Tag Archives: Elon Musk

Lessons in Persistence

There’s always a fine line. You’ve got stubborn people, obnoxious people, and then people with genuine resolve who simply will not give up. Their actual behaviors may look about the same. But, when the motivation is not stubbornness, or plain old obnoxiousness, then true persistence and resolve can be a wonder to behold.

ELON-COVER-BOOK-LARGEAshlee Vance is the author of the new book Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future. (I’m presenting my synopsis of this book at the July 10 First Friday Book Synopsis this week).

Ashlee Vance, a respected journalist, decided to write a serious, thorough book about Elon Musk. In case you do not know, Elon Musk’s endeavors include PayPal, Tesla, SpaceX (SpaceX had quite a set-back last week), along with major involvement with Solar City. So, Ashlee Vance asked for time with Elon Musk himself. He was turned down. More than once. He then proceeded to work on the book anyway, and talked to everyone he could find who knew or worked with Elon Musk. Finally, Mr. Musk granted a visit, over dinner.

In the visit, Elon Musk acknowledged that Vance was intent on actually writing the book, so he asked to read it in advance and submit footnotes for correcting any errors or false impressions. Vance said no: And then, Musk said OK, and agreed to a series of meetings, with full cooperation, anyway. From the book:

Musk cut me off after a couple of minutes and simply said, “Okay.” One thing that Musk holds in the highest regard is resolve, and he respects people who continue on after being told no.

Notice again: “He respects people who continue on after being told no.”

In other words, Elon Musk recognized, respected, and honored resolve.

I remember similar stories about Steve Jobs from the Walter Isaacson biography, and from Ed Catmull’s book Creativity, Inc. They bothCreativity-Inc.-Cover commented that people who worked with Steve Jobs had to learn when his “no” was something to ignore and work around. In other words, Steve Jobs also respected genuine resolve.

We all know the time-honored wisdom. Probably the most famous quote comes from Calvin Coolidge:

Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.

For Elon Musk, and Steve Jobs, resolve, the ability to “ignore the no,” signaled genuine inner character and resolve.

So, do you have such resolve, such persistence? Or do you take “no” for an answer too quickly, too easily?
Randy Mayeux
Contributed by:
Randy Mayeux
Professional Speaker & Writer
Co-founder, First Friday Book Synopsis

Are You Caught in an Ego Trap?

If you watch, you will see a number of articles popping up dealing with some version of this issue: “does a great leader have to be something of a jerk?”

Such articles have usually referred to Steve Jobs, and these days Elon Musk is creeping into the conversation. And both of these leaders had/have pretty high JQs (Jerk Quotients).

But, I think it is a pretty big mistake to even have this conversation. It is certainly a dumb idea to say “since Steve Jobs was something of a jerk, then I will be more of a jerk, and thus, maybe more successful.” In my opinion, it doesn’t quite work that way. I think Steve Jobs, and maybe Elon Musk, were just superior leaders, who also happened to have high JQs.Seinfeld

In other words, maybe being a jerk, or not being a jerk, has little to do with actual success.

Yes…, not being a jerk has plenty to do with building a workplace that people want to be a part of. Although, truth be told, the people who “survived” Steve Jobs, and the people who “survive” Elon Musk, seem to be pretty loyal. They generally believe that they got more accomplished than they could have/would have, because of the unswerving focus of these leaders.

I think that leaders who succeed have qualities unrelated to the JQ spectrum. Mainly, they have an uncanny ability to sense what people really want/need, and then they have the equally uncanny ability to marshal teams and resources to turn that into reality.

Let’s put it this way: there are some jerks who are great leaders, and plenty of jerks who are not at all much of a leader. And, there are some really “nice” (i.e., high EQ) people who do not lead very well, and a few who do.

In other words, great leaders are rare, regardless of their EQ and JQ.

Ego vs. EQBut, let’s pretend that you would like to be successful, while lowering your JQ. In other words, let’s imagine that you want to be a good leader, a successful leader, and not much of a jerk. (A worthy goal, in my opinion).  Here’s a little help from the book Ego vs. EQ: How Top Leaders Beat 8 Ego Traps with Emotional Intelligence by Jen Shirkani.

