Early Influences on Elon Musk
Elon Musk is an admired business magnate and entrepreneur, who, among many other accomplishments, is famous for his innovation in renewable energy and electric cars. He certainly didn’t come to success without any external influences however, drawing on a variety of mentors, teachers and peers as drivers in his meteoric rise.
Musk’s greatest influence during his childhood was undoubtedly the many books he consumed. Chief among these were The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams and The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R Tolkien. Admirably, Musk only chose to read literature that expanded the boundaries of what was possible.
The guiding principles of the fictional characters in both books dramatically altered the course of Musk’s life, helping him to develop an undying determination to revolutionize the way people work and live. His impressive drive and ambition can be easily attributed to these characters’ example.
Jesse James Garret
Surprisingly, geeky science fiction and fantasy novels weren’t Musk’s only source of inspiration. One of Musk’s great life teachers was the author of Design Thinking, Jesse James Garrett. Musk was most interested in Garrett’s exploration and approach to problem solving.
Garret’s passion to help people find creative solutions to challenging situations struck a chord with Musk and ultimately, inspired him to develop some of his biggest ideas. One great example of this is the Boring Company, Musk’s idea to improve the traffic-filled streets of Los Angeles.
The Founding Fathers
Musk’s admiration for the Founding Fathers of the United States was also powerful. He admired their constancy, willpower and deterministic natures, believing them to be the epitome of patience and perseverance.
Most notably, Musk was inspired by the way the founding fathers hinged on the strength of their beliefs in order to succeed. The latter especially motivated Musk to become an entrepreneur, leading him to succeed in one of the greatest innovations in modern times: PayPal.
Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft and the second-richest man in the world, proved to be another of Musk’s great inspirations. Gates especially taught Musk the power of patience in a world where fast paced businesses were all that seemed to succeed.
The way Gates carefully predicted and strategized one business move after another completely impacted Musk. This was especially visible in Tesla, where Musk essentially followed Gates’ footsteps and became just as successful.
The Way of Carl Sagan
Perhaps Musk’s most formative supporter was Carl Sagan. A professor of astronomy who inspired generations of students to think beyond their wildest imaginations, Sagan was an incredible influence on Musk.
He constantly encouraged Musk to dream bigger and reach for farther horizons than the average person would. This was integral for Musk, as it was Sagan’s way of teaching Musk the power of appreciating risks and the necessity of creativity for the future.
No list of Elon Musk’s influences would be complete without Steve Jobs, who was a great influence on Musk during his early career. Likewise, Jobs was an admirer of Musk’s work, with both men having a great respect for each other’s vision and drive.
Jobs inspired Musk to create products and services that were both sleek and beautiful while being practical and efficient. Tesla’s success speaks for itself, with the electric car company now worth billions and production only continuing to grow.
The Impact of Tim Berners-Lee
Tim Berners-Lee, better known as the inventor of the World Wide Web, was also instrumental in influencing Musk to follow a more liberal take on knowledge and education. He taught Musk the power of openness and collaboration, both of which he applies to much of his work today.
Musk often speaks about his admiration for the internet’s free sharing quality, something that has made him a household name. In particular, Musk was influenced by Berners-Lee’s belief in ‘openness, community, and collaboration’ when it came to the internet, which provided the basis for the pay-per-model of Musk’s first company, Zip2.
The Power of Randall Munroe
Musk also looked to XKCD creator Randall Munroe for inspiration in his business dealings. Munroe is the creator of ‘What If?’, a book that pushes humankind’s limits of basic logic and imagination.
The book helped Musk to expand on ideas and look beyond what he initially believed was possible, pushing the boundaries of his mind and providing the understanding of outside-the-box thinking that has proven important in space exploration, energy sustainability and technology innovation.
The Victory Over Nathan Myhrvold
Finally, Musk’s greatest victory over his long-time rival Nathan Myhrvold was a great source of motivation for himself. Myhrvold had founded Intellectual Ventures, a company that produced hundreds of patents and then charged fees to license them.
Musk notoriously fought back against Myhrvold’s company. He pushed back against the patents, sought public opinion via tech blogs and eventually went to court where he emerged victorious. This gave Musk an abundance of confidence, teaching him one valuable lesson: to never be afraid of a good fight in the name of progress.
Evolution and Lessons
Elon Musk’s evolution as an innovator and entrepreneur ultimately taught us many lessons. Surrounding himself with inspiring people and remaining open minded has proven essential to Musk’s success. Furthermore, he is a great example of the power of imagination when paired with hard work.
Merely expressing admiration for well known business and technology leaders wasn’t enough for Musk. He actively tried to apply the lessons he learned from these icons, which has enabled him to provide us with a variety of advancements in renewable energy and space exploration.
Creating A Public Conversation
Experiencing successes and failures have helped Musk to create a dialogue among people from different backgrounds. Many of Musk’s big ideas were born from public forums, including the blogosphere and publically accessible message boards.
Musk utilized these arenas to spread the word of his projects, successfully igniting public debate online to gain feedback and attention.
Metaphysics and Rationality
Musk learned to create meaningful and provocative conversations that would ultimately drive progress and people forward. He combined metaphysics and rationality in his talks, using both to answer the difficult questions that he posed.
This approach gave Musk an edge in the public sphere, enabling him to make a lasting impression on people worldwide. He was able to successfully influence the public on his projects and values, which has undoubtedly helped him throughout his meteoric rise.
The Wisdom of Authors and Novelists
Musk has been fortunate enough to have had the guidance of some of literature’s greatest authors and novelists. Reading has been essential for his development and perhaps even more important for understanding and predicting the way society works.
Musk has molded the wisdom of Tolkein, Adams, and many others into his own beliefs, teaching him that modern challenges must be approached with the same complex thought and strength of belief as the challenges faced by these literary giants.
Mental Strength and Resilience
Finally, Musk has also benefited from some of the earliest business and technology pioneers. The power of these individuals, he believes, was simply a strong and unwavering trust in their own beliefs.
By following the example of these pioneers, Musk has learned to be resilient regardless of the situation, strong enough to withstand the countless failures, mishaps and challenges that he has been faced with in the past.