On rare occasions, it becomes apparent very early in a person’s life that they are unique, different – special. Such was the case on June 28, 1971 when a boy was born in Pretoria, South Africa to a South African-born British father and a Canadian-English mother. One might expect a child to be unique when his father is an electrical/mechanical engineer and his mother is a glamorous model – but it went far deeper in this boy’s case.
He learned to read early – reading as much as five hours a day by the age of five. At that early age, he had a thirst for knowledge – for facts. The story goes that when he was six, his three year old sister and their cousins were urging him to come inside as night began to fall. He refused, which caused the pleas of the others to become more urgent. When they finally revealed that they were scared to be out at night he simply said, “There’s nothing to fear – it’s only an absence of light.”
Even at that early age he was only concerned with what was – and what could be.
His parents divorced when he was nine and he spent most of his time with his father. By then his daily reading had doubled. He had become fascinated by computers, in spite of his father’s dismissive attitude about their viability. At the age of ten he bought his first computer, taught himself programming and at age twelve, he had developed a video game which he then sold for $500.
He believed that the United States was the only place that ‘people like me’ were meant to go and that’s where he set his sights. At seventeen, he moved to Canada, having obtained citizenship through his mother. By nineteen he was accepted to Queen’s University in Ontario then moved on to the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. From there he went to Stanford University as a physics PhD candidate – but left after only 48 hours.
Instead, working with his brother and $28,000 in funding from their father, he created a media software company which they called Zip2. They sold that company to Compaq – for $307 million. Their next venture was an online banking company – X.com. That venture evolved into PayPal which was eventually purchased by eBay for $1.5 billion in stock – yielding him $165 million in cash. He was thirty years old.
Contrary to what many would think, his thoughts weren’t focused on how to make more money or on how to build a bigger business empire. His thoughts focused on a much broader vision – a vision that was purpose based. He assessed how the world was – and what the world could become. Could he make an impact on significant global problems? Dependency on fossil fuel; global warming; population growth juxtaposed with diminishing resources. His simple answer – yes.
In 2002 he invested $100 million to start a company, Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX), committed to developing private industry space flight. the company’s ultimate purpose being to transport humans to Mars both as visitors and colonists. Another $55 million went to start a company, Tesla, to design electric cars which would be embraced by the public and lead the movement away from petroleum based technology. A third company, Solar City, was formed to focus on combating global warming.
He has the vision. He has the money. He does the marketing strategy. What’s unique is that he is also the designer. He has learned all aspects of each of those businesses. His direction and influence are evident at all levels of each company. Their bigger-than-life ambitions are quickly becoming a reality. Each company is on a path to achieving stratospheric success – not just as businesses, but in their impact to the world. These results which will be realized because their founder, their visionary – Elon Musk – is a fearless brand.
Fearless Brands achieve stratospheric success
Elon Musk is truly one of a kind. His intelligence, his thought process, his focus, his drive, his commitment, his vision all combine to define him. He works 80-100 hours a week. He defines meetings as something to do when you’re not working. He believes that being ‘all-in’ is necessary to achieve the bold, world-changing initiatives to which he is committed. While that philosophy is not for everyone – there is absolutely nothing wrong with it, contrary to the many Musk critics.
He is as misunderstood as much as he is a mystery. Some consider him to be aloof and distant, when in reality he is a very quiet, calm and still person – not one to be over reactive nor demonstrative. He’s focused and contemplative – fact based. Musk has five children, all boys, from his first wife. He has a set of twins and a set of triplets. Elon’s and his first wife, Justine, have a healthy relationship and partner to be good parents to their boys. He is currently married to English actress Talulah Riley.
Many of Musk’s ideas are often considered far-fetched and unrealistic – until he brings them to life. Unhappy with the education system, he recently started a private school in Los Angeles, attended by about twenty students, including his sons. It is designed to appeal to the student’s particular skillset and interests as opposed to following an arbitrary curriculum. He has plans to bring the internet to the entire world by launching over 700 miniature satellites to deliver an adequate signal.
Replicating a fearless brand is futile – especially one as unique as Elon Musk – but learning from them is both doable and wise.
Embrace your authenticity – From the very start, Elon Musk had a sense of who he was. According to his mother, it was almost uncanny. He was different from virtually every other kid – and was perfectly fine with that. He didn’t change to meet other’s expectations. One’s authenticity can evolve as we learn more, experience more and live more – the key is to be true to yourself.
Start with your purpose – Elon Musk’s initiatives are spawned from purpose. The book, The Go-Giver, features a mentor named Pindar who puts it this way “Does it make money is not a bad question – it is just a bad first question. Your first question should be does it serve?” Fulfill a purpose – the rewards will follow.
Be committed – Musk works upwards of 100 hours a week. Working that long is not necessary to build a fearless brand and realize your dream results – however, that level of commitment is necessary.
Very few will ever design rockets or create electric cars – but anyone and everyone can build a fearless brand. Embrace your passion, find your purpose, be authentic and committed – create the value and the results will follow.