Elon Musk is a man of few words, who more often than not lets his actions and delivery of results speak for himself. Results, apparently, seem to be his chosen vernacular. Having said that, there keeps coming a time when Elon drops some gems of entrepreneurial advice.
The founder of Tesla and SpaceX has had more than his fair share of criticism. Naysayers and skeptics have left no stone unturned to discourage and vilify the futuristic entrepreneur. But, Elon style, he has let his work do the talking; his results silence the critics and leave them in awe of his ongoing series of achievements, previously thought impossible.
Now, when you seek advice from an entrepreneur with mettle like that, it will not be improbable to expect a speech about breaking boundaries. Tackling otherworldly industries (literally!), whilst changing the world one product at a time.
Well, this is Elon Musk.
On one occasion while being visited at his Tesla factory by students of Draper University, he was asked by one of the students, "As an established entrepreneur, what is the number one tip you have for all the young entrepreneurs waiting to startup?"
Here's his reply. "I think it's very difficult to start companies, it's quite painful. A friend of mine has a good phrase for doing a startup: it's like eating glass and staring into the abyss. If you are wired to do it, then only do it, not otherwise. So think of it this way - if you need inspiring words, DON'T DO IT!"
That seems like a discouraging response to such an important question, right?
Wrong. If you take a closer look, you will see there is a whole lot more to this answer than meets the eye.
Thomas Brag, one of the students present that day explains Elon's answer.
"Firstly, being an entrepreneur has been overly glorified in movies and TV shows, but for the most part, running a company is difficult. Most of us are not ready for it or are more interested in the idea of being an entrepreneur rather than actually be willing to put in the work to become one."
The real dynamics of entrepreneurship involve a lot of failures, risk-taking, tireless effort and a will to commit to years of work before you see any success. Most people are not wired to adopt this mentality or lifestyle and will only become very unhappy with their lives if they choose to pursue this path.
Branden Moskwa, CEO/Founder of nadimo.com agrees. "The glorification of entrepreneurship has created a society of ignorance, a yellow brick road type of thinking. I fully support and encourage entrepreneurs, it's just that you have to start with a dirt road in the beginning, and most people don't want to believe that. Being an entrepreneur is a constant battle of balance. The successful entrepreneur embraces the daily struggle and dives in headfirst, not with blinders, but with clarity and determination."
Brag also makes another point that Elon's advice serves as a 'poser-filter'. If you are discouraged by someone telling you not to do it, then you were not meant to do it in the first place. A strong-willed entrepreneur will have the reserves of grit and determination to not be put down by anyone's discouragement. The idea of entrepreneurship will feature in his self-actualization needs.
Therefore, if you are someone truly driven, this advice should fuel you with even more motivation to prove him wrong. Having said that, Elon also knows that this answer also serves as a fair warning for entrepreneurs to anticipate and be prepared for the failures ahead.
**Abhik Shome contributed to this article.