For quite a while now I have been fascinated by Elon Musk's ability to accomplish incredibly difficult things and often at a ridiculously fast pace. Love him or hate him, you can't deny that Elon Musk is a pretty productive guy. And, as someone who loves digging in to see what makes successful people tick, I recently started to wonder what are the habits and practices and mindsets that drive Elon Musk's ability to get things done. After reading Ashlee Vance's biography on Musk as well as digging into some of his Reddit AMAs and past online interviews, I came up with five lessons that answer this question. And, these five lessons are things that anybody can put into practice in their own lives. And, we're gonna start with one that is deceptively simple. At an AMA he did on Reddit in 2015, one of the most updot, updoted, updooted. One of the most updooted . I should just say updooted. One of the most updooted questions was what daily habit do you believe has the largest positive impact on your life? To which Musk simply replied, "Showering." Now, I'll admit that min initial reaction to this question was that Elon was basically trolling this person.
And, hey, it's possible that he was. But, it's also possible that he was serious about it. And, reading his answer made me think about a broader, but still related lesson that I've learned myself. When I take my personal appearance seriously, I take my work more seriously as well. If I wake up in the morning and I shower immediately and I wear clothes that make me feel confident, I'm likely to have a really productive day even if I'm working here at home where nobody can see me.
And, this is something that many entrepreneurs learn really early on when they start working for themselves. And, it's a lesson that many students learn when they go to college and they get out of their parents' houses. And, the fewer external structures you have in your life, you know, managers, parents, incredibly tough fairies named Jorgen Von Strangle, the more you have to rely on your own self-discipline and willpower to get things done. And, those two traits are surprisingly influenced by your hygiene, by your personal appearance, and by the organization and cleanliness of your environment. So, if you wanna be more productive in your work on a daily basis, take these things seriously. Shower every day, or at least often enough that you don't smell like a beta tester for a cologne made by Oscar the Grouch.
And, dress well. And, by that I don't mean you have to wear a suit and tie to class, but wear clothes that make you feel confident and that make it look like you're taking yourself seriously. Another thing that I noticed about Musk, which forms the basis of our second lesson, is that he sets an example for his team. Musk is a famously demanding CEO, expecting his employees to work long hours, outwork the competition at every point, and basically give up any semblance of a work-life balance. And, this can make him seem abrasive and uncaring. Here's one thing that he said to one of his employees at Tesla. "I want you to think ahead and think so hard every day "that your head hurts. "I want your head to hurt every night when you go to bed." Now, despite this abrasive nature, most of Musk's current and former employees have a lot of respect for him.
And, they're willing to sacrifice a balanced life in order to meet his demands. Why is this? Well, one reason is that Musk doesn't expect anyone on his teams to work any harder than he does. In other words, he sets the example. Musk puts in anywhere between 85 to 100 hours per week, often working the full seven days. And, he also has an intense system of bashing his tasks in order to wring every minute for all that it's worth. So, while Musk's employees are working hard, he's working harder. Of course, an integral part of setting an example, is making sure that example is visible to the people whose morale will benefit from it. And, that's why Musk chose to put his desk at Tesla on the factory floor in the middle of all the other engineers' desks. Steve Jurvetson, who's one of the board members at Tesla explained Musk's reasoning for selecting this location.
"He picks the most visible place on purpose. "He's at Teslas just about every Saturday and Sunday "and wants people to see him and know they can find him." Now, here's how this relates to your personal productivity. Deliberately choosing to set a good example for those around you, will further motivate you to consistently improve. When you know other people are watching, especially people that you've put demands on, you're not gonna rest on your laurels. Plus, when you're working on a group project, or if you eventually get into a situation where you're managing other people, setting an example is gonna help to make your team a more cohesive and effective unit. And, for Elon Musk, having his teams be cohesive and effective is crucial because he is constantly setting stretch goals, which is the basis for our third lesson. One of Musk's most notorious character traits, is a tendency to set incredibly ambitious deadlines for his companies' various projects. And, this can sometimes be unrealistic.
