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Now 0-for-3, SpaceX's Elon Musk Vows to Make Orbit (2008) (wired.com)
75 points by 6ren on Nov 3, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 40 comments

Can someone edit the title of this to correctly reflect that the linked article is from 2008? Without a close look it gives the impression all this happened last weekend.

"Optimism, pessimism, fuck that; we're going to make it happen. As God is my bloody witness, I'm hell-bent on making it work."

If you need a thesis for why, 4 year later, SpaceX and Tesla are seeing the succes they are, this attitude might be at its' core.

That's Magic Thinking. Just because you want something doesn't mean it's going to come true. There are thousands of other entrepreneurs you've never heard of, who were also highly motivated but it didn't work out for them. (That's why you've never heard of them.)

To explain the relative success of SpaceX and Tesla by Elon Musk "wanting success" is a fallacy. You should instead reason by first principles (as Musk himself recommends for entrepreneurs to do) and analyze what they did in the past couple of years, what worked and didn't work, what factors were involved, and how that led to where they are today.

I read that as 'I'm throwing all that I've got, time, resources, anything towards achieving my goal'. That's no guarantee for success but it works a lot better than doing nothing at all.

In order to win you have to first enter the games. Most people that are claiming this is 'magic thinking', survivor bias or generally down on achievement have never actually done any of this, let alone entered the game.

> have never actually done any of this

I spent 3+ years on my startup without being able to secure funding, getting by, fully commited [1]. I wanted to succeed really bad, but made too many mistakes from the get go and ran out of time/money eventually. To reflect on the topic of discussion, when evaluating why my startup failed (or another one succeeded), whether the founders wanted it bad enough is not a good core metric, which is what the grandparent claims.

[1] http://github.com/scalien/scaliendb

Heal your wounds, save some dough and same player shoots again.

You have to play a lot of chess games before you start winning. Start-ups are no different, the learning curve is quite steep but if you persevere at some point it will start to pay off. If your first start-up takes off in a couple of weeks or months that's the exception not the rule.

Establishing any kind of business normally takes about three years so you have to plan for that.

I'm fine, thanks, but this thread is not about me. I was just responding to your ad hominem attack.

I was not aware I was attacking you.

Don't give up. I just saw this 2 days ago at a talk given by Venu Anuganti (the url was on the final slide, he didn't actually vocalize it though). Seeing something for the first time twice in two days in startup land could be a fluke, or it could be a trend.

You may be on the brink of success. In fact, I'm going to download and compile this right now.

That's ScaleIn, my company was Scalien, no relation.

oh man, is my face red :(. I'm still your new watcher on github though ... :)

I just moved back to the 2.6.0 tag. works.

This looks like a scalable database. I don't know if it was a for-profit company that you just open-sourced at the end or what.

All I know is that I don't see what I'm using. This is about a day worth of authorship on your part. Literally.

1. Write something to help a noob like me find out what I'm doing.

2. Give some (it can be silly and contrived) but useful example to bootstrap the user.

In programming you are fundamentally building something abstract that lacks concrete reality. The key to success, I've found, is giving it that concrete reality through coherent narratives, consistent verbiage, probably more.

Silly marketing can make or break your product.

Example time (I don't have many)

I have this dumb little library called TickTick. When I linked people directly to the github is flopped (https://github.com/kristopolous/TickTick) ... so what I made was this http://qaa.ath.cx/TheEmperorsNewClothes.html.

I made it very carefully; being light hearted, poking fun at myself, trying to balance what people would think of it, being overall positive. I was trying to strike a really delicate balance in basically an advertising-to-geeks campaign.

Well, I think it worked pretty well. The project has 203 followers, which is my most successful by far.

I've found that this stuff matters a lot. Man does it ever. Backbone, underscore, and socket.io are probably popular not only because they have functional code (there's a lot of functional code out there) but because they have pretty websites (pretty is a POV word, but I think most people would agree those three sites follow aesthetic rules of thumb or modern web design ideas).

