All Posts by Jake Voorhees

11 Lessons from Elon Musk

Elon Musk is the most famous engineer alive today, is the inspiration behind the modern image of “Iron Man”, and is responsible for running five companies (Tesla, SpaceX, Solar City, The Boring Company, Neurolink). There is a lot that we can learn from him. His original highlights include selling a videogame at age 12, double majoring at UPenn, co-founding Zip2 and selling for $307M in 1991, and co-founding PayPal and selling for $1.5B to eBay. This final success left him with $180M after taxes, and Tesla / SpaceX / Solar City were born after that.

Everyone told Musk he was crazy, he’d lose all his money, and none of the ventures would be successful. Tesla had a rough start, SpaceX had three rocket explosions (including a live payload lose), and Solar City began when solar panels were no where near as cool as they are today. But all three survived. Elon is famous for his futuristic vision, work ethic, and his ability to create a team to literally accomplish anything. Here are the top 11 lessons from Elon Musk!

1.Never Give Up
During a 60 Minutes interview with Scott Pelley, Musk was asked:

“When you had that third [rocket] failure in a row, did you think, “I need to pack this in?”
“Never.”
“Why not?
“I don't ever give up. I mean, I'd have to be, dead or completely incapacitated.“

2. Work Hard
During his USC Marshall School of Business Commencement address in 2014, Musks provided a preview into his view on what “hard work” really is:

“When my brother and I were starting up our first company, instead of getting an apartment, we just rented a small office, and we slept on the couch. We showered at the YMCA, and we were so poor, we had just one computer, so the website was up during the day, and I was coding at night. Seven days a week, all the time. And I sort of briefly had a girlfriend in that period, and in order to be with me, she had to sleep in the office. Work hard every waking hour. If you do simple math, like somebody else is working 50 hours, and you're working 100, you'll get twice as much done in the course of a year as the other person.”

3. Have Passion for your Work
During a BBC interview with Jeremy Clarkson, Elon tells us what get him excited:

“You want to do projects that are inspiring, and that make people excited about the future. Life's got to be about more than solving projects. You have to get up in the morning and say “Yes, I'm looking forward to that thing happening.”

4. Have Confidence
In order to instill trust, belief, and utmost confidence in our team, we must provide the highest level of conviction when we communicate our views. Elon expands idea this during a Business Insider interview:

“Really believe in what you are doing, but not just from a blind faith standpoint. To have really thought about it and say okay, this is true, I'm convinced it's true, and I've tried every angle to figure out if it's untrue, and sought negative feedback to figure out if I'm maybe wrong, and after all that, okay it still seems this is the right way to go. then that I think gives one a fundamental conviction and an ability to convey that conviction to others.”

5. Take Risks
The USC business class of 2014 receive more amazing words from Elon. It’s often stated the biggest risk in life is not taking any risks. Elon expresses his view on the matter:

“Now is the time to take risks. You don't have kids, but as you get older, your obligations increase. And once you have a family, you start taking risks not only for yourself, but for your family as well. It gets much harder to do things that might not work out. So now is the time to do that, before you have those obligations. So I would encourage you to take risks now. Do something bold. You won't regret it.”

6. Be Inspired
While on stage with Chris Anderson during TED Vancouver, Elon tells us what inspires him:

“I think it's important to have a future that's inspiring an appealing, I mean… I just think that there have to be reasons to get up in the morning, and you want to live. Like, why do you want to live? What's the point, what inspires you? What do you love about the future? And if we're not out there, if the future does not include being out there among the stars, and being a multi planet species, I find that incredibly depressing, if that's not the future we're going to have.”

7. Add Value
Elon famously said when he was younger, there were five problems that he thought were most important to work on. For the record, those were “the internet; sustainable energy; space exploration, in particular the permanent extension of life beyond Earth; artificial intelligence; and reprogramming the human genetic code”. The Y Combinator founder Sam Altman asks Elon:

“If you were 22 today, what five problems would you want to work on?”

“I think if somebody is doing something that is useful to the rest of society, I think that's a good thing. It doesn't have to change the world. You know. If you're doing something that has high value to people, um, and frankly, even if it's something like um, just a little game um, or you know, some improvement in photo sharing. If it has a small amount of good for a large number of people, that's, I think that's fine. Stuff doesn't need to be changing the world just to be good.”

8. Deploy “First Principles”
Digg founder Kevin Rose interviewed Elon for Foundation, where he asks about his problem solving approach:

“I think it's also important to reason from “First Principles” rather than by analogy. So the normal way that we conduct our lives is we reason by analogy. We're doing this because, “it's like something else that was done” or “it's like other people are doing”. Me too type ideas. Yeah. It's like, slight permutations, on a theme. And uh, and it's, kind of mentally easier to reason by analogy rather than through first principles, but first principles is sort of a physics way of looking at the world. And what that really means is, you kind of boil things down to the most fundamental truths. And say, okay what're we sure is true, or as sure as possible is true, and then reason up from there.”