If you're familiar with Tesla's early history, you might remember that they initially promised to ship the first Roadster back in 2006, a date that was further pushed back and back and back until the Roadster finally released in late 2008. On the flip side, these seemingly impossible deadlines have a powerful effect on his teams. Here's how one former executive at SpaceX put it. "It's like he has everyone working on this car "that is meant to get from Los Angeles to New York "on one tank of gas. "They'll work on the car for a year and test "all of its parts. "Then, when they set off for New York after that year, "all the vice presidents think privately "that the car will be lucky to get to Las Vegas. "What ends up happening is that the car gets "to New Mexico, twice as far as they ever expected, "and Elon is still mad. "He gets twice as much as anyone else out of people." And, I wanna put special emphasis on that last sentence there because it perfectly illustrates the power of stretch goals.
Essentially, a stretch goal is a goal that's beyond your current capabilities or sometimes your current perception of your capabilities. If you think that you can do five pull-ups and you have a coach who tells you to jump up on the bar and do 10, he's just set a pretty challenging stretch goal for you. And, what's gonna happen is you're probably not gonna get 10 pull-ups, but you are gonna get seven. Often the seemingly impossible stretch goal is exactly what's needed to push us past our previous conceived limits. You have to have the guts to go for something that you don't think you can currently achieve because in pursuit of it, you're gonna bring your skills up to the level that they need to be at to actually get it done. This kind of growth doesn't happen when you keep aiming for things that are just as doable as what you've done before. And, Elon Musk knows this well. Another thing that Musk knows well is the value of developing a wide knowledge base. Among the CEOs of all the tech companies out there, Musk stands out as one of the few who actually understands a lot of the science behind the cars and rockets that his companies create.
And, this wide understanding of physics and math and engineering allows Musk to actually follow along when his engineers explain problems to him. And, he can often suggest solutions that do end up working. Additionally, this wide breadth of knowledge allows him to push past mental roadblocks and to motivate his team to innovate and do things that others thought were impossible. The idea of reusing rockets is a great example here. In his book, Ashlee Vance notes that, "There's a camp of space experts who think Musk "is flat-out wasting his time, and that engineering "calculations already prove the reusable rockets "to be a fool's errand." And, yet in March of this year, SpaceX launched the same Falcon 9 rocket into space for the second time.
Reusable rockets are here. Now, Musk's knowledge of science and engineering isn't solely a product of his pre-CEO years. Even as he worked to run his companies, he also strove to learn the fundamentals of what his engineers were building. Here's a great passage from Vance's book on this. He would trap an engineer in the SpaceX factory and set to work grilling him about a type of valve or specialized material. "I though at first that he was challenging me "to see if I knew my stuff," said Kevin Brogan, one of the early engineers. "Then I realized he was trying to learn things. "He would quiz you until he learned 90% of what you know." Musk's insistence on learning about every aspect of the engineering that goes into his companies' products makes him a T-shaped person, somebody with a deep knowledge and skills in one particular area, but also a shallower, yet still fairly substantial amount of knowledge in a broad array of other topics and disciplines.
By contrast, an I-shaped person, a specialist, has a deep knowledge in one particular area, but that's about it. They basically stay in their lane. And, there's also what you could call a dash-shaped archetype. These are your jack of all trades, master of none type people. Out of these three archetypes, you should be striving to become a T-shaped person, because doing so gives you the best of both world. You develop expertise in one particular area to a degree where you can make a truly meaningful contribution to it, but having broad knowledge in a lot of other areas allows you to be more creative, and allows you to look at problems from a new perspective and solve things in a different way. And, that brings us to our final and most important lesson from Musk. Always assume that you can improve. I wanna start this section off with what is hands-down my favorite quote from Elon Musk.
"I think it's very important to have a feedback loop, "where you're constantly thinking about what you've done "and how you could be doing it better. "I think that's the single best piece of advice: "constantly think about how you could be doing things better "and questioning yourself." Elon Musk is never satisfied with where he is now. He may be proud of his accomplishments and what his companies have been able to achieve, but he knows that in every single area there's always something that could be done better. There's always a better, faster, cooler, or cheaper way to do it. One of my favorite examples of this mindset in action is when he got a $120,000 quote from a supplier for an electromechanical actuator, which is a part that needs to go into a rocket.
