Elon Musk, The man at the helm of space exploration and electric cars
“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic” — Arthur C Clarke
While I was working on my project for Space Settlement Design Competition in 2012, I came to know about an engineer Elon Reeve Musk and his space venture Space-X. Billionaire, inventor, entrepreneur, and philanthropist, Elon Musk checks several boxes to be a role model for anyone, but, it was his methodology and vision about the future that really inspired me to pursue engineering. In this blog, I will share some of the life experiences of Elon Musk that defines him as my role model.
Starting a company is like eating a glass and staring into the abyss. — Elon Musk
Elon Musk believed in the idea that the best time to take risks is just after college. He firmly held his ideology and thus decided to drop out of his Ph.D. at Stanford University in 2 days to pursue his opportunities in the internet boom. Despite knowing the hardships of starting a company, he worked really hard putting every waking hour into making his company successful. Although he was ousted from the role of CEO in October 2000, it paid him very well when PayPal was acquired by eBay. His quote that “People need to work around 80 hours per week to change the world” gives me the strength to work more than 40 hours a week and utilize my time in a better manner.
The first step is to establish that something is possible; then probability will occur. — Elon Muk
In November 1989, the “90 Day Study” by NASA estimated an expense of 500 Billion USD spread over 20–30 years for the manned mission to Mars. Seeing the staggering cost estimates, NASA was rebuffed in its efforts to gain support. However, Musk truly believed in the idea of life extending to multiple planets, therefore to galvanize public interest in space exploration he started SpaceX and conceived ‘Mars Oasis’. Despite seeking criticism from his friends and relatives about this venture, he went with his belief in reducing transportation costs in space. And today, SpaceX is the only company in the world that can practically make space travel possible by reusing the rockets. This attitude of taking up the hardest challenges in the world and believing in your analysis despite the odds makes him a perfect role model for me.
Don’t just follow the trend. You may have heard me say that it’s good to think in terms of the physics approach of first principles. Which is, rather than reasoning by analogy, you boil things down to the most fundamental truths you can imagine and you reason up from there. — Elon Musk
Another great endeavor taken up by Musk lies in the most competitive automobile industry by the name of ‘Tesla’. Before the 21st century, electric cars seemed to be like ugly golf carts that can’t replace gasoline cars. But this time again it was Musk’s determination and persistence to make affordable electric cars that can reduce the impact of emissions on the environment. To achieve this, he started another division “Gigafactory” to reduce the expenses of producing Lithium-ion batteries. This has drastically elevated the research in the electric car and battery industry.
I don’t create companies for the sake of creating companies, but to get things done. — Elon Musk
The story does not end here. It is hard to think about how a single person can innovate and create an impact on so many things. In December 2016, while stuck in traffic, Musk tweeted “I am going to build a tunnel boring machine and just start digging …” To this end, he founded “The Boring Company” to solve the problem of transportation networks in large cities. His other ventures in the field of artificial intelligence through OpenAI, brain-computer interface through Neuralink, high-speed transportation through Hyperloop, high-speed internet connectivity through the StarLink project have also achieved stupendous milestones. They have shown unbounded progress so far and are continuously moving strides to improve human life on Earth and beyond.
Peter Thiel, co-founder at PayPal considers Elon Musk as a negative role model as according to him “he’s too hard to emulate”. Working on so many things, from private space flights to electric cars to high-speed transportation he is setting the bar too high. But as Musk himself says “It is possible for ordinary people to choose to be extraordinary”, I consider him as my role model.