If you’ve followed me at all for the past 10 years, you know that Elon Musk is one of my idols. As a former engineering director of microprocessor design, Elon’s background and way of thinking truly resonates with me and in this post, I share my favorite Elon Musk quotes of all time!
Even if you’re not a fan of Elon Musk, you have to give him credit for accomplishing some crazy, outrageous goals. Despite the thousands of nay sayers and the millions of doubters, Elon always does whatever the hell he wants, no matter how ambitious the objective!
The man has guts and I’m glad he never listens to the so called “experts” because the world would not be where it is today if he did.
We can’t all change the world to the same extent as Musk, but don’t underestimate the impact that you can have on other people. Now onward to the Elon Musk quotes!
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When Something Is Important Enough, You Do It Even If The Odds Are Not In Your Favor
There’s a well known statistic that states that 9 out of 10 businesses fail. And if you were to believe in that stat (which I don’t), you might be discouraged from starting your own business.
But if you hate your job or if you’re not living up to your full potential, it’s time to take a chance. When it comes to starting a small business, you have very little to lose!
We’re not talking about starting the next Tesla or the next SpaceX here.
I started my ecommerce store, Bumblebee Linens, for only $630 and now it makes 7 figures per year.
I started MyWifeQuitHerJob.com for less than $10 and now it makes 7 figures as well!
Even if you believe that the odds are stacked against you, starting a business carries so little monetary risk that it would be ridiculous not to try.
If You Need Motivation, Don’t Do It
This quote from Elon is perhaps my favorite of all time because it’s so true and blunt.
When asked for advice on how to get motivated to start a business, Elon Musk simply replied “if you need motivation, don’t do it”.
Starting a business is hard enough and if you need to be convinced to do it? Forget about it!
Here’s what most people don’t realize. Starting a successful business is not about intelligence or smarts. It’s about being consistent, following through and getting used to the grind.
In order to be persistent, you have to want it!
Some People Don’t Like Change, But You Need To Embrace Change If The Alternative Is Disaster
I hate change. I really do. Once I find my groove, I never want things to change. But I’ve come to learn that change can not be avoided.
When Elon talks about the alternative being “disaster”, I’m sure he means global warming or aliens invading Earth. But for most humans, disaster describes something on a much smaller scale:)
For example, if you hate your current work situation, it’s time to make a change.
If you are running a business that no longer makes you happy, it’s time to shut it down.
If you are in a relationship that is no longer working for you, it’s time to break ties.
None of the above is easy to do. But sometimes you have to do what you’ve got to do.
I put together a framework that helps me decide when to make changes in my life. You can check it out here.
But be prepared to suck it up and bite the bullet!
I Think It’s Very Important To Have A Feedback Loop, Where You’re Constantly Thinking About What You’ve Done And How You Could Be Doing It Better
Many years ago, I gave a presentation to the executives of my former company. And the goal of my presentation was to suggest a fundamental change to our process to make communication more efficient.
And you know what one of the execs said?
Steve, I love your idea. But this is the way we’ve been doing it for the past 10 years.
To this day, I still hate when these words are uttered by anyone!
In order to make forward progress, you have to constantly evaluate what you’ve done and make it better. No one gets it correct the first time and just because you’ve been doing something a certain way for a long time doesn’t make it right!
It’s OK To Have Your Eggs In One Basket As Long As You Control What Happens To That Basket
I live by these words for ALL of my businesses.
You should try to control as much as possible in your life even if it takes significantly more time and effort.
For the past 5 years, I’ve been preaching the merits of owning your own website and email list instead of relying on Amazon for all of your sales. And today, my online store makes the majority of my ecommerce revenue and it’s a stable, predictable income source.
If you are currently making all of your money on Amazon, EBay, Walmart or Etsy, understand that you are building the foundation of your business on rented land which can be taken away from you at any time. Here are some Amazon horror stories to prove my point.
