If you're reading this article, I'm going to assume two things about you:

1) You know who Elon Musk is (co-founder of PayPal, founder/CEO of SpaceX and CEO of Tesla)

2) You know when you're the smartest person in the room

What you may not know is that Elon Musk has a reputation for being a jerk. I recently read his biography written by Ashlee Vance, which digs into his personal life, some remembered interactions with employees, and his personal interactions with him.  My takeaway from the book was that in some situations, he is not a nice person to others, but he is also extremely successful in creating value in his businesses.  So, why does that approach work for him?  When should you use it yourself?

I think the answer is actually pretty simple.  Musk is a smart guy, and he knows it.  While he may appear to be overbearing, rude, or insensitive, it is always in defense of his businesses which he has worked tirelessly for years to build.  When someone makes a decision or suggests an idea that he KNOWS is wrong, he will act autocratically and override them, because his ideas are simply sounder than that person's.

I think it's important to remember that operating a business is not a democratic endeavor.  When you KNOW that something won't work, when you KNOW that a decision has significant risk for the business, and you won't stand for it, you have to speak up.  Speak Up is a core value at Blinds.com and we use it every day.

Most of the time, the factors for making a decision are not that clear.  Usually, you're not sure if you know. And, a good CEO hires people smarter than they are (something I readily admit to doing).  So this methodology is not for every situation.   If you aren't sure, you need to be asking more questions.

Ashlee Vance comes to the conclusion in his writing that Elon Musk is so focused on his ultimate goal of colonizing Mars and becoming an interplanetary species that he has little time to focus on individuals.  He's too busy trying to save the human race.  His higher purpose is what motivates him daily in his work and his interactions with others, and there's no time to waste.   If your decision supports your ultimate purpose, you can go home happy.

If you know, you know.  Make the decision.  And, if you can do it without managing to hurt someone else's feelings, all the better.

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