9. You Can Learn Anything

Another stellar moment during his 60 Minutes interviwe, Elon reveals how he is qualified to be CTO of SpaceX. His response may shock you, however, it’s quite revealing as to what you can accomlish if you believe in yourself:

Scott Pelley: “How did you get the expertise to be the Chief Technology Officer of a rockship company?”
Musk: “Well, I do have a physics background, let's helpful as a foundation, um and then I read a lot of books and talked to a lot of smart people.”
Scott Pelley: “You're self taught?!?!”
Musk: “Yeah. Well self taught meaning, I don't have an aerospace degree.”
Scott Pelley: “So how did you go about acquiring the knowledge?”
Elon: “Well, like I said, I read a lot of books, and talked to a lot of people, and have a great team…”

10. Be Ambitious, Don’t Worry about Money
During an INC Magazine interview, VC Steve Jurvetson asks Elon about the source of his ambition. Elon responds with a very insightful story:

“When I started the first internet company, Zip2, with my brother and another person, Greg Curry, it wasn't really with the thought of being wealthy. I have nothing against being wealthy, it was just from the standpoint of wanting to be part of the internet. I figured if we could make enough money to just get by, that would be okay. When we started off, we literally only had one computer, so it would be our web server during the day, and I'd be coding at night. And we just got a small office, in Palo Alto back when rent was not insane, um, and it cost us like $350 a month. It was cheaper than an apartment, so we just slept in the office, and then showered at the YMCA on Page Mill & El Camino. So we'd walk over there and shower.”

11. Think Big, Change the World
During a CNN interview with Fareed Zakaria, Elon was asked about his vision to turn the human race a multi-planetary species:

“So the first order of business is to figure out how to get there, and it needs to be, in a way that enables large numbers of people and cargo. It can't just be like a handful of people, because that's obviously not going to create a self sustaining civilization. An Apollo was an amazing inspiring thing for all of humanity, but the last time we went to the moon was like 1973 or 4 I believe, so, we don't want to just have flags and footprints, and then never go to Mars again. If we just have one mission, that will also be a super inspiring thing, but it's not going to fundamentally change the future of humanity.”

These quotes are compiled into a video here: 11 Lessons from Elon Musk

Author:
Jake Voorhees
1% Engineer

5 Keys to Engineering Success

Five Keys to Engineering Success
Every young engineer wants to have a successful career ahead of them. Unfortunately for us, as “millennials”, whatever that means to you, there is far more competition for that same success. 50% of our workforce today is someone between 18-35 so you need to stand out and differentiate yourself from others in order to grab these opportunities and rise to the top of your industry. Today it is not enough to solely have a degree from a good school, accumulate some experience, and maybe have a solid reference list. This Top Five Tips for Engineering Success will boost your path to stardom in your field, differentiate you from other professionals, and help dominate your industry.

Mindset
Mindset is everything in this world. I'll reference Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck, and author of “Mindset”. Mindset is the foundation of accomplishment. Many people strive to stick to what they know already, rather than to grow and learn, which is challenging. This is a fixed mindset vs a growth mindset, which is what you should adopt for maximum success. Fixed mindset results in avoiding challenges, giving up easily on obstacles, refraining from maximum effort, ignoring constructive criticism, and feeling threatened by the success of others. However, a growth mindset individual will embrace challenges, persevere through tough obstacles, view effort as the gateway to mastery, accept constructive criticism, and feel inspired by the success of others. You cannot reach your full potential unless you are constantly improving, pushing yourself to be better, and doing things outside your comfort zone. That new coding methodology may be hard to learn, but in the end, you will be a stronger programmer afterwards.

Belief
In order to achieve a goal, a requirement for success is to start with the end in mind. Envision yourself crossing the finish line- the utmost belief, conviction, that you WILL succeed in accomplishing your goal. Let’s break this down into a more simplified manor, for example, when are interviewing for a new position. If you begin the day thinking “I probably won’t get the job”, then you most likely will not. This negativity will slightly alter all your behaviors: the confidence in your tone, the warmth in your eye contact, the energy in your communication gestures – everything. Believe that you WILL tackle the challenge, that you will absolutely own the interview, and every action during your day will follow suit positively and effectively.

Attitude Attraction
Everyone wishes they could be a 10/10, be taller, more fit, better hair and eyes – you name it. It’s actually super simple to be more attractive to everyone around, and though it takes attention and effort, anyone can do it. Tony Robbins provides this example in his talks, and it’s all about being more positive! Negativity is a cancer. Complaining and being a pessimist helps nothing in life. No one wants to be around someone negative. Since your energy and attitude and emotion radiates around each of us like an aura, you are naturally more attractive to be around when you are positive and optimistic. People want to talk with you, want to spend more time with you, and want to give you more career opportunities because of your attitude.

Environment
Jim Rohn said that you are an average of the five people you spend the most time around, and I 100% agree with him! We’re all raised with the parental concern about friends who may be “bad influences” and how our older siblings need to be a “positive role model”. However, it’s rare for adults to think about these stereotypically adolescent lessons. If goes without saying once you realize it, but if you spend more time around doers, executioners, go-getters, and so on, the chances of you following suit on similar actions is way higher! We as humans are easily influenced by our surroundings, so spend more time around people who are productive, ambitious, and trying to be the best career individual they can be. It will help you do more too!

Headspace
We are decades into the physical health wave, about ten years into the healthy eating wave, and the current trending health paradigm is mental health! The word still carries heavy social stigma, i.e. if you use it people naturally think things like “nutcase”. However, headspace definitely needs to be talked about more nowadays. We live in an era of stress and information overload – giving your brain a break should become a part of everyone’s daily routine. It’s now scientifically proven that meditation helps to: reduce stress, enhance focus, improves listening ability, helps you sleep, and overall improves happiness 😊

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