HR & Management

Published

Former wife of entrepreneur on how to be as great as Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Elon Musk

4 Mins

Extreme success is different from what you could just consider success, so know that you don’t have to be Branson or Musk to be affluent and accomplished, she said. 

“But if you’re extreme, you must be what you are, which means that happiness is more or less beside the point,” Justine Musk said. “These people tend to be freaks and misfits who were forced to experience the world in an unusually challenging way. They developed strategies to survive, and as they grow older they find ways to apply these strategies to other things, and create for themselves a distinct and powerful advantage.”

Rule number one, according to Musk, is that you need to be obsessed. It’s so crucial that she repeats it three times in a row. Essentially, if you’re not obsessed, then stop what you’re doing and find whatever does obsess you.

Follow your obsessions until a problem starts to emerge. By this she means that you need to feel hellbent to solve it or die trying. Musk suggested that it might take years to find that problem, because you have to explore different bodies of knowledge, collect the dots and then connect and complete them.

Of course, it helps to have an ego, but you must be “in service to something bigger” if you are to inspire the people you need to help you. That “something bigger” will prevent you from “going off into the ether” when people flock round you and tell you how fabulous you are when you aren’t and how great your stuff is when it isn’t, she said.

Moreover, don’t pursue something because you want to be great. “Pursue something because it fascinates you, because the pursuit itself engages and compels you,” Musk said. “Extreme people combine brilliance and talent with an insane work ethic, so if the work itself doesn’t drive you, you will burn out or fall by the wayside. Your extreme competitors will also crush you and make you cry.”

Learn to handle a level of stress that would break most people, she stressed, suggesting that it helps to have superhuman energy and stamina. 

If you are not blessed with god-like genetics, then make it a point to get into the best shape possible, she said. “There will be jet lag, mental fatigue, bouts of hard partying, loneliness, pointless meetings, major setbacks, family drama, issues with the Significant Other you rarely see, dark nights of the soul, people who bore and annoy you, little sleep, less sleep than that,” she added. 

Musk also claimed that you shouldn’t follow a pre-existing path, and that you shouldn’t look to imitate role models. There is no “next step”. Extreme success is not like other kinds of success; what has worked for someone else, probably won’t work for you, she said. 

“They are unconventional, and one reason they become the entrepreneurs they become is because they can’t or don’t or won’t fit into the structures and routines of corporate life, Musk said. “They are dyslexic, they are autistic, they have ADD, they are square pegs in round holes, they piss people off, get into arguments, rock the boat, laugh in the face of paperwork. But they transform weaknesses in ways that create added advantage – the strategies I mentioned earlier – and seek partnerships with people who excel in the areas where they have no talent whatsoever.” 

At the forefront of her list, however, is that they do not fear failure – or they do, but they move ahead anyway. 

Share this story

Challenges to the shareholder-centric company model are rising
How governance can be simplified and sped up by employing new technologies
Send this to a friend