Elon Musk’s (un)Surprising Secrets To Success

Elon Musk

Elon Musk, AKA the real life Tony Stark, gave the Marshall Undergraduate Commencement Speech at my university about three weeks ago on May 16, 2014.

If you don’t know who Elon Musk is, he’s the co-founder of PayPal, CEO of SpaceX, and CEO of Tesla Motors. This guy is one of the biggest innovators in the world right now—some might even say in all of history.

Needless to say, I was beyond stoked when I found out that he was going to be speaking at my university’s graduation this year and I couldn’t wait to hear what he would have to say.

But after his speech was over, I couldn’t help but think, “That’s it?

His secrets to success were the following:

  1. Work super hard.
  2. Attract great people.
  3. Focus on the things that actually make a difference.
  4. Don’t just follow the trend.
  5. Take risks.

He elaborated a little bit on each of these points, but this was basically all he said.

I was pretty disappointed. While these are all great points, he didn’t say a single thing I hadn’t heard before.

I was expecting him to say something new and life-changing. Something that I would be able to go home and write an entire blog post about.

But instead I got the same advice I’ve heard over and over again…

The only difference was that this time it was coming from a man who currently sits on top of two billion dollar companies.

Is achieving success really that simple?


I think we like to think that there is some sort of secret formula to success. That all successful people have found this secret and that is why they are successful.

We (subconsciously, sometimes) tell ourselves that if only we could find that secret formula, then we too could be successful.

But the truth is that we all know what we have to do to succeed. We’ve heard it all before. 

This is why there were no surprising secrets in Elon Musk’s speech– because THERE IS NO SECRET.

Deep down we know this is the truth.

So why do we keep looking for “secrets”?

I think it’s because it gives us an excuse. It makes us feel better when we aren’t able to achieve the things we want to achieve. It’s a rationalization for our shortcomings.

But I’m tired of making excuses. I’m tired of looking for what I already know.

I don’t want to be successful. I’m going to be successful.

You know how I know that? Because I’m taking action. I’m doing the things that I know I need to do.

It really is that simple–simple, not easy.

Work hard, work smart, surround yourself with the right people, and don’t be afraid to take risks.

If there’s anything I’ve learned from Mr. Musk, it’s that nothing is impossible if you set your mind to it.

You can watch Elon Musk’s full commencement speech here:

Image Source: Flickr – Heisenberg Media

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Stefano Ganddini

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  • Ken

    Stefano, awesome article.

    I’ve watched this speech 3 or 4 times now and have shared it on my own site/ social media pages. Musk is pretty inspirational in his achievements and I think you really nailed it with the statement “It really is that simple–simple, not easy”. I think this is hard to grasp without actually reaching a goal after grabbing onto this attitude but when you do, it’s almost a faith based mentality.

    It’s like exercising. It’s really hard to start because in your head you think “this is going to be really uncomfortable and I’m going to feel like shit for the rest of the day”. But when you actually get up and go work out, you almost always feel better about having done it. The repetition gives you faith and allows you to trust in the fact that you aren’t going to feel worse but better after taking on the challenge.

    I could talk about Elon Musk all day since he is a huge engineering/business inspiration to me and it’s glad to see other people look to him as well!


  • Paryag