Treat Yourself Like a Startup (Or a microbe, if you prefer).

Incubating People.

I’m a molecular biologist by education. I spend a lot of my time making some of the world’s tiniest organisms do pretty weird things. But microbes aren’t useful until they start growing. Otherwise, we don’t notice them, we don’t see them,we can’t see them. They have to grow to survive. Bacteria grow best—they grow exponentially—at 37 degrees Celsius. In an incubator.

That’s also why startup incubators exist, right? To help brand new companies grow rapidly. To be seen. To earn more than the year before. To be more than the year before.To survive. That’s the very definition of a startup.

“A startup is a company designed to search for a repeatable and scalable business model.”

Why can’t we treat ourselves like we treat our startups? Shouldn’t we be searching for our own “business models”—our own methods for rapid personal growth that we can spread to others? One we can repeat over and over again to create better versions of ourselves? Startups don’t stop at version 1.0, why should we?

Elon Musk,one of the most celebrated humans of this generation, has been incubating himself since he was six years old.

“And so he reads. Four, five hours a day, even as a first grader. He forgets nothing he reads. Tosca will say, “I wonder how high up in the sky the moon is!” and Kimbal will respond, “A billion kilometers!” And Elon, smiling, sharing, will say, “Actually, it is 384,400 kilometers away.” His siblings will stop and look at him then, and Elon, interpreting the silence as an invitation, will add, ‘On average.’”

The most important part of Elon’s story is that he didn’t plateau. He continued growing.

“BY THE TIME HE’S 10, he’s reading eight to ten hours a day. Elon reads and Elon retains, and his retention armors him. When the negative injunctions, You can’t and You won’t, come at Elon the way they come at all children, tens of thousands of times and in every conceivable form, sometimes overt and hard, sometimes insidious and soft, he simply doesn’t hear them.”

Elon Musk built a lot of startups.

PayPal. SolarCity. Tesla. SpaceX.

And Himself.

Elon Musk isn’t just good at one thing. He’s good at a lot of things. How does a single man become an internet entrepreneur, alternative energy guru, electric car designer, and rocket scientist?

By incubating himself. By learning. By growing. By having the ambition and fearlessness to change the world.

Our bodies are naturally at 37 degrees Celsius. We’re built to grow. We’re our own incubator.

If you reflect on who you were six months ago and don’t feel even slightly embarrassed by that person, you aren’t growing. You’re stagnant.

In the microbiology world, we have a word for bacteria like that.


Invest in Yourself.

Don’t just grow. Grow exponentially. Each year should feel better than the last. If you hit a ceiling, break it.

  • There’s always room for improvement. Run more, read more, do more. Start with running just a mile every day. Or just reading for 30 minutes every day. Start slow, then speed up. You’ll be amazed at how quickly you’ll learn, and do, new things.
  • Be a producer. Write something. Photograph something. Tell people about something. Create something everyday.Think of new ways, any way, to move the ideas inside your head out into the world. Grow your influence and yourself. The more you get “out there”, the higher the chance that people will listen to what you have to say.
  • Do Great Things. There’s a reason why some of the happiest people in the world are tackling its greatest challenges. Elon’s vision isn’t about making money, it’s about improving the world. The more you care about the outcome of your work, the less it feels like work. Treat every hour you put into what you learn and do as an hour that goes towards making the world a better place to live in. Make an investment in yourself an investment in humanity.

Don’t have time to incubate yourself?

Make it. You own 100% of you.

Grow. Be noticed. Be an inspiration. I’m not going to tell you to be the next Elon Musk. You should be yourself. Be the best damn You that you can be, and do the impossible along the way.

“The odds are we won’t succeed. But if something is important enough, then you should do it anyway.”—Elon Musk

The best part of treating yourself like a startup is that there’s only one investor you have to follow through for.


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