Elon Musk: An appreciation

When my brother and I bought our first building, I can remember this odd feeling when we began to advertise our apartments for rent. I felt like I should be asking someone’s permission to rent out the units. It seemed weird that we didn’t need some authority figure to bless what we were doing. We could just find people to rent the units, sign lease, have them move in and start collecting rent.

That feeling of needing permission stops a lot of people from going into business for themselves. It’s a powerful force, maybe as powerful as the risk aversion people feel about leaving their jobs to start new things.

So it is with a real sense of wonder and pride in a fellow entrepreneur that I followed the successful SpaceX mission this week. Elon Musk didn’t ask anyone’s permission to go into the space business. He had money, sure: around $170MM at the time he launched the company. That sounds like a lot, but compared to the cost of getting a rocket into space, that’s a pittance.

But he wanted to do something with maximum impact on an enormous market and he chose space travel. It took him 10 years and, by his own admission, nearly bankrupted him. But he succeeded in pioneering private space travel, a market that is going to be worth hundreds of billions of dollars in the coming decades.

Musk really puts the risks and rewards of entrepreneurship into perspective. If he can dream that big, you can dream big, too. You don’t need anyone’s permission. Just find some interesting niche and dive in. Work hard. Take risks. It’s the only way that truly extraordinary things are ever accomplished.