In the movie Groundhog Day, Bill Murray is doomed to live the same day over and over again until he finally “gets it,” “it” being an appreciation of love and life and small pleasures. The movie works not just because Murray plays a cynic better than anyone else, but also because it taps into the possibility that second and third chances are not out of reach, as long as experience leads to knowledge and change.
I don’t know that Elon Musk, our cover subject, would identify with Groundhog Day. Musk has been described as “really freaking smart,” shy, impatient, and intense, so I can’t really imagine him feeling a kinship with the bored-to-tears character Murray plays. But Musk, too, has had the opportunity to start over--and he’s taking advantage of it completely. After his first two companies were clipped short of the possibilities he saw for them, he made sure his next three--you’ll learn about them in our feature, which begins here--would be allowed to grow to their fullest potential. We chose Musk as our entrepreneur of the year because the potential of the companies he is building is enormous, almost breathtaking, and because he has the drive and intelligence to push them to success. If he does succeed, we could all end up living in a rosier world.
But back to Groundhog Day for a minute. In one scene, Murray is watching Jeopardy! in the living room of his boarding house. Because by this point in the movie he has viewed the same episode over and over, he has learned the answers and can shout them out almost instantaneously--“What is Titicaca?” “What are the Finger Lakes?”--to the amazement of his fellow boarders. It’s a great little moment in the movie, one for which the filmmakers can thank Merv Griffin, who created Jeopardy! Griffin, who died this year at 82, is another entrepreneur celebrated in our year-end issue. He, too, was really freaking smart.