A Quora user recently asked: What is it like to interview Elon Musk?
James Altucher -- investor, writer, entrepreneur and podcast guru -- provided quite an answer in list form this morning.
Check it out below (and check out James' blog here):
I never interviewed Elon Musk but inspired by your question I listened to every interview he ever did and compiled what I think are the most inspirational quotes to me.
They may not be inspirational to you. Inspiration is somewhat of a risk: it takes you outside the world you once knew and introduces you to a new thought, person, idea, or something totally unexpected.
So I wrote down the quotes and what I think I learned from them. Maybe as I think of them more I'll learn more. I don't know.
Here are the inspirational quotes from Elon Musk that stuck with me:
1. "If something is important enough, even if the odds are against you, you should still do it."
I was thinking: what if it really is impossible.
But Elon Musk then takes it to the next level always: "let's go to Mars".
Or "let's make a billion dollar battery factory." So at the very least it's always worth exploring the delicious curvature of the impossible.
2. "Going from PayPal, I thought: ‘Well, what are some of the other problems that are likely to most affect the future of humanity?' Not from the perspective, ‘What's the best way to make money?"
I've interviewed over 100 people now on my podcast. Each of the 100 have achieved amazing results in their life.
That's a subjective opinion. "Amazing" to me.
But none of them have done if for the money. I was talking to Coolio, for instance, who had the best selling song of 1995.
He started writing lyrics every day in 1977. It took him 17 years to have a single hit.
"Never do something for the money," Coolio told me.
3. "(Physics is) a good framework for thinking. ... Boil things down to their fundamental truths and reason up from there."
My guess is he is not referring specifically to the science and theories of physics but the act of visualizing something, coming up with an idea or a theory of why it might be true, and then figuring out how to prove that theory.
To me, thats what physics is. Since the rules are constantly changing, which is another fascinating aspect of physics.
4. "The first step is to establish that something is possible; then probability will occur."
I wonder about this. What's impossible? Maybe a time machine is too hard to figure out.
But to make an electric car you can imagine first a hybrid car that has a trunk filled with very efficient batteries so you don't ever need the gas part.
Then it becomes a function of probabilities versus possibilities.
5. "It's OK to have your eggs in one basket as long as you control what happens to that basket."
Many people think entrepreneurship is about risk. In fact, it's the opposite. Good entrepreneurs don't learn by failure (the popular "failure porn" all over the Internet). Good entrepreneurs learn by solving difficult problems.
Elon Musk controlled his outcome with X . com not by destroying the competitor but by merging with it (paypal).
6. "Persistence is very important. You should not give up unless you are forced to give up."
I always think this is the magic equation:
persistence + love = abundance.
You have to love something enough to persist. You have to persist enough to deepen your love.
And then abundance is the natural outcome. Not just for you but for everyone. Since wealth comes to those who create wealth for others.
7. "You want to have a future where you're expecting things to be better, not one where you're expecting things to be worse."
This is incredibly important. News reporters have zero qualifications to inform people and yet they are all doom and gloom to sell subscriptions.
But entrepreneurs are the ones who imagine a better world and how to make the leap to get there.
8. "It is a mistake to hire huge numbers of people to get a complicated job done. Numbers will never compensate for talent in getting the right answer (two people who don't know something are no better than one), will tend to slow down progress, and will make the task incredibly expensive."
When I was running a software company, we always knew it would take one great programmer to solve a hard problem in one night versus 10 mediocre programmers taking a month to screw up a problem even worse.
9. "If you go back a few hundred years, what we take for granted today would seem like magic – being able to talk to people over long distances, to transmit images, flying, accessing vast amounts of data like an oracle. These are all things that would have been considered magic a few hundred years ago."
And now imagine what it will be like 300 years from now when people look back at today. "They had to actually 'connect' to an Internet then!" or "It took them 7 hours to get from NY to CA!"
10. "My biggest mistake is probably weighing too much on someone's talent and not someone's personality. I think it matters whether someone has a good heart."
I recently watched a company go from a billion in revenues to zero when a founder stole $90 million from the company.
Integrity, humility, and doing your best is by far the most important consideration when evaluating whether to work for someone.
12. "When I was in college, I wanted to be involved in things that would change the world. Now I am."
