I read a fascinating business article last week about the richest man in the world, Elon Musk. He’s the genius behind SpaceX, Tesla and The Boring Company, co-founder of Open AI and Neuralink, and he’s also worth close to $185 billion. He grew up in Pretoria, South Africa, moved to Canada at 17 and came to the U.S. as a transfer student to The University of Pennsylvania. He moved to California in 1995 to work on his Ph.D. at Stanford, but dropped out after only two days to pursue a business career. He co-founded Zip2, a web software company which was bought out by Compaq in 1999 for $307 million. He started X.com, an online bank that merged with Confinity in 2000. They had launched PayPal the previous year and were subsequently bought out by eBay for $1.5 million in 2002.
There’s so much more to the story, but you get the idea.
Mark Batterson wrote this about Elon: “Musk’s entrepreneurial exploits are well documented. He has turned the automotive and aerospace industries upside down, ruffling a few feathers along the way. At SpaceX headquarters, there are two giant posters of Mars. One shows a cold, barren planet. The other looks a lot like Earth. The second poster represents Musk’s life purpose – colonizing Mars. If that’s not shooting for the moon, I’m not sure what is.” 1
In the article for BBC News, Justin Rowlatt shares Elon Musk’s guide to success in business. Maybe there’s some stuff in here that could help us.
1. It isn’t about the money.
“This is absolutely central to Elon Musk’s attitude to business … (and) The approach certainly seems to be working. The real life inspiration for Robert Downey Jr’s portrayal of Tony Stark of Iron Man fame was worth perhaps $10 billion when we spoke in 2014 … Musk, who turns 50 this year, doesn’t expect to die rich. He said he thinks most of his money will be spent building a base on Mars, and wouldn’t be surprised if the project consumed his entire fortune. In fact, he would probably regard ending his life with billions in the bank as a mark of failure because he hadn’t put that money to good use.” 2
When Peter addressed his “fellow elders” scattered in the area of the Roman Empire, now known as Turkey, he told them to “shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion (not because you have to), but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain (not for the money), but eagerly.”
Christians, especially leaders, should never do what we do because of “what’s in it for us.” The chief Shepherd, JESUS CHRIST, said He came “not to be served, but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28).
Justin Rowlatt, speaking of Elon, said, “He would probably regard ending his life with billions in the bank as a mark of failure because he hadn’t put that money to good use.” 3
2. Pursue your passions.
“That Mars base is a clue to what Elon Musk believes is the key to success. ‘You want things in the future to be better. You want these new exciting things that make life better.’ He said what gets him up in the morning is the desire to solve technical problems.” 4
What’s your passion? What gets you up in the morning? Is to help others? Is it to solve problems no matter what they are or where they are. Is it your passion to help people get to Heaven? JESUS said that ought to be our top priority (Matthew 28:18-20; Luke 16:9).
Imagine what this world would be like if every follower of Christ got out of bed in the morning with a fire burning within their heart and a passion pounding within their chest to reach as many people as possible with the Gospel of JESUS CHRIST.
3. Don’t be afraid to think big.
A man who wants to put people back on the moon and living on Mars doesn’t have a problem thinking big. The article continued, “He (Elon) wants to revolutionize the car industry, colonize Mars, build super-fast trains in vacuum tunnels, integrate AI into human brains and upend the solar power and battery industries.” 5
The greatest dreams that have ever been dreamed for God and His church haven’t been dreamed yet. The greatest things that could ever be done for God and His Kingdom haven’t been attempted yet. What BIG things could you and I be doing and should we be doing if we realized the magnificence of our great God and the brevity of our time here to do great things for Him?
“What could you and I learn from the richest man in the world? You might be surprised.”
4. Be ready to take risks.
“This one is obvious,” Justin said. “You’ve got to have skin in the game to do well, but Elon Musk has taken more risks than most … At one point he was so in debt he had to borrow money from friends just to pay his living expenses.” 6
I’m not encouraging you to bankrupt your family or your future with foolish choices. However, I am challenging you to “walk by faith and not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). I’m inviting you to step out of and stay out of your comfort zone and live instead in the faith zone. A place so awe-inspiring and challenging, fulfilling and yet frightening at the same moment. A place where your dreams are so big and audacious that unless God is in them you are doomed to failure.
If our greatest step is deciding to wear something different this week than we wore last week, we don’t need God for that. What should we be praying for, preparing and planning for that is so BIG the only way it can happen is if God is with us? That’s where we need to live every day of our lives.
5. Ignore the critics.
“What really shocked him (Elon) – and it was clear in 2014 he was still very upset by it – was the delight many pundits and commentators took in his travails. 'The liberal schadenfreude was really quite astonishing,’ said Musk. 'There were multiple blocks sites maintaining a Tesla death watch.’ He ignored the doomsters and went ahead anyway. Why? Remember, this is a man who judges success on the basis of the important problems he’s solved, not how much money he has made.” 7
My mentor, Wayne Smith, loved to say, “If you wait until all the lights are green to go downtown, you’ll never make it.” If we have to have everyone like what we’re doing or agree with what we’re attempting, we’ll never do anything worthwhile. The fact is, we’re always going to have critics. There will always be people who are clueless and ruthless in their attempt to discourage you from your dream. There will always be people who don’t understand why you live your life and give your best for the simple applause of the One with nail-scarred hands. His “Well done!” is worth more than all the critics who may mean well. But, quite honestly, are just mean.
6. Enjoy yourself.
“Elon Musk is famously a workaholic – he boasts of working 120-hour weeks to keep production of the Tesla Model 3 on track – but since we met he seems to have been enjoying himself.” 8
Too many people who claim to be followers of Christ don’t seem to be enjoying it. (I don’t even like writing that – but it’s true.) You’d be hard pressed to know these were people on their way to Heaven the way they seem to slowly slog their way through the doom and gloom of daily living. No wonder more people aren’t asking, “Where does your joy come from?” because they so rarely see it in any of us.
Someone will say, “Well, if I had Elon Musk’s money I’d be happier, too!” No you wouldn’t. Money can’t buy happiness and it can’t buy joy. Genuine joy comes not from Tesla or SpaceX or all the money in the world. It comes from knowing JESUS.
And He’s promised something far better than electric cars or even living on Mars.
© 2021. Barry L. Cameron
1 Batterson, Mark. Win the Day: 7 Daily Habits to Help You Stress Less & Accomplish More. Multnomah, 2020.
2 Rowlatt, Justin. “Elon Musk's Six Secrets to Business Success.” BBC News, BBC, 7 Jan. 2021, www.bbc.com/news/business-55554343.
Barry L. Cameron has been the Senior Pastor of Crossroads since 1992 when the church was averaging 188 in morning worship. Pastor Cameron and his wife, Janis, have three children and two grandsons. He’s the author of the bestseller: The ABCs of Financial Freedom, Contagious Generosity, and The Financial Freedom Workbook. The Cameron family has been completely debt free since November 2001.