Running four multibillion dollar companies by his mid-40s in four separate fields, Elon Musk has earned his reputation as “the real Iron Man”. But aside from determination, vision and a heroic work ethic, what is the secret to his success?
An entrepreneur that made his first fortune of $180m from the sale of Paypal to eBay, Musk went on to launch SpaceX – a private company shaking up the space industry – in 2002 and, Tesla – an all-electric car manufacturer – a year later.
But, while the entrepreneur’s abilities are undoubtedly incredible, Michael Simmons – a serial tycoon – says that they’re not unattainable, Quartz reports.
In fact, after reviewing Musk’s life and expertise, he’s convinced that by taking on these three simple steps, we all have the potential to be just as successful.
Focus on more than one field
While we’re often told that in order to become the very best at something we should focus solely on that field, Simmons insists that we, like Musk, must break that rule.
Just as Musk’s expertise ranges from rocket science and engineering to artificial intelligence and physics, if you learn across multiple fields you’re more likely to have an information advantage over everyone else.
This, Simmons writes, is what’s known as being an “expert-generalist” – someone that studies widely in many different fields, understands deeper principles, and then applies the principles to their core specialty.
Learn to transfer your knowledge
As a teen, Musk is known to have read through two books per day in a myriad of disciplines including science fiction, philosophy, religion and programming. And, it was this thirst for knowledge that allowed him to become exposed to a variety of subjects.
As such, Musk was able to gain knowledge in more than one area and transfer something he learnt in one context and apply it to another.
Known as “learning transfer,” this is where Musk shines and, while there’s no fixed equation for success, it’s certainly a good place to start.
Explore and reconstruct
By analysing several interviews, Simmons was able to identify the two-step process that Musk uses for fostering learning transfer. The first of which is to explore.
Also known as “contrasting cases”, it’s important to look at lots of diverse instances when we learn anything. As such, Simmons says in order to become successful one must “explore lots of different approaches, deconstruct each one, and then compare and contrast them.”
The second stage of Musk’s learning transfer process involves reconstructing principles he had already learned into separate fields. For example, aerospace in order to create SpaceX, automotive in order to create Tesla, and technology in order to help build Paypal.
Simmons also suggests that by asking yourself, “What does this remind me of?” and “Why does it remind me of it?” will help to hone in your skills.