He didn’t have permission.
But he did it anyway. And one day Elon Musk called him.
“He was either going to make life really horrible on me or he was going to cooperate with the book” said Ashlee Vance, author of the New York Times bestseller and Wall Street Journal’s “best books of the year,” Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future.
Ashlee did 200 interviews before Elon agreed, proving permission is not a starting place.
I wish I wrote the book. But I didn’t.
My “quest” is different.
Instead, I mastered curiosity.
I called people and recorded. I did a ton of research. I read every book, article, interview and watched every talk. I’ve spent 10,000 hours interviewing and more than 10,000 hours preparing.
I didn’t need permission. And neither do you.
Here are 5 ways to bypass the gatekeepers:
A) Master something
Like anybody, Elon is smart in some things and probably stupid in others. But he mastered his interests.
Mastery is learning 90% of everything you could learn about a subject. You can’t reach 100%. I hope that’s comforting.
Explore your interests. Combine them and you’ll find what works for you. Then improve 1% each day.
Along the way, you’ll master it.
B) Make your own decisions
Elon doesn't let people make decisions for him. They’ll choose wrong. And he knows it.
If you choose for yourself you will choose yourself.
C) Play for pay
I remember my childhood. Some of it. I read comic books and Dear Abby.
Now, at 47? 48? I search for “superhero” stories.
And I get to be Dear Abby.
Every Thursday at 3:30 PM EST, I have a Twitter Q&A.
I answer texts and emails from strangers. 203-512-2161
I answer Quora questions and co-host a podcast with my friend, Stephen Dubner. He wrote the New York Times bestseller, Freakonomics.
I wonder if he read Dear Abby growing up, too. We answer questions with questions.
But before all of this, I worked in finance. I did what “they” wanted me to do. I got lost.
Elon did, too.
“He just got swept up in the internet for a little while,” Ashlee says, “and then once he made a ton of money (from PayPal), the light went on and he just said, ‘Now I can go chase everything I've ever wanted to go do.’”
“Elon appears to have some kind of calling to go save humankind,” Ashlee says. “When he was 12, he designed a video game that was exactly that concept.”
But at one point, he changed course. We all do. We forget play.
Now he’s saving humanity.
D) There are always problems
When I interviewed Derek Sivers last week, I said “You can always disappear from your problems.”
And you can.
He did. But then what?
Derek spends a lot time answering emails and giving advice. And Elon is exploring electric vehicles and life in space.
Everyday, I have a choice: find new problems or help others with theirs. Create problems or solve them.
When I help people with their problems, I forget about mine. Sometimes.
Elon sees extreme problems and extreme solutions. All his basics are covered. He’s doesn’t worry about his boss or the mortgage.
“The weird thing to me,” Ashlee says, “was that [when] you started talking [to Elon] about mankind being wiped out, he wells up with emotion.”
Suffering graces all life. There are always problems.
“What I saw with Elon is that he's very clear-eyed. He meditates on what he thinks is important and has a absolute devotion to pursuing these goals”
“He gives you a sense of urgency in your life. Maybe I'm just getting older,” Ashlee says, “When I finished doing the book, I sat back and I said, ‘I need to be much clearer about exactly what I want to do with my life.’”
I don’t have the same problem as Ashlee or see the same problems as Elon Musk. And I’m grateful.
E) Be on the right side of history
You only have a certain amount of energy each day. Don’t waste it fighting the inevitable.
“Going against Elon is the equivalent of going against Steve Jobs these days and you come out looking kind of foolish,” Ashlee says. Instead, focus on building your idea muscle. Do one thing everyday that makes you physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually healthy.
Elon Musk is changing the state of our future. Of all mankind. Who gave him permission? He did.