Elon Musk is a phenomenon. He founded SpaceX with a $100 million dollar investment from the funds he received when Paypal, the company he co-founded, was sold. He has been CEO of electric car maker Tesla since 2008. In 2006 Musk financed SolarCity.
Musk works grueling hours running SpaceX and Tesla simultaneously. He has chosen goals that are of tremendous value – releasing humanity from the limits of hydrocarbons and even Earth itself.
“For a while there I was just doing constant 100 hour weeks, and that’s definitely wearing.”
“It is the 18-hour day work ethic that needs explaining, not the desire to escape it.”
We live in an era of unprecedented abundance. Our technology has improved the ability to produce goods and services with far less human effort than ever before. Even so, some people like Musk will work from dusk until dawn no matter how many digits are in their bank account. Why?
While this work ethic is inherent to Musk’s personality, there is also an efficiency justification:
“One person putting in a sixteen-hour day ends up being much more effective than two people working eight-hour days together. The individual doesn’t have to hold meetings, reach a consensus, or bring other people up to speed on a project
If I had a billion dollars
If I had a billion dollars I’d probably take a few days off. And that explains why I don’t have a billion dollars.
The same drive that propels Musk to the achievements he made ten years ago drives him today. It doesn’t appear to be the money itself that motivates Musk, it is what he can achieve with it – advances in fields that he views as vitally important to the fate of humanity.
Elon Musk lists the five things that will most affect our future in a 2015 interview with Neil deGrasse Tyson, namely the internet, sustainable energy, space exploration, artificial intelligence, and rewriting human genetics. Musk’s focus on SpaceX, Tesla and Solar City are addressing some of these issues head on.
The billionaire and The 4-Hour Workweek
In the same era that produced Tim Ferris’ famous book The 4-Hour Workweek, we have a billionaire working 16 hour days. Is there a common thread here? I think there is, and that’s the productivity our modern technologies give us.
Launching rockets into space was once the sole domain of superpowers. Now a single man can fund and start the busiest launch company in the world.
Making enough money to feel content and secure once demanded a minimum 40 hour work week. Now thanks to our modern abundance and technologies, entrepreneurs can start their own businesses and set their own hours.
“I will take as a given that, for most people, somewhere between six and seven billion of them, the perfect job is the one that takes the least time.”
Choose your adventure
If you wish to be the next Elon Musk, you have your cut out for you. At that echelon, it’s like being an Olympic athlete. You may have talent and inspiration, but if you aren’t willing to drive yourself to the brink, somebody else will outperform you.
The rest of us find ourselves at an interesting inflection point. Countless jobs will be rendered obsolete by new technology, but that same technology will permit us to be more productive and live better with less effort – provided we can find something of value to contribute.
That’s the premise of this blog – with creative thought, we can all find that something of value.