That’s the opening quotation in Ashlee Vance’s biography: Elon Musk.
Musk is unreasonable. He insists that his engineers complete in five weeks what they know can’t be done in less than five months. But sometimes you have to be unreasonable if you want to change the world.
The one-time Pretoria boytjie is the ultimate disruptor. He is determined to put people on Mars and nothing will stop him from achieving his vision of revolutionising the automotive world.
Car manufacturers and NASA didn’t take Musk seriously. And although he had no real expertise in the motor or rocket industry, he wouldn’t turn to them for advice. His team figured things out as they went along. This lack of conventional wisdom made them innovative: the Tesla gets “upgraded” via internet uploads.
Musk is relentless in achieving his goals and is intolerant of those who don’t share his passion. He once slated a staff member for missing an event, choosing rather to witness the birth of his child.
But as crazy as he is, like Steve Jobs, Musk is able to dream up new things that his customers don’t yet know that they want.
“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. … They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. … Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.” The Apple television advertisement might as well have been Steve Jobs’ personal anthem.
He certainly was a rebel: would you put your smelly feet on the desk of the person that you are hoping will invest in your next big thing? He did, and was told that ”we’re not going to buy your product.”
But Jobs also went on to change the world. After returning to the company that he founded – and that fired him – he went on to make Apple the one of the most profitable business in the world.
Jobs innovative genius extended to creativity and aesthetics. Even his grammatically incorrect advertisement’s pay-off line: Think Different was an Emmy winner. And that’s exactly what he did. He didn’t market the iPod as a 5 GigaByte MP3 player. On the stage, he took out the iPod and told the audience that it “holds a thousand songs – and fits in my pocket.”
first published in SME South Africa
Jobs had great admiration for Henry Ford. He too didn’t care for market research. Ford once famously announced that if he asked people what they wanted, they would say: a faster horse.
And he too had unreasonable expectations of his people: “I am looking for a lot of men who have an infinite capacity to not know what can’t be done.”
In the 1920s, because of the enormous popularity of the Ford Model T, tonnes of rubber was needed to make millions of tyres. But tyres were very expensive to produce because the rubber could only be bought from cartels in East Asia.
To break the monopoly, Ford bought 10,000 km2 of Brazilian rainforest (larger than half the area of Gauteng) and built his own rubber plant. He planned for 1 million rubber trees and a processing plant with 50,000 workers.
Ford built an “American suburb” for his Brazilian workers, with a modern hospital and a golf course. He insisted that they embrace an American lifestyle and values and eat American food like hamburgers. But his Brazilian labourers preferred their traditional houses built on stilts which kept bugs and wild animals out, and the canned food gave the workers indigestion.
But Ford didn’t employ any botanists and the rubber trees would not grow where they were planted. At the time scientists also developed economical synthetic rubber and Fordlândia was abandoned a few years later.
Although it was ultimately a disaster, only a disruptor like Ford would have believed that he could build a project of this magnitude.
The poet George Bernard Shaw observed that “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”
Who are you? Are you like Ford or Jobs or Musk? Do you have the courage of your convictions to implement your dreams, even if the world thinks you are insane?
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