Now, most aerospace companies probably would've accepted the quote price, shoved the part into their rocket, and passed the expense on to their clients. But, Elon Musk, instead, laughed at the supplier and told an employee to go build the exact same part from scratch with a budget of $5,000. And, that employee, whose name was Steve Davis, ended up building the part for $3,900, which was even under the budget that Musk set and that part ended up going to space in the Falcon 1 rocket. So, again, there is always a better, or in this case, cheaper way to do it. Now, there's a name for this method of thinking. It's called the growth mindset and it's potentially the single most important factor that separates successful people from their less successful counterparts. A growth-minded person thinks that they can learn anything as long as they're willing to put enough effort into it. If they fail, they're gonna get back up and they're gonna try again, this time with new knowledge about what not to do.
And, at the end of the day, they realize that their potential is only limited by their willingness to work hard and keep trying new approaches until something works. People who don't think this way, have a fixed mindset. They tend to see the world as something that is the way it is, it's not really gonna change. And, that they themselves are not really the kind of people that get better. They may also believe that the way they currently do things is the best way to do it.
These are the kind of people that think if it ain't broke don't fix it. But, the thing is, this type of thinking is what gets people stuck in ruts. It causes stagnation. Meanwhile, those who live a growth-oriented life are going to make progress. And, even if the progress they make is small, even if it's just 1% per day, over time, well, that adds up. Now, earlier on we talked about how Elon Musk is a T-shaped person, how he has that deep level of expertise that's augmented by a broad knowledge base of many different topics. And, this is something that you should be striving to become, especially as more and more companies are leaning on algorithms and automation to solve the really straightforward problems. If, say you're an engineering student, you definitely wanna spend most of your time focusing on the main things like fluid dynamics and algorithms. But, if you spent some of your independent time also dabbling in things like marketing or graphic design or maybe even a tech area that you're not familiar with like machine learning AI, you're gonna be able to use your main skill set more creatively and you might find that you actually find a job at the intersection of two fields that you didn't even know existed in the first place.
And, if you wanna start building some initial competence in these outside areas, you should aim to do it actively. And, one of the best places that you can do that is Skillshare. Skillshare has over 17,000 courses and a ton on different topics including all the ones I just mentioned above: graphic design, AI and machine learning, marketing. In fact, they have a fantastic marketing course from Seth Godin who is one of my favorite authors that you should definitely check out.
And, the best thing about all their courses is that they have hands-on, practical components. So, instead of just watching videos, you're gonna be able to sink your teeth into some challenges that will really stretch your capabilities and accelerate your learning. Now, while they do have thousands of courses for you to choose from, I do wanna recommend one course in particular this week.
And that's Keith Yamashita's course on storytelling. Human beings are wired to love stories. So if you can learn the elements of good storytelling and how to craft one yourself, you're gonna have an easier time connecting with people and getting them onboard with your ideas, whether you're giving a presentation or interviewing for a job. So, if you wanna go through that course or dig into any other area that you're interested in, give Skillshare a try.
And, the first 500 people who click the link in the description down below and sign up, will get a two-month free trial of unlimited learning. After that, a premium subscription starts at less than 10 bucks a month and you can cancel at any time. So, go check 'em out and I wanna give a huge thanks to Skillshare for sponsoring this video and continually supporting this channel. Also a huge thanks to you guys for watching. And, if you like this video, definitely give it a thumbs up to support this channel. And, hey, maybe consider sharing it with a friend as well. If you're not subscribed yet, you can subscribe right there and maybe click that bell icon if you wanna get notifications right when I upload. Otherwise, click right there to get a free copy of my book on how to earn better grades. You can also click right there to check out our latest podcast episode which you might wanna do if you're looking for a job any time soon. Otherwise, I will have one more video from this channel right there that you can click on and watch.