What makes Elon Musk so incredibly good at everything he does?
After last week’s successful rocket launch, there is no doubt that the public-private partnership between NASA and SpaceX will become a historic case study for many public management textbooks.
Elon Musk is very different from the rest of us. Who else comes up with and pursues business ideas such as PayPal (1999/2000), SpaceX (2002), Tesla (2004), SolarCity (2006), and Neuralink (2016)?
But what exactly led him to create a new electric vehicle (EVs) industry from scratch and motivates him to colonise Mars?
Obviously, he is incredibly intelligent. But there are many other intelligent people who have not reached one-tenth of his successes. According to Navaid Farooq, Musk’s former college roommate, Musk approaches his tasks with an unrivalled degree of focus.
If you can focus on a singe task and blend everything else out until that task is finished, you can put yourself ahead of whomever you are competing against.
Moreover, Justine Musk, Musk’s first wife, recalls that he was a highly competitive student. When he once scored a 98 in an exam, he persuaded the professor to revise that test score so that Musk’s grade could be rounded up to a 100.
This drive for perfection is what led Elon Musk to sleep under his desk at the Tesla factory, so he could rise in the middle of the night to fix malfunctioning robots.
But even more important is Musk’s determination. His unwillingness to take no for an answer.
Stock analysts and investment experts once predicted that Tesla could not survive but Musk proved them wrong. His determination enabled him to meet the ambitious goal of producing more than 50,000 cars in the third quarter of 2018, which was an important step for securing Tesla’s future. A year later, Tesla made almost twice that number of cars.
There is no denying that Musk’s determination, combined with his intense focus and ability to deep dive into and quickly master new subjects, explains why he is as successful as he is today.
This is something we can all learn from.