July 11, 2018
Writer: IT Communications Writer

Over the course of his entrepreneurial life, Elon Musk has started several companies and been ousted from two of them (Zip2 and PayPal); PayPal was voted one of the worst business ideas of 1999; he crashed his newly bought million-dollar McLaren F1 when it had been off the lot for one day; he was nearly arrested by Russian police in 2002 for trying to buy a rocket he'd already been turned down for; he started his own SpaceX company because he really wanted to get to Mars one day, and has since had three rockets explode, followed by one success, then three more explosions and critical failures (one of which held a Facebook satellite for Africa and a payload for NASA); and two of his companies were on the brink of bankruptcy at the same time. 

Epic fails. 

And yet, his net worth is $20 billion as of June 2018. Why is that? How does a long string of failures lead to success? Well, there are two reasons: 1) his failures are a sign that he is always willing to take risks and try new things, and 2) rather than leading to discouragement and giving up, Musk’s failures drive him to continually do better. 

Every failure Elon Musk has encountered has only led him to work harder and longer towards his dreams. Musk has stated on many occasions that his vision is to change the world and humanity by helping the environment by reducing global warming through sustainable energy production and consumption. His love of humanity as a whole has even led him to make plans to establish a human colony on Mars to help reduce the risk of human extinction. 

He consistently puts in 85- to 100-hour workweeks while running three different companies as CEO and Chairman. He organizes his day in five-minute increments to try and squeeze as much productivity out of himself as he can, and he often eats at his desk or in meetings during one of those five-minute intervals. He also regularly puts his own money towards the projects that fuel his ambitions, much to the chagrin of his financial advisors. He never stops moving forward, even when supposed disasters within the business world would stop anyone else. 

Those rockets he wasn’t able to buy from Russia that almost got him arrested? They motivated him to create SpaceX, a private sector company that builds rockets and will hopefully one day promote space travel to Mars. Musk said, "Creating a rocket company has to be one of the dumbest and hardest ways to 'make money'." And yet he pushed to make his dream a reality, if only because "I thought, 'nobody is going to be crazy enough to do space, so I'd better do space.'" After years of failed launches, critical errors, and exploding rockets, Musk got it right, flying the Falcon 9 to space and back several times. 

He won a contract worth over $112 million with NASA in 2016 by figuring out how to make rockets cheap and reusable. “We want to open up space for humanity, and in order to do that, space must be affordable,” Musk said. 

When Musk had two companies (SpaceX and Tesla) near bankruptcy at the same time, he put his own money into the companies to keep them afloat until the companies produced what he knew they were always capable of, going against his financial advisor’s recommendation to not invest his own money into companies that were not making a profit. It saved both SpaceX and Tesla and gave both companies time to become successful. 

Most people ask, ‘Why does he seem to enjoy taking risks no one else in their right minds would attempt?’ Musk’s view is, “It’s going to encourage other countries and companies to raise their sights and say, ‘We can do bigger and better,’ which is great.” He sees competition as the key that allows humanity to innovate. 

Even now, Musk has several more companies under his belt: the Tesla automobile company, SolarCity, and his most recent venture, the Boring Company. Taking risks is what Musk does, and he dives into it with glee, because for all the failures that have blindsided Musk, never once has he ever been afraid of failure; he is afraid of never trying. So, he said, “I would encourage you to take risks now, to do something bold, you won’t regret it.”