“Your best teachers are your failures.” I thought I’d like to start with this quote.
Seeking criticism is tough. It’s an exhausting process.
But if you do it right, it will lead to many long term benefits.
We, humans, find comfort in compliments – but comfort often leads to complacency.
The only effective way of moving forward is by learning – and what better way to learn other than criticisms, or essentially from your failures.
By constantly seeking criticisms, you (or your team) will relentlessly become pro-active in the search of ‘perfection’.
Your team continues to innovate, making products work better – or reducing service time for customers and so on.
More quotes by Elon Musk regarding the topic:
“When I spoke with someone about the Tesla Model S, I didn’t really want to know what’s right about the car. I want to know what’s wrong about the car.
When my friends get a product, I ask them to please not tell me what they like. Rather, tell me what you don’t like. And if I’ve asked that a few times of people, then they will start automatically telling me without me having to always ask the question.”
“You should take the approach that you’re wrong. Your goal is to be less wrong.”
– Elon Musk
Challenge reality (by understanding the fundamentals)
Elon Musk is a pro when it comes to breaking the norm.
While many argue that batteries will always be expensive – hence, electric cars will never become cost-effective, Musk did not bother.
He challenged the so-called industry experts by breaking down batteries into their basic components, and build it on your own – the cost of producing batteries could drop dramatically.
This discovery also led to the founding of Tesla Energy, a challenger of status quo in sustainable energy story for homes and businesses.
Obviously, we are mostly not capable of challenging the status quo in similar sense as Musk. The idea here is often question and challenge yourself whenever someone says “It can’t be done. That’s just hot it is and how it’s always been.”
“Boil things down to the most fundamental truths. Then reason up from there.”
– Elon Musk
Focus on signal over noise
Most successful people are relentless on stressing the importance of focus – including Musk himself.
Mr Musk simply has no time to entertain ideas other than product development.
This approach is synonymous to Mark Zuckerberg’s, “I will not entertain any idea unless it helps Facebook grow the total number of users.”
It’s a well-known fact that most companies love to invest lots of money into marketing than they do product development. This is something that Musk is against, as he believes promoting an incredible product requires less promotion – a good product speaks for itself.
“At Tesla, we’ve never spent any money on advertising. We’ve put all our money into R&D, engineering, design, and manufacturing to build the best car possible. When we consider spending money, we ask, ‘Will this create a better product?’ If not, we don’t proceed with spending the money.”
“Will this activity result in a better product? If not, stop those efforts.”
– Elon Musk
Make failure an option (by defining a contingency plan)
This goes back to my first point.
Becoming successful is not by avoiding mistakes. That never happens. If you look at Elon Musk’s success stories, it was all with pains and sufferings from failures. What Musk stresses importantly, is to continue learning from mistakes which leads to success.
Starting a space exploration company takes guts. The possibility of failure seems not too far out.
While most of us would surrender, Elon Musk carried on, anticipating failure while creating a contingency plan for SpaceX.
“If we don’t get the first SpaceX rocket launch to succeed by the time we’ve spent $100 million, we will stop the company. That will be enough for three attempted launches.”
We all know what happened. It took him the third attempt to succeed at SpaceX – which he finally managed to win a contract from NASA worth $1.6 billion.
So what can we learn here?
Accept failure as a possibility. Be smart when you take on high-risk situation by creating contingency plan when things go south.
“Failure is an option here. If things are not failing, you are not innovating enough.”
– Elon Musk
Remove worries (by living the worst-case scenario)
When Elon was 17 years old, he experimented with himself to live off $1 per day. He managed to do it with just eating hotdogs and oranges.
Why did he do this? He wanted to become an entrepreneur.
He did so because he wanted to see if he has what it takes to become a business owner. Having successfully go through the experiment, he knew money would not be an issue.
He has removed that fear by living the worst-case scenario.
“I figured if I could live off a dollar a day then, at least from a food stand point, it’s pretty easy to earn $30 a month.”
– Elon Musk
Solve Problems Beyond Yourself
If you haven’t noticed it yet, Elon Musk rarely talks about profits in interviews.
He often prefers to talk about how SpaceX can achieve the goals he set out making humanity into a multi-planetary species.
When he started Tesla, he never talked (or none I could find) about how much money he’s making from the growing trend of consumers buying electric cars. Instead, he pointed out how the tech can reduce our reliance on fossil fuels; and make the world a better place to live in, still, in the future.
Musk solves problems not to improve his world, but the ‘world’.
“If something is important enough, even if the odds are against you, you should still do it.”
– Elon Musk