The readership of my blog entries went up phenomenally when I spent about 2 hours on my CSS. I spend 2-3 weeks on my longer articles ... that's 100+ hours, per article, it seems ludicrous that 2 hours on layout could lead to a larger gain than an extra 20 hours on citations and research.

But let me tell you right now, that is irrefutably true if you hadn't done it at all yet.

I think jQuery was so successful (and probably PHP too) because their documentation is so easy to navigate. No, it's not that it was so well written (Python is better written), but because google picked it up well and it was a cinch to navigate, and it worked.

Can someone far more successful than me weigh in on this, I hate to see people doing solid work and not getting acknowledged; that's enormously frustrating.

Anybody out there?

You can slice and dice the success of Tesla and SpaceX in all sorts of ways: analyze the external factors, the market, their employee compensation stratagies, the competitive environment, and so on, and you will probably find several interesting factors which were a contributor to their success.

But to ignore the visionary leadership and determination of Musk as a core factor to this success on the basis of other "motivated" entrepreneurs failing would be, I think, unwise. One of the defining charateristics of many of the leaders who have shaped our present is that they are/were resolute in some belief, even in the face of setbacks. Others with firm determination having failed isn't an antithesis - I'm not claiming this represents the only factor for success in business, but rather that in the case of Tesla and SpaceX this attitude that achieving their lofty goals was possibe, was a core driver in theirs.

Edit: BB typo

Visionary leadership != determination

I think determination is a common trait among entrepreneurs, being a visionary less so. But even that is not a recipe for success.

"visionary leadership and determination"

Agreed on both fronts. I wouldn't argue that being a determined visionary is a recipe for success, rather merely that it's a key ingredient for BIG successes and challenging problems.

Edit: can't proofread, apparently. Changed "an" to "a"

Also is known as troop morale, you may hace all the best team with the best plan and execution, if you leave your morale to drift down, your team is not going to hold it for you(they are looking at you for inspiration).

In combat, troops have surrendered to weaker enemies just because they just gave up. The same happens with bussinesess. You must hold that "magic thinking" way up because if you dont, all that perfect assets you posses(at leat on paper) are not going to perform at their best(if at all). We are talking of human teams here, not circuits.

If there is any quote that every would be world-changing entrepreneur should live by, it is this one.

I love how he doesn't consider himself an optimist. There's an important distinction between knowing that something is possible and going for it and hoping to accomplish something that may not be possible. I think many people confuse one for the other.

"All entrepreneurs have an aptitude for risk, but more important than that is their capacity for self-delusion. Indeed, psychological investigations have found that entrepreneurs aren’t more risk-tolerant than non-entrepreneurs. They just have an extraordinary ability to believe in their own visions, so much so that they think what they’re embarking on isn’t really that risky."



Actually I think his ability to perform "due diligence" on his own ideas both from a technical and a business perspective is one thing that sets him apart from other entrepreneurs. In my opinion there's also a big difference between doing something hard that's most likely valuable and doing something relatively easy that's uncertain if it's valuable.

Nah, according to an interview I saw with him, they were within one launch failure of folding. His original concept for SpaceX was to put a greenhouse on Mars -- a completely money-losing inspirational venture. By comparison anything else is more likely to generate a profit. So essentially, he was ready to light that wheelbarrow full of money on fire, so anything beyond that was just gravy.

Look up the incident where he crashed his super-car with Peter Thiel as passenger. Musk's an impulsive gambler.

This is not to take anything away from him -- he's a huge inspiration to me, and I believe that impulsivity is a necessary precursor to creativity.

"So I made three visits to Moscow, to Russia to look at buying a a Russian launch. [...] we actually did get to a deal. But there were so many complications associated with the deal that I wasn't comfortable with the risk associated with it."

"So I put together a feasibility study which consisted of engineers that have been involved with all major launch vehicle developments over the last three decades. We iterated over a number of Saturdays beginning of last year to figure out what would be the smartest way to approach this problem of not just launch cost but also launch reliability. And we came up with a default design."