Relying on social media for your traffic is just as fragile. Every year, Facebook continues to reduce the reach of your audience to force you to pay for ads!
Bottom line, you should focus the bulk of your efforts on the properties you own and control which include…
- Your website
Persistence Is Very Important. You Should Not Give Up Unless You Are Forced To Give Up
Success in business is not about how smart you are or what college you went to.
The most important quality in entrepreneurship is persistence. Especially if you create content for a living like I do, slow and steady ALWAYS wins the race.
When I first started MyWifeQuitHerJob.com, I was among thousands of other publications tackling the same space. But I stuck with it for 10 years and today, MyWifeQuitHerJob is a top 25 ecommerce blog.
Meanwhile, the majority of blogs that started alongside of me 10 years ago no longer exist!
If you choose to start your own business, commit to it. Tell yourself that you will run your company FOREVER regardless of the outcome.
If “forever” sounds a bit intimidating, then give it at least 3-5 years:)
I Don’t Think It’s A Good Idea To Plan To Sell A Company
I’ve received conflicting advice about buying and selling companies over the years.
For example, Jon Warrilow, the author of the best selling book Built To Sell, advocates that we all plan and structure our businesses with the goal of selling it later on down the line.
Meanwhile, Elon advocates the mentality of never planning to sell your company. While I see the pros and cons of both viewpoints, I lean towards Elon here.
If you start a business with a “sell” mentality, you may make short term decisions that will affect the eventual success of your business.
For example, Mark Zuckerburg famously rejected a 1 billion dollar offer for Facebook because he had zero intention of ever selling his company.
As a result, he was able to make longer term decisions that led to the success of Facebook today.
It Is A Mistake To Hire Huge Numbers Of People To Get A Complicated Job Done
Numbers will never compensate for talent in getting the right answer (two people who don’t know something are no better than one), will tend to slow down progress, and will make the task incredibly expensive.
If you plan on outsourcing your work, make sure you hire the right people but keep your team lean. More people to manage always leads to more chaos especially if they are not the right people for the job.
When I was an engineering director, I fell into this trap. One year, our company was doing especially well so we had the opportunity to hire 3 extra employees under my watch.
Even though managing more employees is the mark of a rising manager, in the back of my mind, I questioned whether we even needed 1 more person let alone 3 more people to finish the work to be done.
But the money was in the budget so we hired 3 people to do the job that 1 really good person could have handled on their own. This led to a series of communication problems which then led to delays in the project etc…
Who knows? Maybe I was just a bad manager:)
But when it comes to people, I’d much rather have 1 “A” player than a bunch of “B” players.
If You’re Co-founder Or CEO, You Have To Do All Kinds Of Tasks You Might Not Want To Do. No Task Is Too Menial
Every successful business requires you to get your hands dirty and no task should be beneath you.
When my wife and I first started our ecommerce store, I worked a 10 hour day at my engineering job and then came home and ran the sewing machines another 2 hours before going to bed.
In fact, I was the head embroiderist for our company:)!
Several weeks ago, one of the toilets at the office overflowed and there were no plumbers available for weeks. So I donned my gloves, galoshes, plunger and plunged the crap out of the toilet (no pun intended:)).
Running a business is a no holds barred affair. If you aren’t willing to do the dirty work, then how can you ask your employees to do it?
By setting the right example, your employees will respect you and work even harder!
I Don’t Spend My Time Pontificating About High Concept Things. I Spend My Time Solving Engineering And Manufacturing Problems
Analysis paralysis is a common problem for new entrepreneurs. There are millions of things that can go wrong with your business and it’s impossible to anticipate them all.
So instead of pontificating about what could happen or what might happen, just ship the damn thing already and prepare to pivot.
Ask yourself what’s the worst that can happen and then prepare for that outcome just in case.
Bottom line, you should spend your time solving problems and fixing issues rather then speculating about the unknown.
Along the same vein, don’t spend your time worrying about the competition either. Focus on the task at hand and the competition will work itself out.
