Elon Musk is one of the most iconic entrepreneurs of our generation.
He’s built and launched innovative rocket ships, and he’s the first to successfully land one. He helped lay the groundwork for online payments through his work at PayPal. He’s helping to save the environment with the electric Tesla and is even laying the foundation for the first human trip to Mars.
He’s been called the real-life Iron Man, and for a good reason. It seems like he can do everything.
Every entrepreneur can learn a ton from Elon Musk. Today, we’ll boil it down to our five top lessons you can take from this iconic entrepreneur.
Money Shouldn’t Be Your Main Goal
Money can be a good motivator, especially when you don’t have a lot of it. But it’s typically not a strong enough—or sustainable—motivator to accomplish great things.
As Elon Musk said, “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 of, ‘What’s the best way to make money?”
You need to find a force that drives you—A deeper purpose that propels you forward even in the most difficult of circumstances.
Because if money is your number one motivator, what will happen when you do make a lot of it? That motivation will quickly dwindle.
Fail Forward (with a Plan)
Elon Musk is no stranger to failure. For example, he had not one, but two rocket launches fail, costing upwards of $60-million.
However, he created a contingency plan. He vowed that if his company, SpaceX, couldn’t get the first rocket to launch by the time they spent $100 million successfully, they’d stop the company. So, they had one final try to make it work.
On the third launch—and final chance—SpaceX finally succeeded and won a $6.1 billion contract with NASA for 12 resupply flights to the station.
When you go into business, understand that failure is a real possibility. After all, most startups fail. But failure shouldn’t scare you or kill your ambitions. It presents an excellent opportunity to learn and improve.
But you should have some contingency plan so you don’t waste all your time and money on an idea that just isn’t going to work. For Musk, that was the $100-million number. Figure out what that plan is for your company, and stay true to it.
Probability Should Never Rule You
Most people will tell you that your dreams and business aspirations are impossible.
But just because the odds are stacked against you doesn’t mean it can’t be done. You better believe the odds were stacked against Musk in all his endeavors. For example, with the Tesla, he aimed to create a new car company in an industry where a new company hadn’t been successful in nearly a century.
He had doubters on every level, but he continued to prove them wrong, until he finally built Tesla into the growing success it is today.
Don’t run your life based on the odds. It’s better to go for a dream that’s a long shot than never to have tried at all—and you can avoid the mid-life crisis later on.
Embrace Your Worst-Case Scenario
What scares you most about failure? Often your idea of your worst-case scenario is what prevents you from truly succeeding. You think that it will be so bad that it’s not even worth taking the risk.
Elon Musk embraced his worst-case scenario early on in his entrepreneurial days. He forced himself to live off of $1 per day. By experimenting what it felt like to be poor and realizing he could handle it, he knew that money wouldn’t be an issue.
Ask yourself, what is your worst-case scenario? Will you have to move home with your parents or sleep on a friend’s couch for a few weeks while you look for another job? Will it be that bad?
Odds are, you’ll still be alive and have another chance at succeeding.
By recognizing and embracing your worst-case scenario, you can give yourself the courage to take bigger risks and accomplish your goals.
Don’t Rest on Your Laurels
There’s nothing wrong with taking some time to celebrate and enjoy your successes. But don’t take too long—always be looking to improve.
Musk says, “It’s very important to have a feedback loop, where you’re constantly thinking about what you’ve done and how you could be doing it better. I think that’s the single best piece of advice: constantly think about how you could be doing things better and questioning yourself.”
It’s no surprise that some of the most successful people, whether it be Elon Musk or Nick Saban, coach of the Alabama Crimson Tide football team, don’t let their successes linger on for too long. For example, after he wins the championship, Saban is famous for already looking towards next year and getting ready to recruit another class.
Our success and happiness largely depend on the types of problems we face on a daily basis. The more you challenge yourself and strive to improve, the better your problems will be.
Elon Musk is truly a one-of-a-kind entrepreneur. He’s beaten the odds time and again and created thriving businesses where people said it was impossible to do so.
Use these lessons to fuel your entrepreneurial endeavors, and keep driving forward even when the odds seem like they’re against you.
What are other entrepreneurial lessons have you learned from Elon Musk? Let us know in the comments below!