First, a key quote/excerpt from this book — part of Ego Trap 1 (see below):

It’s easy to end up at the top of your organization with certain blind spots that fewer and fewer people are willing to call to your attention….
Maybe people have tried to give you feedback, only to see you ultimately ignore it. So they stop. (emphasis added).

“Blind spots that fewer people are willing to call to your attention.”

That’s a nice way to say that:

you do have blind spots
and
nobody is willing to call you on them
partly because
you are unwilling to let anyone call you on them.

In other words, you are not just blind regarding your own blind spots, you are also deaf when it comes to listening to correctives. In other words, you are something of a jerk, and you don’t own up to it; you don’t even listen to anyone willing to tell you about your problem. Thus, guaranteeing a lower EQ, and a higher JQ.nph

So… whatever else your job is, the closer you get to the top of any hierarchy, the more important it is to put someone (maybe more than one such someone) into your inner circle to tell you the truth. And then, you have to listen to their warnings and correctives, and do something with what they have the courage to tell you. Otherwise, your JQ goes up while your EQ goes down.


Here are all 8 Ego Traps from the book Ego vs. EQ.  You might want to read them carefully; they set quite a challenging agenda for the leader. And then read the book for a deeper dive into these 8 ego traps. Here they are:

Ego Trap 1: Ignoring feedback you don’t like
Ego Trap 2: Believing your technical skills trump your leadership skills
Ego Trap 3: Surrounding yourself with more of you
Ego Trap 4: Not letting go of control
Ego Trap 5: Being blind to your downstream impact
Ego Trap 6: Underestimating how much you are being watched
Ego Trap 7: Losing touch with the frontline experience
Ego Trap 8: Relapsing back to your old ways

But, as with most genuine challenges, it always starts with Step One: “Hello, my name is ____, and I admit…”

Randy Mayeux
Contributed by:
Randy Mayeux
Professional Speaker & Writer
Co-founder, First Friday Book Synopsis

Fueling Intrinsic Motivation

How are the great things accomplished? Not from carrots and sticks.

This quote from Elon Musk, from Bold: How to Go Big, Create Wealth and Impact the World by Peter H. Diamandis and Steven Kotler, pretty much says it all:

elon-musk-tesla

Passion and purpose scale—always have, always will. Every movement, every revolution, is proof of this fact. Plus, doing anything big and bold is difficult, and at two in the morning for the fifth night in a row, when you need to keep going, you’re only going to fuel yourself from deep within. You’re not going to push ahead when it’s someone else’s mission. It needs to be yours.

Daniel Pink wrote about such kind of motivation in Drive. This Elon Musk quote captures it as well as anything I’ve ever read…
michael-jordan-dunkWatching basketball (the NCAA, this weekend) always takes me back to what I’ve read about Michael Jordan and his legendary work ethic. If you’ve never read the great essay by David Halberstam, Jordan’s Moment, take a few minutes and read it. It talks about how Michael Jordan learned a new shot – yes, a new shot – near the end of his career, that he first envisioned, and then worked on hour after hour in secret. He worked on it while filming Space Jam. From Halberstam’s article:

In 1995, after Jordan returned to basketball from his year-and-a-half-long baseball sabbatical, he spent the summer in Hollywood making the movie “Space Jam,” but he demanded that the producers build a basketball court where he could work out every day.  

What creates this kind of creative thinking, and leads to these so-many-hours of work? Whatever it is, it comes from within – it is intrinsic

We tend to describe such action as simple “work ethic.” It is certainly that – but it is not simply that. It is, to quote Mr. Musk again, this:

you’re only going to fuel yourself from deep within.

BoldIn Bold, this is described as flowing from “passion and purpose.” So, if we ask how we develop that kind of intrinsic motivation, it seems to start here – with such passion and purpose. A person with a “job to pay the bills” will never quite be motivated by this deeper passion, this deeper purpose. Only such deep inner realities will “fuel you from deep within.”

So, what motivates you – where do you find your motivation? That reveals so very much, doesn’t it?

Randy Mayeux
Contributed by:
Randy Mayeux
Professional Speaker & Writer
Co-founder, First Friday Book Synopsis

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