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Elon Musk Just Revealed the Real Reason Why He Does What He Does (and It’s an Inspiring Lesson For All Leaders)

Clue: It’s not about making enormous amounts of money.

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BY Chris Matyszczyk - 11 Mar 2018

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.


Are you obsessed with money?

Do you dream about all the things you'd do if you had far too much of it?

Do you see people driving in Ferraris and, um, Teslas and say to yourself: "Soon, that'll be me and I'll have a personalized license plate. How about Great1?"

Stop, would you?

Just stop and think about how vacuous you're sounding.

And once you've stopped, have a good listen to Elon Musk.

On Saturday, he wafted into a SXSW panel, sat himself down, stood up again and explained why he did apparently demented things such as send Roadsters into outer space.

He began:

There are a lot of terrible things happening all over the world, all the time. There are lots of problems that need to get solved. There's lots of things that are miserable and kind of get you down.

There are so many. How much time do you have? I want to tell you some of the things that get me down. And the people, too.

Wait, let's listen to Musk first.

But life cannot just be about solving one miserable thing after another. That can't be the only thing. There need to be things that inspire you, that make you glad to wake up in the morning and be part of humanity. That's why we did this.

It often boggles my mind to the point of pickling how some people will do anything -- steal, copy, act duplicitously, even machinate to make another person look terrible -- just so that they can tell themselves they've won.

Instead, why not believe that a genuine lifting of the spirits, an attempt to inspire rather than mechanically gouge cash from the unsuspecting or dim, contributes far more to the world and to your sense of self-worth?

Cut to Musk again:

This guy called Tsiolkovsky, one of the early Russian rocket scientists, had a great saying. Birth is the cradle of humanity, but you cannot stay in the cradle forever.

The cradle in which too many people stay is the cradle of money-making for the sake of money-making.

To have more is somehow better. To have less is to be derided. To not be a member of a country club is truly shameful.

And to create an app that solves the problem of running out of milk, selling it for tens of millions and then appearing at tech conferences for the rest of your life is the Holy Grail.

As opposed to the Wholly Gray.

Musk wants to go beyond the cradle and foster a star-faring civilization.

Isn't that a purpose with a slightly higher level of ambition that, oh Lordy, being a billionaire who solved an alleged problem?

What should your purpose be, once you leave the cradle?

Please don't tell me you want to buy a boat, so that you can show off to your friends.

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