Elon Musk spent his last dollar of savings. He actually went negative financially. The $165 million he made on the sale of PayPal as a co-founder was gone. He had to borrow money to pay rent. He was running two companies he started on the premise that each had a probability of success that was less than 50 percent. He also developed the concept, funded and was involved with a third company. While all three companies looked like they would fail, he was going through a divorce. His five sons were all under the age of 5.
It was 2008. SpaceX had three sequential failures of their Falcon 1 rocket. Tesla couldn’t raise financing because of the financial meltdown. SolarCity lost their financing because Morgan Stanley was running out of money.
As of September 28, 2008, Tesla had delivered only 30 cars and was losing $4M per month after 5 years in business. Yet, this day belonged to Space X. The Falcon 1 rocket was positioned to launch from the remote Marshall Islands in the Pacific Ocean. For SpaceX, it was the fourth and possibly final launch. SpaceX did not have enough money for a fifth flight¹. Elon’s $100M investment in SpaceX from his PayPal success was gone. The rest of his money was spent on Tesla and SpaceX.
We often hear, “you need to focus on one thing”. Fortunately, we may never need to address employee and investor morale at three separate companies, go through a divorce and be there for 5 young children. Yet, we may have 2, 3 or as many as 5 or 6 dreams we are pursuing right now. It is not because we are super humans, it’s because we are humans. Work or Family? Instead of just 2 things, how about 6 things? Work, family, a loving connection with your significant other, run a marathon, build a home and coach your daughter’s soccer team?
For most of human history, purpose and meaning was received from work. It was called survival. To achieve personal well-being today, it has become more complicated. It may means pursing several dreams to get it. These questions may help determine how many dreams you are pursuing:
Family – Are you a parent, have siblings and your parents in your life?
Relationships – Do you have a significant other that means everything to you and/or a few good friends that really understand you?
Career – Are you making enough income to support your desired lifestyle? Are you able to find purpose and meaning in the 40 plus hours of work each week?
Creation – Do you desire to write a book? Open a restaurant? Build a community organization? Or create something that could be lasting?
Achievement or Passions – Do you hope to lose weight or go on an African safari?
Community – Are you a volunteer coach? Do you mentor children? Help provide meals to seniors? Serve our country or communities? Respond to fire alarms?
We ask people what they do for a living “Career”, yet we may get to know better by the dreams they are pursuing to achieve the components of personal well-being:
Positive Emotions – There is nothing better than seeing your favorite team win a game, your daughter performing miraculously on a concert stage or simply being with those you love.
Purpose and Meaning – from being a part of making something of meaning. We put careers and finances on hold to raise families, send kids to college or create businesses.
Love and Connection – with meaningful relationships and by being valued. We drop everything in our lives to be with those we love.
Success and Competence – We put our lives on hold to train, compete and win (Olympics, Ironman) to feel competent and successful. Yes, we regretfully play video games till 1am to beat our high scores.
Passion Engagement – as time just disappears when we are with great friends, reading an engaging book, watching your favorite team or laying on the beach.
The rocket stood tall, looking like a bizarre artifact of an island tribe as palm trees swayed beside it and a smattering of clouds crossed through the spectacular blue sky. This event could be seen via a public webcast to possibly witness a fortune disappear. The rocket launched and nine minutes later reached the earth’s orbit. It became the first privately built machine to accomplish this.² It was enough for NASA to award SpaceX a contract a few months later to deliver payloads to the International Space Station.
Seven years later, Forbes estimates that Elon Musk’s net worth is $13.7B. He has continued in his roles as CEO of Tesla and SpaceX as well as Chairman of SolarCity. Tesla estimated to be worth about $33B, SpaceX about $10B and SolarCity about $5B.
Can a dream ever be enough? Probably not. It is unlikely to fit with our modern day definition of personal well-being. Yet understanding your definition and how to “fit it all in” could provide the focus to help you make almost anything happen.
¹ Ashlee Vance, “Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX and the Quest for a Fantastic Future” (HarperCollins, 2015), p200
² Ashlee Vance, “Elon Musk”, p202