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Shoot for the Stars! Meet Rocket Man

April 1, 2013

Updated September 1, 2013

Stars Musk Hope drives the human spirit. Without it we are nothing but spiritually impoverished souls. But hope is also a powerful catalyst to innovation and change. It propels individuals to dream, to create what may appear to be fantastic, if not ludicrous, visions of what could be.

Ever hear of the Wright brothers?

How about Alexander Graham Bell?

Or in a more modern context, Steve Jobs?

Dreams and entrepreneurs are intertwined. They imagine the impossible. And we, as citizens of a globally inter-connected society, benefit.

Meet Elon Musk, aka Rocketman.

Born in South Africa, Musk created PayPal and pocketed $1 billion when he sold it to eBay.
A lover of fast cars and a competent pilot of airplanes, including a Soviet-era Aero L-39 trainer and a Dassault Falcon 900 jet, Musk has never been one to sit still. He itches to create, to be bold and to be different.

The 42 year-old inventor bought a former Boeing jumbo jet assembly plant to build rockets. His company SpaceX supplies the international space station, and is paid by NASA which no longer possesses the capability for low Earth orbit.

Musk is also the CEO and a founder of Tesla Motors. The Tesla is a line-up of high-end electric cars which has just turned its first profit (for example, the Roadster has a base price of $109,000 US) after struggling for several few years. Musk’s focus has been on making the Tesla an affordable vehicle for consumers. (He also sits on the board of Solar City, a solar energy company).

Musk is an extra-ordinary visionary who wants to send expeditions to Mars and to retire there himself one day. SpaceX is spending $400 million to redesign its cargo capsule, the Dragon, to carry passengers.

Musk is also concerned with the practice of disposable rockets and is working towards creating reusable ones. Of significance is that SpaceX has more rockets under development than anywhere on the planet, with more than 50 launches scheduled.

Musk Musk has faced derision by those in NASA and from other scientists for his vision and efforts to create a privately funded space flight company. Yet he has persevered in the face of this and a number of engineering and technical challenges. The South African boy who built toy rockets and who made his own blend of jet fuel is beginning to realize his long-held dream.

I recall a CBS interview with Musk when he was just launching (pardon the pun) into commercial production for rockets for low-earth orbit. When asked by the CBS interviewer how former NASA astronauts had reacted to his vision, he teared up. Here was a billionaire, a brilliant entrepreneur and visionary, crying on national TV.


As indicated earlier, Musk had been fascinated–consumed–with rockets since being a pre-schooler. He adored NASA astronauts. And as an adult he had proven himself as a very successful entrepreneur. All he wanted from his heroes was some form of validation for his efforts. Unfortunately, all re received were condescending comments.

It was devastating to Elon Musk.

However, Musk is an entrepreneur and took the criticism in stride and continued onwards. Fast forward to early 2013 and he’s already in a short time proven the NASA naysayers wrong.

But Elon Musk is always on the move. He’s already on to the next BIG idea, and this one is of huge proportions.

This past August, Musk presented his vision for what he calls a Hyperloop, or what has been called in the past a vacuum train. The “train,” actually pods with 28 people in each one, would travel through an above ground tube at the speed of sound from Los Angelos to San Francisco, in a fraction of the time compared to high-speed trains. Musk estimates the project at $6 billion. He does acknowledge that while he may not have the time to devote his energy to this futuristic project, he is putting the idea out publicly for other creators to pursue.

What does Elon Musk’s story mean to you?

Have people dumped on your dreams?

What is your personal vision?

Don’t ever let anyone convince you that you cannot achieve something.

It’s in your control how you respond and what you decide to do.

“Leaving Earth is our destiny. The moon is only a way-station to Mars. I see millions of people there eventually, arriving in waves every two years when the planets are aligned.”
– Elon Musk (as told to The Sunday Times, London)

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. April 2, 2013 11:43 pm

    I think what this means is that people should be careful to share their dreams with supportive people, especially in the developmental stage. This includes family members who are often not supportive.

    • April 3, 2013 12:23 pm

      This is an interesting point, Lynne. I want to say I disagree, but in the case of children so much depends on the parents. I’ve seen and read so many wonderful stories about people who became renown in their field (whether actors, musicians, architects, etc.) and one common trait was supportive parents. Thanks for stopping by to share your thoughts.

  2. Whiteyw40 permalink
    April 2, 2013 2:43 pm

    Great reminders Jim! And let’s not forget that this same man is legitimizing the use of electric cars in North America. They are still at essentially V1.1, but every major automotive publication is singing the praises of Tesla Motors and they just posted their first profitable quarter ever. The naysayers sound weaker and weaker…

    • April 2, 2013 3:37 pm

      We need more people like Musk, who have unlimited persistence. Thanks Geoff.

  3. April 1, 2013 5:26 pm

    This dovetails with my research into change.

    When it comes to change people fit nicely into groups, the smallest being those who are truly comfortable with it, who manage to do things others can’t even dream. Mr. Musk is a very small subset of that very small group of individuals who not only dream big, but actually make their dreams happen.

    The good news for everyone else is you can learn how to do better managing the inevitable change that affects all our lives. It won’t just happen, you have to work at it, but you can do it.

  4. sooozg permalink
    April 1, 2013 3:23 pm

    What an inspiring post, Jim! Interesting story about Musk tearing up when asked what NASA thought about his work.

    I remember my first real job with an ad agency was as an account coordinator. My hope was to work my way up to copywriter, the career path I’d chosen almost as soon as I learned to read. My boss, who’d not read a single word by me but knew my aspirations, told me I’d never be a copywriter. He said he could just tell I didn’t have what it took. Who knows what twisted mind games he was trying to play at the time.

    I knew he was wrong but it took me longer than it should have to realize my goal had he not filled me with self-doubt. These days there’s a part of me that hopes he one day Googles my name out of curiosity and sees my accomplishments. Then again, even if he managed to remember me, I’m sure he wouldn’t recall his put-downs. It’s a shame I do.

    • April 1, 2013 3:28 pm

      Thanks for stopping by, Susan, to share your story. Yes, there are many destructive people in organizations, often in management roles. I encountered too many of them during my three decades in the public sector. And yes, they probably have little idea of their actions and impacts. However, your story has had a happy ending!

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