Justine Musk, the first wife of billionaire Elon Musk, knows a lot about extreme success — her ex-husband is a founder of PayPal and the CEO of Tesla and SpaceX and has an estimated net worth of around $US14 billion.
Justine shares some compelling insight into what it takes to reach this level of success in response to a recent Quora thread asking, “How can I be as great as Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, and Richard Branson?“
“Extreme success results from an extreme personality and comes at the cost of many other things,” she writes, noting that you can still be accomplished — and probably happier — without attaining Elon’s level of success.
Elon and Justine married in 2000 and divorced in 2008. Although Justine wrote in 2010 that she and Elon were estranged, she also noted that she doesn’t regret the marriage and continues to respect Elon’s vision.
“If you’re extreme, you must be what you are, which means that happiness is more or less beside the point,” Justine writes on Quora.
“These people tend to be freaks and misfits who were forced to experience the world in an unusually challenging way,” she says. “They developed strategies to survive, and as they grow older they find ways to apply these strategies to other things, and create for themselves a distinct and powerful advantage. 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.”
She offers advice for people with extreme personalities searching for their own career success:
“If you’re not obsessed, then stop what you’re doing and find whatever does obsess you,” she says.
Be in service to something bigger.
This is important if you want to inspire the people you need to help you. And “that ‘something bigger’ prevents you from going off into the ether when people flock round you and tell you how fabulous you are when you aren’t and how great your stuff is when it isn’t,” she writes.
Don’t pursue something because you want to be great.
“Pursue something because it fascinates you, because the pursuit itself engages and compels you,” Justine writes. “Extreme people combine brilliance and talent with an ‘insane’ work ethic, so if the work itself doesn’t drive you, you will burn out or fall by the wayside or your extreme competitors will crush you and make you cry.”
Follow your obsessions until a problem starts to emerge.
The problem should be challenging enough that it “impacts as many people as possible, that you feel hellbent to solve or die trying,” she says. “It might take years to find that problem, because you have to explore different bodies of knowledge, collect the dots, and then connect and complete them.”
Learn to handle a level of stress that would break most people.
“If you are not blessed with godlike genetics, then make it a point to get into the best shape possible,” she writes. “There will be jet lag, mental fatigue, bouts of hard partying, loneliness, pointless meetings, major setbacks, family drama, issues with the significant other you rarely see, dark nights of the soul, people who bore and annoy you, little sleep, less sleep than that. Keep your body sharp to keep your mind sharp. It pays off.”
Don’t imitate your role models.
“Extreme success is not like other kinds of success,” writes Justine. “What has worked for someone else, probably won’t work for you.”
Read a book.
“Surfing the net is a deadly timesuck, and given what they know their time is worth — even back in the day when technically it was not worth that — they can’t afford it,” she says.
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