Steve Jobs was legendary for it. Elon Musk nearly went broke for it. Jeff Bezos practically owns the Internet because of it.
What does it take to make a huge mark in the world of business or technology? To join the ranks of Elon Musk or Richard Branson? What quality is required to ride out the losses and setbacks and accomplish what you are trying to accomplish?
There are countless articles on the Internet that talk about the “habits of highly effective people” or the common denominator of all billionaires. This article isn’t about a set of habits.
If you have a desire to be that class of entrepreneur, you will know after reading this article that there is no “how-to” answer on the Internet or anywhere else. It’s simpler (and a whole lot harder) than that.
Good Answer from Reliable Source
You can read biographical information or pundit analyses of today’s billionaire entrepreneurs but the subjects themselves don’t talk much about what makes them who they are. This is likely because they are more interested in spending their time accomplishing what they are trying to accomplish than in analyzing what makes themselves tick. (That should be your first clue about what it takes.)
While I stated earlier that the answer to the “how to be among the greatest entrepreneurs” question is not answered on the Internet, a very good, balanced answer was recently given.
In early 2015, on the website Quora.com, somebody posted the question “How can I be as great as Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, and Richard Branson?” (LINK: http://www.quora.com/How-can-I-be-as-great-as-Bill-Gates-Steve-Jobs-Elon-Musk-and-Richard-Branson)
One of the more remarkable answers came from Musk’s ex-wife and mother of his five sons, Justine. Her close proximity to Musk during his ascension as a large-scale serial entrepreneur makes her uniquely qualified to comment on what it takes—as well as the toll it can take:
- “Extreme success results from an extreme personality and comes at the cost of many other things. But if you’re extreme, you must be what you are, which means that happiness is more or less beside the point.”
- “Don’t pursue something because you ‘want to be great.’ Pursue something because it fascinates you, because the pursuit itself engages and compels you. If the work itself doesn’t drive you, you will burn out or fall by the wayside or your extreme competitors will crush you …”
- “[Y]ou must be in service to something bigger if you are to inspire the people you need to help you (and make no mistake, you will need them).”
- “They don’t think the way other people think. They see things from angles that unlock new ideas and insights. Other people consider them to be somewhat insane.”
- “They do not fear failure—or they do, but they move ahead anyway. When they fail in ways that other people won’t, they learn things that other people don’t and never will. They have incredible grit and resilience.”
Are You Obsessed?
Another of Justine Musk’s comment sums it all up: “Be obsessed. Be obsessed. Be obsessed. If you’re not obsessed, then stop what you’re doing and find whatever does obsess you.”
You can see this in the many tales of Steve Jobs’ legendary obsession over details: colors, shapes, textures and craftsmanship—even for the internal parts of Apple’s products which were not visible to users. Among these stories is the one about how when Apple began to open their Apple Stores, he argued with partners for a half-hour about the correct shade of gray for the restroom signs.
Somewhat insane? No, just obsessed with getting it right, according to his vision.
The same holds true for Jeff Bezos, who became obsessed with the power of the Internet after reading a study in 1994 that reported it was growing at a rate of 2,300% annually.
Not Obsessed about Just Any Old Thing …
One thing to note about the three entrepreneurs named in the title of this article: They were not dealing in trivial matters but in areas that affect or could potentially affect a very large number of people:
Musk sums up the things he’s obsessed about: “Is it significant? The things I’m working on: Are they really going to matter? Do they have the potential to really matter?”
So, with this class of entrepreneur, we are no longer dealing with a niche but rather pursuits that do and can improve the lives of great numbers of people.
In that regard, it’s no surprise that Bezos and Musk have an obsession with space travel. Musk’s SpaceX has made several rocket launches, including the only private craft to complete a delivery to the International Space Station. Bezo’s Blue Origin has been less public about its plans but Bezos has said that his motivation for founding the company was to enable anyone to go into space.
It’s Not about Money
Any of these men could have found easier ways to get rich and live comfortably than to try and change the world by following a vision—an obsession. Musk, for instance, could have retired quite comfortably after he sold Zip2 or PayPal for multi-millions of dollars. It wasn’t so much about making money but about making things happen. Making things better.
Everyone can find something in life to be obsessed about. Hopefully, your obsession brings value to your life. Ideally, it’s the kind of obsession that brings value as well to your friends, family, and community.
It’s the obsession—not the money—and how it positively affects those around you that’s important.
Jobs, Musk, Bezos and others like them just happen to be obsessed about things that have the power to positively affect very large sections of the world population. Those large numbers—Apple product devotees, Amazon buyers, Tesla drivers and solar energy customers, to name a few—are the leverage that make these entrepreneurs’ risks so potentially profitable.
At the risk of redundancy, I will again quote Justine Musk: “Be obsessed. Be obsessed. Be obsessed. If you’re not obsessed, then stop what you’re doing and find whatever does obsess you.”
If you want to learn more about being obsessed with your business, then you need to attend the Mindset, Mechanics & Money – Daily Power-Up Call.