Elon Musk: How’d he do it?

In this Saturday, June 24, 2017, file photo, a Tesla car recharges at a charging station at Cochran Commons shopping center in Charlotte, N.C. (Chuck Burton, File/AP)

Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors, SpaceX, and The Boring Company, has built his success on the integration of two fundamental principles: the acceptance of failure and the expansion of knowledge into different fields of interests. He uses these principles to pursue his ultimate goal to futurize the modern world in a way that is attainable for the public, which is reflected in his innovations.

Tesla, Musk’s electric car company, targets three different car markets with the models it manufactures and aims to spread the use of electric cars to all socioeconomic classes. The first Tesla car, luxury model X sells at about $80,000, the second model X sells for around $60,000. The next market target is intended to appeal to even more consumers. the 2017 model 3 will be sold at approximately $30,000 when released in late 2017 to early 2018.

The Boring Company, founded in 2016, aims to create a similar futuristic image by building underground tunnels, beginning in Los Angeles, to help Tesla drivers avoid the heavy traffic and increase efficiency of transportation using electric cars. If you think about it, there are close similarities between the three companies, they consist of the same theories of physics to build a world that many call “science fiction.” Consumers shopping for supercars and high-end sedans will both be able to participate in the market for Tesla’s and consequently, Musk’s goal to spread his idea of mass futurization is gradually becoming real.

SpaceX is a space exploration company that focuses on aerospace transportation to Mars, where Musk dreams of creating a self-sustaining human colony and make humans and interplanetary species. About a week ago, Musk announced a “spaceship interplanetary rocket” to successfully launch in the next month or so. The launches of Falcon 1 and 2 in 2008 ended as public failure for the company. Rather than acknowledging the launches are mere failures, Musk mentions in a TED talk that it “made it to space” and they were at least able to launch it “into orbit.”. These launches serve as a perfect example of Elon Musk’s outlook on failure and his ability to overcome it fearlessly. It is with this attitude that Musk was able to keep SpaceX alive and innovating from 2002, through the financial crisis, to the launch of Falcon 9 next month.

Musk’s embracement of failure is a building block of his success in the 2008 financial crisis. Tesla and SpaceX almost went broke and Musk would have had to decide which company to save and which to terminate. To save SpaceX, “he took out loans to pay his bills” and fund the company. By the end of 2008, SpaceX was able to fund two launches. With all of his focus on SpaceX and funding the launches, Musk almost lost Tesla to the decline of the automobile industry during the crisis. Rather than trying to hopelessly convince investors to put money into Tesla, he bluffed and told investors not to put money in because he can take money from SpaceX.

With the collapse of car companies in the 2008 crisis, investors would not have logically put money into Tesla. With Musk’s statement, investors did not want to get left out, so they put money in the company and the stock has skyrocketed since 2008. The business practices Elon resorted to during the crisis are not seen as ethical by most. With a long-term goal fulfilled, however, these practices helped benefit both investors, Musk, and the development of Tesla and SpaceX. Musk provided information about the upcoming Tesla project, so investors knew where their money was going; with the profit their investments are making today, they have greatly benefitted by Musk’s practices during the crisis.

Elon Musk is the face of modern innovation. So what do we learn from his success? We can’t all become Elon Musk, but we can adopt his accepting attitude toward failure in our professional lives. We can apply our knowledge into all our fields of interests rather than limit ourselves to just one and we can pursue goals based on what we want to contribute to the modern world.


Keren Blaunstein is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus and can be reached via email at keren.blaunstein@uconn.edu.