Elon Musk, Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders Lecture, 2003. http://ecorner.stanford.edu/authorMaterialInfo.html?mid=381

I'm not saying he doesn't take risks though. He more than likely could have settled down in 1999.

According to some guy who writes for Wired. Yeah, that's definitive.

Chris Anderson is the editor-in-chief of Wired. The other interview is with "Wharton doctoral student Brian Wu." Both would seem to be highly credible sources on the subject of successful entrepreneurs (not successful entrepreneurship, which seems to be the source of your dismissal)

Eh, editor in chief? That means he can write well. That's all. The idea that a guy like Elon Musk is successful because he's somehow delusional is idiotic.

You're being downvoted because your argument is "other people are wrong," and if you forward such an argument you are implicitly forwarding a character comparison: don't listen to that guy he's a dumbass, listen to me (because I'm not.)

It can work if you're some well-known personality. As far as you've told us, you are an unknown, unaccomplished person who expects us to believe he knows more about the successful entrepreneur's mindset than two people who have interviewed several extensively. Again, with no reason provided.

EDIT: And also, one of those people (Anderson) is an entrepreneur himself. So who, exactly are you? Sounds like you're just some guy who likes calling other people idiots because he doesn't like what they write.

I'm being downvoted because other people are wrong :)

My point is that sentence is wrong and thrown in to get page views. The fact that you can write well doesn't mean you know anything. It's no qualification at all when it comes to making an argument.

And also, one of those people (Anderson) is an entrepreneur himself. So who, exactly are you?

Me? Oh, I'm a professional poker player. I'm not very good at it, you see, so I'm currently writing articles about poker.

That's not what OP said.

Well, actually, it is. And it's spot on. Some might have this fetish for rationality that claims if it's delusion it's a lie, whatever, you might think that too. Honestly, in a career path that requires a very big blind bet, and hopes for one in a billion, striking it rich opportunities, those not self-deluded enough about the importance of their start-up are probably going to quit, or not even try.

No, it isn't spot on at all. SpaceX wasn't "a big blind bet" at all. The guy is smart, and he listened to people who've been analyzing that industry for decades. The fact that he persevered after a few failures just means he knew what industry he was trying to break into.

Engineers have been scratching their heads since the '70s and wondering why the hell it costs so much to get something into LEO. There's nothing fancy about the hardware SpaceX developed, either. It's just a rocket company that's run like a business. There's no delusion required - what Musk brought to the table was boatloads of money and the experience of growing and running a business.

That "some guy" is Chris Anderson, an entrepreneur in his own right, and a guy who's accomplished a hell of a lot.


Yeah, like I said. Compared to someone like Elon Musk, he's just some guy.

Yes. This quote is lovely :

> Optimism, pessimism, fuck that; we're going to make it happen. As God is my bloody witness, I'm hell-bent on making it work.

I am visiting my dad here in the Space Coast of Florida (Cape Canaveral) and the old retired people here I've spoken to are almost universally "angry at Obama" for "ending the space program".

I mention SpaceX and how they're advancing rocket technologies and doing things far cheaper than NASA ever could but it seems to fall on deaf ears.

I know it's pointless to argue, but I can't help myself. What else can I use in my argument?

This was an interview from 2008.

Good example of relentlessly resourceful: http://www.paulgraham.com/relres.html

I guess this was posted as look back to before they were successful? They've launched the Falcon 9 heavy to the ISS now, so no one would consider them not. Maybe all those failures with the F1 light model are part of why the Falcon 9 was designed to and managed to do its job even with one of the engines failing...

They've been launching Falcon 9's to the ISS. So far they haven't flown a Falcon 9 Heavy (which they have actually renamed to "Falcon Heavy", no "9" (maybe because the first stage will actually have 27 merlin engines)).

I'm sure they'll make it. They've already accomplished so much no one else though possible. They've built technology no one else has. Even if they didn't Elon would still be a legend for even trying.


They've already made it, several times over now.

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