It is both easy and premature to draw comparisons to Edison, Nikola Tesla, Henry Ford, Andrew Carnegie, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. Each one of those men had a profound impact on society, industry or technology. At 41 years young, Musk’s impact and ascension are just beginning.
“You want to have a future where you’re expecting things to be better, not one where you’re expecting things to be worse.”
The resume is impressive. Co-founder of PayPal. Co-founder and Chairman of SolarCity. Co-founder, CEO and Product Architect for Tesla. CEO, CTO and Chief Designer at SpaceX. It is even more impressive when you consider he is actively involved in each company with the exception of PayPal.
But his success could have easily become failure.
Against the odds, Tesla teetered on the edge of bankruptcy as Musk reimagined and reinvented the automobile industry with the electric Roadster and Model S sedan. Just recently his success was celebrated when Consumer Reports called it the best vehicle they ever tested.
“Failure is an option here. If things are not failing, you are not innovating enough.”
Simultaneously, Musk faced similar financial problems with SpaceX as he built a private aerospace company from the ground up. He would make history in 2012 as SpaceX became the world’s first privately held company to send a payload to the International Space Station.
Skeptics have, and continue, to doubt him but Musk presses on. Tesla and Solar City represent a future of clean, renewable energy and SpaceX may represent our best opportunity to colonize Mars.
And the Hyperloop? Well it represents our best opportunity to better connect our cities and a new mode of transport – a fifth mode after planes, trains, cars and boats. Perhaps the technology is just a bridge until we develop a much more sophisticated rapid transport.
Musk has said he is too focused on other projects to consider actually building the Hyperloop and instead published an open-source design that anyone can use or modify. His tweet almost suggests he thought it up last night.
“I think that’s the single best piece of advice: constantly think about how you could be doing things better and questioning yourself.”
Musk’s appetite for success all but insures his name will be mentioned among the world’s greatest inventors in a few years’ time. But the success of these companies may not be Musk’s greatest achievement – rather he has renewed our will to dream, invent and reach for the stars.