Lessons From… Elon Musk by Tim O’Neil

David Powers
Feb 11, 2018 · 2 min read

“We’re just going to figure out what it takes to improve tunneling speed by, I think, somewhere between 500 and 1,000 percent. We have no idea what we’re doing — I want to be clear about that.”

That was Elon Musk, discussing his plans to construct a tunnel system to combat the issue of a few (million) people sitting in LA traffic 5 times a week.

Our boy Elon is clearly not playing around here (because he never is). The man that revolutionized internet payments, changed the automobile industry, and wants to help you die in space is also ready to solve one of the greatest first-world problems of our time: traffic.

“We have no idea what we are doing…”

Musk wants it to be perfectly clear that he has little to none of the necessary knowledge to solve this problem. Yet. But that’s okay, because Musk has a “growth mindset” as opposed to a “fixed mindset”.

Fixed vs. Growth

Fixed Mindset

  • We do work to look smart. (Give me that A!)
  • We think struggling with a concept means we aren’t smart.
  • We avoid difficult tasks.

Growth Mindset

  • We do work to learn. (Yeah, I got a B-, but I learned a ton of cool shit.)
  • We don’t mind the struggle because we realize greater effort = greater understanding.
  • We work harder at difficult tasks because we know we will be rewarded.

Side Note: Did I just simplify years and years of research into 6 bullets? Yes. To learn more from someone far smarter than I, check out Carol Dweck dropping some serious knowledge.

So, What’s the Lesson?

Having a fixed mindset is damaging, especially for entrepreneurs. When many of us begin to solve a problem, we are in Musk’s shoes. We have no idea what we are doing. That’s when we need to value the process of learning, to have faith that greater effort will yield greater results, and that every misstep gets us closer to a right step. Knowing what not to do is invaluable.

You are not limited by what you currently know. If you tell someone about the problem you are going to solve and they ask you, “How?” and all you can muster is a Musk-esque, “I have no idea what I’m doing…” then you are probably right where you need to be.

Got any more?

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