It may not seem like there is any correlation with online internet payments, 2013 Motor Trend car of the year, a spaceship docking to the International Space station and home solar energy. That is unless you know the man whose life story was the inspiration behind the main character, Tony Starks, in the movie Iron Man.
The story begins when Elon Musk sold a computer program for $500 as a 12-year old boy living in his native Pretoria, South Africa. At age 17, Musk left his family to move half way around the world to attend a college in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. He later earned two bachelor’s degrees from the University of Pennsylvania in Business and Physics. He wanted to get into solving “important problems that would most affect the future of humanity”, as he said later, “One was the Internet, one was clean energy, and one was space”.(1)
Musk became a co-founder of PayPal, the successful online payment system. He was the largest shareholder when it was sold to eBay in 2002. That same year, Musk founded the company Space X. NASA began using SpaceX to deliver supplies to the International Space Station after it retired the Space Shuttles. Earlier this month, the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched the Dragon spaceship into orbit and successfully delivered its second payload. Musk is still the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Chief Technology Officer.
Musk is also the CEO of Tesla Motors and oversaw development of the Tesla Roadster, an electric sports car. The Roadster redefined electric cars with its appealing look, accelerating from 0 to 60 mph in 3.7 seconds and having a range of 244 miles on a single charge. In 2013, the Tesla Model S four door sedan was named car of the year by Motor Trend and Car and Drivers. In his free time, Musk is the Chairman and largest shareholder of SolarCity, the largest provider of home solar power systems in the United States
Elon Musk illustrates why Enablement is the new power. Enablement is the ability to make things happen. Elon Musk is a master of enablement. While Tiger Woods’ golf coach has the knowledge of what to do, he lacks the enablement competencies to become a Masters Golf Champion.
In this period of rapid change, knowledge is even more important as human knowledge is doubling every few years. It used to be that spending the first quarter of your life learning would make you successful. In some careers today, you need to spend the first quarter of each day learning to be successful.
Yet to make things happen, knowledge must be accompanied by the other four enablement competencies (Creativity, Enablement People Skills, Realities Aptitude and Enduring Grit). Elon Musk’s mastery of enablement competencies is the common link with PayPal (internet payments), Tesla (Car of the Year), Spaceships (SpaceX), Tesla and SolarCity (Green Home Energy).
Enablement replaced knowledge as the new power, about 10 years ago once knowledge became ubiquitous and free. Before the internet, we lived in a world of knowledge asymmetry. Our decisions were made based on what we learned from car sales people, travel agents, stock brokers and doctors. Today, it is possible to know more about a specific topic from online research than the person offering the product or service.
Musk did everything he could to make these three new companies a success. In early 2010, his bank account was what he described as less than empty. He stated that he invested his last cent in his businesses and was living off loans from his wealthy friends. In the three year since Musk was penniless, Tesla and SolarCity became publically traded companies. SpaceX is expected to go public later this year. Forbes Magazine now estimates Elon Musk’s net worth as $2.7B.
Ben Franklin, Henry Ford and Thomas Edison were masters of enablement by each making unrelated big things happen. Richard Branson created a record company (Virgin Records), an airline (Virgin Atlantic) and a mobile phone company (Virgin Mobile). Like Musk, the sky is no longer the limit to Branson, Paul Allen (Microsoft) and Jeffrey Bezo (Amazon) as they each own space exploration companies.
Successful parents, waiters, entrepreneurs and college graduates are masters of enablement. They are knowledgeable and have proven mastery of the other four enablement competencies. Enablement is the new power, and it can help you make almost anything happen.