My Biggest Mistake Is Probably Weighing Too Much On Someone’s Talent And Not Someone’s Personality
In my former position as an engineering director, I once hired 2 employees for a project.
One employee had 20 years of experience and his resume was flawless. His past work matched perfectly with the task that we needed him to do and it seemed like a great fit all around.
The second employee had just graduated from college with a masters in engineering. He was raw and didn’t have much experience. But he was driven, focused and motivated.
Can you guess which employee ended up kicking butt at the company?
The experienced employee was set in his ways and refused to do things outside of what he was used to doing at his previous company.
Meanwhile, the college grad was not as productive at first but he worked nights and weekends and ended up being one of the best employees that I ever had!
The main difference was motivation and drive. Talent and experience is overrated. I’d much rather have someone less experienced but motivated to win.
I Don’t Believe In Process
“When I interview a potential employee and he or she says that ‘it’s all about the process,’ I see that as a bad sign. The problem is that at a lot of big companies, process becomes a substitute for thinking.
You’re encouraged to behave like a little gear in a complex machine. Frankly, it allows you to keep people who aren’t that smart, who aren’t that creative.” – Elon Musk
When I first launched my business with my wife, I falsely believed that there was a set formula or “process” to succeed. But the more I spoke with other successful entrepreneurs, the more I realized that everyone was just winging it!
In order to succeed in business, you have to go with the flow and roll with the punches.
Everything is unpredictable and you have to learn to adapt with the cards you are dealt.
Meanwhile, process is important when you are hiring assistants or employees to perform specific tasks. But as the business owner, you can’t adhere to a strict protocol. The ability to adapt is the key.
Really Pay Attention To Negative Feedback And Solicit It, Particularly From Friends
One time, I was sitting in a mastermind meeting with my ecommerce colleagues and I casually asked them to critique my website for conversions.
At the time, I thought my site was great and I wasn’t expecting any negative comments. But what followed was 15 minutes of the most excruciating, most humbling criticism that I’d ever received in my life.
Does your store really make 7 figures? It looks like it was built in the 90s!
If I saw your store, I would definitely not buy your online course. It looks terrible!
If you have good friends, they’ll give it to you straight up which is why mastermind groups are so important. Even though I wanted to cry, I got on the phone with my web developer and promptly redesigned my site during the mastermind meeting.
And within 7 weeks, I launched a completely new redesign that increased my conversion rate by 42%!
It’s Very Important To Like The People You Work With, Otherwise Life And Your Job Is Gonna Be Quite Miserable
Earlier in this post, I discussed the importance of persistence and sticking with your business FOREVER:)
The best way to facilitate persistence is to work with someone that you like. When working on your business is actually enjoyable, the time will pass quickly and you’ll actually have fun with it.
Life is too short to do something that is miserable.
Find a project that you enjoy and surround yourself with people you want to spend time with.
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Steve Chou is a highly recognized influencer in the ecommerce space and has taught thousands of students how to effectively sell physical products online over at ProfitableOnlineStore.com.
His blog, MyWifeQuitHerJob.com, has been featured in Forbes, Inc, The New York Times, Entrepreneur and MSNBC.
He's also a contributing author for BigCommerce, Klaviyo, ManyChat, Printful, Privy, CXL, Ecommerce Fuel, GlockApps, Privy, Social Media Examiner, Web Designer Depot, Sumo and other leading business publications.
In addition, he runs a popular ecommerce podcast, My Wife Quit Her Job, which is a top 25 marketing show on all of Apple Podcasts.
To stay up to date with all of the latest ecommerce trends, Steve runs a 7 figure ecommerce store, BumblebeeLinens.com, with his wife and puts on an annual ecommerce conference called The Sellers Summit.
Steve carries both a bachelors and a masters degree in electrical engineering from Stanford University. Despite majoring in electrical engineering, he spent a good portion of his graduate education studying entrepreneurship and the mechanics of running small businesses.