with people.

Brilliance has little to do with success. Being able to produce occasional bouts of it and wow your friends is common as dirt in tech crowds. I have sketches from High School where I was trying to figure out how to build an electric car charger and power station. I figured the person who controlled the standard for delivering the fuel controlled the money. I had it all figured out. I was going to start with golf carts and selling power at campgrounds. Then the world. By the standard of brilliant innovative ideas foisted by the media, I should be a bajillionare just for thinking thoughts like that. So where’s my car company? Well. Studying against the vertical incline that was needed to solve such a problem was hard. More interesting problems showed up. I didn’t stick with it because it became a chore.

People are smart, brilliance is common like diamonds, but the difference between a drawing of a brick building and a brick building is that someone actually placed those bricks one by one.

Anyway, that’s the latest from my research and personal development.  Comments and thoughts are very welcome.