How to be Elon Musk

In response to the Quora thread “How can I be as great as Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, Richard Branson?” Elon Musk's ex-wife Justine offered this great response.

Extreme success results from an extreme personality and comes at the cost of many other things. Extreme success is different from what I suppose you could just consider 'success', so know that you don't have to be Richard or Elon to be affluent and accomplished and maintain a great lifestyle. Your odds of happiness are better that way. But if you're extreme, you must be what you are, which means that happiness is more or less beside the point. These people tend to be freaks and misfits who were forced to experience the world in an unusually challenging way. They developed strategies to survive, and as they grow older they find ways to apply these strategies to other things, and create for themselves a distinct and powerful advantage. They don't think the way other people think. They see things from angles that unlock new ideas and insights. Other people consider them to be somewhat insane. 
 
Be obsessed.
 
Be obsessed.
 
Be obsessed. 
 
If you're not obsessed, then stop what you're doing and find whatever does obsess you. It helps to have an ego, but you must be in service to something bigger if you are to inspire the people you need to help you  (and make no mistake, you will need them). That 'something bigger' prevents you from going off into the ether when people flock round you and tell you how fabulous you are when you aren't and how great your stuff is when it isn't. Don't pursue something because you "want to be great". Pursue something because it fascinates you, because the pursuit itself engages and compels you. Extreme people combine brilliance and talent with an *insane* work ethic, so if the work itself doesn't drive you, you will burn out or fall by the wayside or your extreme competitors will crush you and make you cry. 
 

The whole thing is great. However, if you're reading this, perhaps you already have no chance.

They are unlikely to be reading stuff like this. (This is *not* to slam or criticize people who do; I love to read this stuff myself.) They are more likely to go straight to a book: perhaps a biography of Alexander the Great or Catherine the Great* or someone else they consider Great. Surfing the 'Net is a deadly timesuck, and given what they know their time is worth -- even back in the day when technically it was not worth that -- they can't afford it.

Elon Musk AMA

On the eve of SpaceX trying to launch a rocket that will bring supplies to the International Space Station and then try to land itself (or at least its first stage) back on a barge in the ocean (NBD), Elon Musk did a Reddit AMA: First question:

TCEchicago
What daily habit do you believe has the largest positive impact on your life?

ElonMuskOfficial
Showering.

Also:

aerovistae 
tl;dr: How do you learn so much so fast? Lots of people read books and talk to other smart people, but you've taken it to a whole new level.

It seems you have an extremely proficient understanding of aerospace engineering, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, software engineering, all various subdisciplines (avionics, power electronics, structural engineering, propulsion, energy storage, AI) ETC ETC nearly all things technical.

I know you've read a lot of books and you hire a lot of smart people and soak up what they know, but you have to acknowledge you seem to have found a way to pack more knowledge into your head than nearly anyone else alive. Do you have any advice on learning? How are you so good at it?

ElonMuskOfficial
I do kinda feel like my head is full! My context switching penalty is high and my process isolation is not what it used to be.

Frankly, though, I think most people can learn a lot more than they think they can. They sell themselves short without trying.

One bit of advice: it is important to view knowledge as sort of a semantic tree -- make sure you understand the fundamental principles, ie the trunk and big branches, before you get into the leaves/details or there is nothing for them to hang on to.

Not the most scintillating of AMA's, but the man can be forgiven if his mind is elsewhere.