I first heard about Elon Musk well over a decade ago when I was reading a random article about his company, Paypal, being sold to eBay for an insanely deserved amount of money. Back in those days, I was a teenager and wasn't thinking about much other than finishing high school and figuring out which colleges to send applications to before that point. The only thing that mattered within that frame of time for me was to go to college and maybe end up like Elon Musk or any other young, wealthy individual. Like most things in life, my priorities altered during my last year of high school around the same time Mr. Lusk slipped under the radar for the most part after his first big venture in the world of business had paid out. Honestly, he was someone I had entirely forgotten about for quite some time until recently.
The generation I grew up in was essentially told to go to school, get a degree, acquire a career, and to live out the rest of lives in an office. This was the model the college graduates of the previous generations adhered to and flourished with as well as the expectation most of them had for us to hold as the standard. At the time, I didn't have a problem with this idea of a more standardized, robotic and cliche future, but now I do. Endearingly, I blame this revelation on people like Elon Musk.
Those from a few generations before my own historically appeared to be the type of determined individuals who enjoyed challenging the system in place before them and making drastic moves in the name of progress. Sometime in the past forty years, we seem to have calmed down and bowed down much more than pushing the envelope and breaking the boundaries that were set before us. Sure, media exposure and social media are pretty much out of control because of "progress" but those have been on a steady climb of liberation since their inception. People like Elon Musk are different because they are throwing the risk of breaching their borders and standardized business order while they are young enough to recover from said risk if they fail. Sure, not everyone sold off their first company to a media outlet for millions of dollars and did the same thing once again a few years later, but scale isn't everything.
I lived the life of wanting to be "corporately comfortable" for years and was pretty well set on that path. This is the old corporate model of starting at the bottom, answering to everyone, and maybe getting to the point of having a few people answer to you while moving up the chain every few years. Such is the method I was taught in my education system and was somewhat expected to conform with. Go to college, figure out what you want to do, graduate from college, then figure it out all over again, work for someone else, get married, die. I was never taught that building something for myself that I could be proud of was admirable or that self-education was at all important. Actually, I didn't figure that out until well into my mid-twenties.
People don't even notice or pay attention to the old corporate models anymore because they are so common. This is where the few who do notice become noticed themselves, just like Mr. Musk. I could go to most of my peers and ask them why they can go into a restaurant and buy food directly from the owner, but cannot go to a dealership and buy a new car directly from the manufacturer and they wouldn't know how to answer. The dealership method of haggling and commissioned sales is pretty antiquated, and we all know this, but we still accept it as part of the system. Tesla Motors wants to sell their vehicles directly to the public and cannot do so because the old system of haggling and off-the-floor sales pressuring is perceived as the standard. Apparently it isn't enough that Elon Musk is pushing the envelope by manufacturing the first electric car to actually work in a production setting, but he is not allowed to sell it without third party involvement. Why not?
Preston Tucker pushed the envelope in the late 1940's by trying to build a car that broke the mold and made an impact on the way the automotive industry was conducted. He spent most of his life saving money, making connections, and sunk everything he had achieved and learned up until that point into his automotive dream. When it all collapsed on him, he fell hard and never recovered in his older age. John DeLorean did essentially the same thing. Malcom Bricklin? Same story. The difference between these brilliant men and men like Elon Musk is the time stamp. Mr. Musk is working himself to pieces to achieve everything he set out to do, but is allowing this progress to happen as he grows. Everything he is doing is building on its own time instead of him just jumping up one day and saying "I've been sitting on and obsessing over this idea for years and years now. Let's put all of my eggs in one basket and make it work!" No.
If there is anything I have learned from the brilliance, triumphs, and downfalls of those before me it is that staying in motion is the key to not only success, but happiness. Success is by personal definition, not some ruled ordinance standard as well. I see too many people graduate from college with a degree they don't care about, take a job that has nothing to do with their education, and spend the rest of their lives sitting still and fitting in. This isn't saying college is bad, however. If college is the absolute way to achieving a goal you couldn't otherwise accomplish without it (as in Mr. Musk's case) then give it all you have and make yourself proud. What is refreshing to me is the amount of people I am seeing who are creeping out of the depths they were shunned to and becoming their own person while fighting the system which has generally been considered "normal". These are the same people who take self-education as seriously or more so than formal education, and it's a beautiful thing.
Where do I fit into this? Well, I'm figuring that out and I don't have an answer for you yet. I left the corporate ladder after years of it leading me to dead ends and have been learning carpentry the past few years while trying to expand my family's business in the process (the title picture is one of my tables). When I am not building things out of wood, I am writing pieces for my own blog, private entities, and here - where you are reading right now. I don't know what the future holds, but I'll be damned if I'm going to allow myself to sit still and conform without giving life a shot on my own terms while I'm still young enough to recover if I happen to fail.
Like I said before. Success is all in how you define it. Right now? I'm pretty successful. I thank people like Elon Musk for giving me that little motivation.
Grace and Peace,