On the cusp of his new Tesla release, Elon Musk has me, and other entrepreneurs, curious about what makes him a success. Like many of us, he took serious risks to get his companies off the ground (both figuratively, with Tesla, and physically, with SpaceX). He seems to take those risks and win, even when he "fails."
What allows Musk to attempt and complete projects everyone else considers impossible? SpaceX co-founder Jim Cantrell shared: "[I]t doesn't matter if it's going up against the banking system (Paypal), going up against the entire aerospace industry (SpaceX), or going up against the U.S. auto industry (Tesla). He can't imagine NOT succeeding, and that is a very critical trait that leads him ultimately to success... What separated us, I believe, was his lack of even being able to conceive failure. I know this because this is where we parted ways at SpaceX. We got to a point where I could not see it succeeding and walked away. He didn't, and succeeded."
The entire Farnam Street article is worth a read, but there is a simple bottom line: You have to prepare for success more than you prepare for failure. It means determining your endgame before you start. It means working backward from your ultimate success. It means laying out the steps that you need to take at the end, then determining the actions you need to take today to reach those final steps.
It's worth noting that Musk's ultimate and perhaps only goal is to have humans live on multiple planets. What do you need to do make that happen? Affordable, reliable rockets. His revolutionary SpaceX program is just an end to a means. Seemingly fatal mishaps and challenges are minor bumps in the grand scheme, but that works only when you have a master plan.
And that's why he wins.