Personal Growth

These Are Elon Musk's 10 Rules for Success

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Love him or hate him, Elon Musk has quite an impressive track record. (No, you didn't ask, but we love him.) The entrepreneur's futuristic thinking has made him a name to know in the space, car, internet, and public transportation spaces — but you already knew all that. What we're sure you'd like to know is this: How can you too rack up a net worth of more than $20 billion? Well, the closest answer we have to that question would be to follow Mr. Musk's 10 pieces of advice for finding success, as originally ranked by Evan Carmichael.

Musk-Read Advice

1. Never give up. To say Musk is stubborn is an understatement. After facing failure and bankruptcy, he's always gotten back up and tried again. In a 2014 interview with Scott Pelley for 60 Minutes, he asserted, "I don't ever give up. I'd have to be dead or completely incapacitated."

2. Really like what you do. In a presentation, Musk said, "Whatever area you get into, even if you're the best of the best, there's always a chance of failure. So I think it's really important that you really like whatever you're doing. If you don't like it, life is too short."

3. Don't listen to the little man. If you believe in yourself, don't listen to the haters: Prove them wrong. As Musk told Pelley, "So many people tried to talk me out of starting my own company, it was crazy. One friend of mine collected a whole series of videos of rockets blowing up, and made me watch those. She just didn't want me to lose all my money. [...] We're doing these things that seem unlikely to succeed, and we've been fortunate, at least thus far, they have succeeded."

4. Take risks. While giving the commencement speech to the University of Southern California Marshall School of Business and Leventhal School of Accounting class of 2014, Musk shared a few pieces of wisdom for the new grads to take into the real world, among them: Now's the time to be bold. "Now is the time to take risks. You don't have kids. As you get older your obligations increase. And once you have a family, you start taking risks not just 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. I would encourage you to take risks now and do something bold; you won't regret it."

5. Do something important. Musk told Pelley, "I didn't really think Tesla would be successful, I thought we would most likely fail. But I thought that we could at least address the false perception that people had that an electric car had to be ugly and slow and boring like a golf cart. [...] If something's important enough you should try even if the probable outcome is failure."

6. Focus on signal over noise, as he also told the USC grads. "A lot of companies get confused; they spend money on things that don't actually make the product better. For example at Tesla, we've never spent any money on advertising. We put all the money into R&D and manufacturing and design to try to make the car as good as possible. I think that's the way to go. For any given company, keep thinking about 'Are these efforts that people are spending, are they resulting in a better product or service?' And if they're not, stop those efforts."

7. Seek out problem solvers. When hiring people to join your mission, Musk said in an interview at Ignition, an annual Business Insider event, to find the real problem solvers. "When I interview someone to work at a company, I ask them to tell me about the problems that they worked on and how they solved them. If someone was really the person that solved it, they'll be able to answer multiple levels, they'll be able to go down to the brass tacks. And if they weren't, they'll get stuck [...] because anyone who struggled hard on the problem never forgets it."

8. Attract great people. Musk told the USC grads to make sure to either join a group of great people or assemble them if you want to see collective success in an endeavor. "All a company is is a group of people that have gathered together to create a product or service. So depending upon how talented and hardworking that group is and the degree to which they are focused cohesively and in a good direction, that will determine the success of the company. Do everything you can to gather great people if you're creating a company."

9. Have a great product. In an interview about starting a business, Musk highlighted the importance of making sure whatever you're starting with is amazing. "Whatever you're doing is a great product or service, it has to be really great. [...] If you're entering anything where there's an existing marketplace against large, entrenched competitors, then your product or service needs to be much better than theirs. [...] You're always going to buy the trusted brand unless there's a big difference. [...] It can't just be slightly better, it's gotta be a lot better."

10. Work "super hard." Musk mentioned this advice in his USC commencement speech, surely to the chagrin of the students finally leaving years of difficult schoolwork. "What does 'super hard' mean? [...] Work hard like, every waking hour. That's the thing I would say, particularly if you're starting a company. If you do simple math, say 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 company."

Want more Musk? Check out his biography by Ashlee Vance, "Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future," The audiobook is free with a trial from Audible! We handpick reading recommendations we think you may like. If you choose to make a purchase through that link, Curiosity will get a share of the sale.

Elon Musk's Top 10 Rules For Success

Written by Joanie Faletto March 6, 2018

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