Elon Musk Dishes Out His 5 Keys to Success — What Are They?

Tesla CEO Musk visits Gigafactory construction site, Grunheide, Germany - 13 Aug 2021
Patrick Pleul / POOL / EPA-EFE / Shutterstock.com

On Dec. 28, 2021, Elon Musk, billionaire CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, appeared on an episode of the Lex Fridman Podcast. In the 2-hour, 30-minute broadcast, the two discussed many topics, including Musk’s tips for young people seeking to achieve success. What were they?

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1. Do Things That Are Useful for the World

Musk, who is working to reduce or reverse climate change through the widespread development and use of electric vehicles and solar roofs, advised young people to “do things that are useful to your fellow human beings, to the world.”

He noted that it’s hard to be useful. Finding a need in society and developing the skills to address that need is one way to not just carve out a strong financial future, but to create, as Musk said, “a life worth having lived.”

2. Contribute to Society

In line with finding ways to be useful to the world, Musk encouraged young people to make a “positive net contribution to society.” He urged people to look for ways to contribute more than they consume and emphasized that he respects people who put in an honest day’s work.

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He added that those who are still unsure about what field to pursue should “try to find an area where there’s an overlap of your talents and what you’re interested in. You want to try to find a thing that’s a good combination of the things you’re inherently good at but you also like doing.”

3. Read a Lot

Although Musk has a bachelor’s degree in physics, Musk was not a rocket engineer when he started SpaceX. In 2021, the company’s Falcon 9 rockets launched a record 31 times — including a few manned flights — and SpaceX landed a rocket for the 100th time. When people ask Musk how he learned how to build rockets, he has famously replied, “I read books.”

He reiterated this advice on Fridman’s podcast, elaborating, “try to ingest as much information as you can.”

He suggested skimming through the encyclopedia to learn about what topics may pique your interest.

4. Talk to People

The other key to Musk’s successful space company, he has said, was speaking to others who understood rockets and engineering more than he did.

That’s why it’s not surprising that his next piece of advice was: “Talk to people from different walks of life and different industries and professions and skills and occupations.”

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5. Try To Learn a Little About a Lot of Things

Young people often don’t know what profession they want to pursue or how they can best make a contribution to society. That’s where reading and talking to people in a variety of fields comes in. Musk suggested to “try to develop a good general knowledge.” He asked, “How would you know what you’re really interested in if you aren’t doing at least doing a peripheral exploration broadly of the knowledge landscape?”

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About the Author

Dawn Allcot is a full-time freelance writer and content marketing specialist who geeks out about finance, e-commerce, technology, and real estate. Her lengthy list of publishing credits include Bankrate, Lending Tree, and Chase Bank. She is the founder and owner of GeekTravelGuide.net, a travel, technology, and entertainment website. She lives on Long Island, New York, with a veritable menagerie that includes 2 cats, a rambunctious kitten, and three lizards of varying sizes and personalities – plus her two kids and husband. Find her on Twitter, @DawnAllcot.
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