Pure Persistence with a Dose of Genius - Thoughts on Ashlee Vance's Biography of Elon Musk

Elon Musk is a once-in-a-generation revolutionary seeking to attain something much greater than a profitable quarter. The mind of Musk goes deeper than IPOs and big payouts. In his biography of this ever-persistent visionary, Ashlee Vance reveals Musk starving and striving for something greater than profit for profit’s sake.

In the final chapter of the biography, Vance writes, “Musk does not operate like your typical CEO. He’s charging after a personal calling--one that’s intertwined with his soul and injected into the deepest parts of his mind.” Vance explains that Musk’s primary goal is to prolong the lifespan of humanity by evolving man into an interplanetary species. All of Musk’s current companies feed this ultimate goal. Solar City provides the revolutionary batteries that make Tesla what it is; Tesla gives engineering and manufacturing to SpaceX, and SpaceX is the embodiment of Musk and his life’s quest.

Most business people and entrepreneurs view profitability as the apex. But as Vance explains, that is not nearly enough for Musk. He writes, “For Musk, winning is not turning Tesla into a steady performer that pleases hedge fund managers.” From a “steady performer” stance, keeping Tesla alive during its early years made no financial sense. Musk dumped half of his PayPal payout into Tesla, not because he saw it as a great financial investment to live a cushy life, but because it was a step toward his purpose.

Elon Musk’s unwavering sense of purpose is something all people should strive for. He knows what he is chasing, and he is not afraid to smash, head-on, into the hurdles along the way. Musk’s persistence and ultimate belief in himself and his vision is why he is one of the greatest entrepreneurs and innovators ever to grace Earth (and possibly Mars!).

- Charlie