“Elon Musk… built an industrial empire from the stuff of little boy dreams: fast cars and rocket ships. Musk is an idealist who told us he had to start his company so that man could colonize Mars and save the Earth. His sister says it’s like her brother traveled into the future and came back to tell us all about it.” CBS News
The biggest regrets in life are usually not about what we did do, but what we didn’t do. Elon Musk attempts the extraordinary, without giving thought to the risk of failure. He didn’t expect Tesla or SpaceX to succeed. In fact, he was confident that the first of the SpaceX launches wouldn’t make it back from orbit, or even launch in the first place. Many have an important idea but do not bother to try either because of a lack of belief in self or the fear of failing, or the inability to articulate that idea in a way that garners buy-in and support. There are many lessons to be gleaned from the failures and successes of Musk.
Elon Musk, the man behind the successful launch of PayPal, and the inspiration for Robert Downey Jr.’s portrayal of Iron Man, learned that Space is even harder than the Internet. An achiever accustomed to impossible goals, Musk was all of 28 years old when he sold his first software company for $309 million. He was 31 when he sold PayPal to eBay for $1.5 billion. Several months before that sale, in June 2002, he had founded SpaceX. In just seven years, the company rapidly built the Falcon 1, named after Star Wars’ Millennium Falcon; along with the Dragon spacecraft, designed to carry both cargo and humans.
In 2006, after Musk sank a total of $100 million of his own money into the business, NASA awarded it a $278 million contract to develop technology for servicing the International Space Station; and an additional agreement raised the total to $396 million. But the deal stipulated that the rockets and spacecraft actually had to work, and the Falcon’s first three launches failed. By 2008, the company was not only in trouble, it was threatening to bring down Musk’s other ventures: the Tesla electric car and SolarCity, a company that makes solar power systems along with charging stations for electric vehicles.
Three strikes and you’re out… Most stop before ever getting to that third strike. In 2008, Elon Musk was on a fourth attempt and running on fumes when he received a call from NASA, the week of Christmas nonetheless, letting him know that he had 1.6 billion dollar contract to ferry supplies to the International Space Station.
The week of Christmas seems to play a theme in his success. On December 22, 2015, the first stage of a rocket called Falcon 9 helped drive a payload of 11 satellites into low Earth orbit, then, 35 seconds later, executed a ballet of engine burns and stuck its landing just five miles from the launch pad on Cape Canaveral. The first rocket with an orbital payload that managed to return for a successful upright landing, Falcon 9 was a triumph for its company, SpaceX; for its brilliant entrepreneur Elon Musk; and for the cause of commercial space. The moment was significant for more than the technology. SpaceX had succeeded in proving the practicability of relatively low-cost space flight.
Now this year, just a few days before Christmas, SpaceX marvels the world with a show for spectators with the launch of SpaceX Falcon 9 dropping 10 satellites into their intended orbits.
SpaceX has had a phenomenal year, and they’ve motivated and inspired a lot of people as to what is possible,” said Eric Stallmer, president of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, an industry group for the private space sector. Want to inspire students to go into STEM? Get their heads in the clouds... The sky is no longer the limit!
What is too important not to try even if you risk failure?
Think of other success stories in which the individual had to overcome great odds or defeats in order to achieve great things. How can you apply these lessons in your own life?
Elon Musk launched two impossible companies- Tesla and SpaceX. What impossible ideas have you thought of pursuing? Are you pursuing them? If not, what has held you back?