Last updated March 9, 2017 at 8:48 am
Elon Musk is not Tony Stark.
In fact that analogy is quite weak, Stark has far more charisma and cash. But Musk does have superpowers. The South African-born Canadian-American entrepreneur has a special way of turning an idea into a business.
With degrees in economics and physics, you might argue a broad education is the secret to becoming a magnate. But Musk sees it differently. Pressed by TED’s Chris Anderson to reveal his ‘’secret sauce” Musk modestly replied.
‘’I don’t have a good answer for you, I work a lot “
Anderson filled in the blanks:
“… it’s your ability to think at a system level of design, and feel so confident … that you take crazy risks.”
That may be true. As a CEO without an MBA (Elon hires Harvard types “despite” the degree), Musk is a pinup for the “engineering” leaders, where technology is the top industry sector in the global top 100 companies, but he stands alone for breadth of vision. Musk is beyond making a buck. He wants to save the world.
Perhaps the strictures of life in Africa or the liberalism of Canada shaped his unique talent. But again Elon differs. He claims to have always been American “at heart”.
No! The answer is simple. Elon’s superpower secret is science.
Elon Musk thinks like a physicist and is unabashed about it. Opposed to reasoning by analogy and its simple iterations, Musk prefers first principles. He argues that when the few underlying tenets are well understood the constraint of method is lifted. This is clear in his disruption of the aerospace industry. In 15 short years, Musk has grown a capability audacious enough to reach for Mars using just this mindset.
“I was trying to understand why rockets were so expensive. Obviously the lowest cost you can make anything for is the spot value of the material constituents… so there’s just a question of how efficient you can be about getting the atoms from raw material state to rocket shape”
In other places he has commented
“Physics is a mental framework for problem solving and admitting you’re wrong.”
Of course Musk is well placed and motivated to deploy such thinking. With a justifiable, mild paranoia that existential threats are abound, Musk has set himself the goal of making humanity a multi-planet species. The strategy is to break that task in two. Part A. Solve the energy needs of the existing planet. Part B. Get off planet. So with his PAYPAL fortune, textbooks and a clutch of mentors, Musk ventured into the world of solar energy founding Tesla/Solar City and into rocketry with SpaceX.
… And Musk is in a hurry
You might think he’s conscious of his own mortality but Musk as usual sees things deeply. His concern is that the window of opportunity to influence the world and realise his ambitions is small. More so he views humanity’s chances to get off world as fleeting. He equates it to the ‘now’ lost art of pyramid building.
Musk is leveraging the world he knows – while it exists – because his equations tell him that his aims are possible, he doesn’t want a change to the initial conditions upsetting the outcomes.
Elon Musk is not Tony Stark. But he does have a superpower.
Written by Glen Hutson