I always wonder about the phrase "change the world". Can one person change another.
Perhaps the most valuable starting point is to do everything I can to change myself each day: to be physically healthier, to be around emotionally healthy people ,to be create, to be grateful.
Then maybe I can have a head start on changing the world.
13. "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."
I'm invested in about 30 companies. The companies that fail are when CEOs smoke their own crack.
Technology, competition, customers are constantly changing. But we have a cognitive bias to think that the activity we have invested the most time in is, of course, a GREAT activity.
What could be wrong with it?
So it's important to constantly question this evolution-based cognitive bias with constant questioning as if one were an outsider looking in. Without that, businesses fail.
14. "I wouldn't say I have a lack of fear. In fact, I'd like my fear emotion to be less because it's very distracting and fries my nervous system."
A small level of fear is motivational. It forces me to have a backup plan. The average multimillionaire supposedly has seven sources of income. They all have backup plans.
Even Elon Musk has Tesla, SpaceX, SolarCity, and probably a dozen other companies he's peripherally involved in.
Any endeavor I do, I always ask two questions: "What is my plan B?" and "What is my evil plan?" Meaning what do I hope to learn from this that nobody else expects.
15. "Life is too short for long-term grudges."
I always think that I'm the average of the five people I spend the most time with.
So this quote is important to me. Don't spend time with people who can even incite a grudge. I try to spend time with the people I love and who love me.
16. "Don't be afraid of new arenas."
Again, inspiration is a risk. It means stepping out of the comfort zone where you've never been before.
I try as an exercise to figure out at least one thing a day to do that is outside my comfort zone.
One time I was talking to Noah Kagan and he suggested something simple: never time you go for coffee, ask for a 10 percent discount after they ring up your order.
This sounds trite compared with planning a ship to Mars but it really made me nervous when I tried it. It was good practice. Maybe next thing will be the trip to Mars.
17. "I think it is possible for ordinary people to choose to be extraordinary."
I thought about this when I read it. I think it's ok for "ordinary" people to be ordinary also. Ordinary is beautiful.
But I think every day it's worth trying to be a little better (1 percent, an amount so small it can't be measured) in physical health, emotional health, creativity, and gratitude.
Maybe that is a path to extraordinary as that 1 percent compounds. But I don't want the pressure of "future extraordinary". I just want to be a little better today.
18. "I could either watch it happen or be a part of it."
Sometimes people say to me, "I missed the boat" or "I am too late". I think it's never too late to do what you love."
What you love is always on the shore, waiting for you to arrive, waiting with open arms.
19. "Being an Entrepreneur is like eating glass and staring into the abyss of death."
People say to me, "I hate my cubicle. I want to be an entrepreneur."
Entrepeneurship is a disaster. 85 percent of entrepreneurs fail and failure is not fun at all. Not to mention you have to deal with customers, employees, investors - they are all your bosses and not the other way around.
Then you have to sell, you have to execute, you have to build, you have to exit, you have to grow.
I like Elon Musk's approach of having many things to work on. Many Plan Bs. So any one entrepreneurial endeavor doesn't take up all the mind space.
20. "I would like to die on Mars. Just not on impact."
I highly recommend Andy Weir's book, "The Martian". He self-published it. Then it got picked up by a major publisher. Now Ridley Scott doing the movie.
Discusses this very topic.
21. On his favorite book when he was a teen, "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy": It taught me that the tough thing is figuring out what questions to ask, but that once you do that, the rest is really easy."
Here's my favorite part of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: the idea that all you really need from a materialistic perspective is a towel.
Then the Universe sort of takes care of things after that. Hygiene is key.
22. "I just want to retire before I go senile because if I don't retire before I go senile, then I'll do more damage than good at that point."
"Retirement" is an interesting word, invented by the actuaries who used statistics to come up with social security.
So I doubt Elon Musk will ever retire.
In fact, from a mortality perspective the two most dangerous years in life are the year you are born and the year you retire.
------ So I never interviewed him. But maybe read and watched several dozen interviews and wrote down my favorite quotes.
Then I wrote what I learned from them. I want to learn from everyone. That's how I get inspired. If you don't agree with me, maybe you learned different things.
But I like these quotes and I hope this somewhat fits the answer.
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