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We can rattle off Elon Musk’s achievements in our sleep: co-founder of monetary giant PayPal; founder of Tesla Motors, the electric car company that is changing the world; and founder of Space X, which focuses on space exploration and space travel, and has even directed NASA to the International Space Station on his spaceship.
We can also scattered a stream of adjectives that describe him and his leadership qualities: innovator, leader, genius, visionary, futurist, todaybusinessupdates.com.
But can we describe why the CEO of SpaceX is the way he is? And can we not only quantify the things that make Musk such a successful person, but begin to embody them in our own lives? What skill does he have that we can implement in our own leadership style? This might be a little harder to do, but I think it’s possible.
I’ve spent much of my professional life working with incredibly good artists, and while they all impress me with their talents, habits, and hard work ethic, they don’t quite reach Musk’s level. I’ve been reviewing Musk for a while and have outlined five different reasons that explain why he’s found such success. I’ll talk about them here.
Related: 61 Books Elon Musk Thinks You Should Read
“No” means nothing
There is a anecdote Musk’s first wifeJustine Wilson tells of him from college when the two first met at Queens University. He got a 98% on one of his tests. Being a perfectionist, he went to his professor and got them to change his score to 100%. Now many of you will read this and think, why? What’s the point of doing that? I would have been happy with a 98%. I feel the same way. But this small, simple detail matters.
You see, the 2% that separated Musk from his current score and perfection sounded like a giant “no” to him. But he wouldn’t accept no as an answer. Even if only for 2%. That 100% meant enough to him that he put himself in a potentially awkward situation, talking to his professor and having the hard conversation that many people shy away from. Finally he got his way. Why? Because “no” meant nothing.
If we can overcome the initial fear of hearing “no” and understand that no really means nothing, we will benefit. How many opportunities are lost because of our fear of asking?
Related: A German Scientist Predicted That A Person Named ‘Elon’ Would Lead Humans To Mars
A single, non-blinking focus
Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who is originally from South Africa, has perfected the art of staying focused. In fact, there was a time during Tesla Inc’s infancy when Musk would sleeping under his desk and 75-hour weeks of work until a specific problem was solved and his goals were met.
During this time he thought of nothing else. He was not distracted by other tedious tasks. He focused only on the task ahead. Now look at Tesla: it is a thriving giant that is changing the automotive world. It certainly wouldn’t be without Mr. Musk’s unblinking focus in the foreground.
This focus has allowed Musk to perfect the art of getting into a “flow state,” which is when “a person is completely immersed in an activity,” per Very good spirit† “Being immersed can be defined as a state of focus in which a person is completely absorbed and absorbed in their work.” This state of flow is only achieved when the person can perform undisturbed by other, less important tasks.
Think about your own work life and the way you go about your daily tasks. How often are you distracted? How often does something small draw your attention away, making you less productive and less effective? How can you plan your day so that you can complete one task and then move on to the next, effectively, excitedly and purposefully?
A work ethic that feeds on passion
Another factor that helps Musk get and stay in the flow state has to do with the quality of the work he does. Musk is a perfect case study for someone whose work ethic is fueled by his passion. He loves what he does because he does what he loves. His passion for his job is so intense that it fuels night shifts, motivates 80-hour work weeks and, as we discussed in the previous section, sleeping under his desk.
The truth is that when we are passionate – or find passion – in the work we do, work no longer feels like work. It turns into a mission or game, and we find ourselves enjoying what we do. Eighty-hour work weeks don’t feel like work weeks, because our passion feeds us.
Related: When it comes to investing, do you think like Warren Buffett or Elon Musk?
Thinking big by thinking small
Many of Musk’s big ideas come from small questions. How do we make transit to California easier? A railroad. An electric railway. An electric railway that goes through a huge tunnel dug into the side of a mountain. The first question is always small, then the answers get bigger and bigger. He then takes each answer to the question and tries to work it out as best he can. The Musk Way.
So find a little idea. Give the obvious answers, then put your spin on those answers and follow them with tenacity. Big ideas always come from thinking small.
Healthy, unwavering intensity
Musk is clearly intense. In fact, each of the four qualities or fundamental principles we have described above is cultivated only by those who have a certain degree of intensity. Musk, however, does it in a healthy, constructive way.
I know too many people who try to bring a certain intensity to their work and burn out, collapse or go too far. They push people out, spiral out of control or dramatically underperform.
I believe Musk’s exceptional ability to maintain his intensity in a healthy way is due to his flow-state mentality, his passion for his work and his absolute focus.
Related: Elon Musk Responds to a Request from a Tweeter Who Sent Him the Same Message 154 Times