The world knows Elon Musk as the richest man in the world, but what they don’t know is how and why he got here.
It’s true… I attend the same school as Elon did in South Africa and I have a good understanding of how his mind thinks and what drives him. We both had very similar childhood experiences that led us to become immigrants and entrepreneurs.
Living in Apartheid era South Africa in the 1980’s had so many restrictions, rules and political uncertainty that we were all forced to think creatively.
We did not have easy access to imported goods, so we had to create our own from scrap metal, grow our own food, and manufacture our own products from scratch. The Afrikaans saying “A boer maak “n plan” means a “farmer makes a plan” which refers to how South Africans have to innovate no matter the weather or die!
In our modern society we have become so accustomed to the ease and accessibility to things that we have forgotten how to be inventive. The key to success and creating things that everyone else thinks is too big or too impossible, is to think outside the box and learn how to problem solve.
Most of us are aiming for the stars where Elon Musk is aiming for Mars!
The lessons I gleaned from his approach to innovation, business building and doing big things is this:
- You must be prepared to take the risks of doing something terrifying for a greater reward.
- You must ignore the haters and stay focused on your goal to stay the course.
- You must look past what is to what could be and think outside the box.
- You have to be financially self-sufficient before you can make bold moves to act on fighting for freedom.
- If you fail and your rocket blows up, celebrate it as a learned opportunity to do it right the next time.
Every setback is a chance to learn and grow. If we could teach this to our children, how could we educate them that being willing to fail is part of being innovative?
So how about you, how have you been innovative lately?
Elon Musk Innovation The Mind behind the Man
How do we become more innovative? How do we think outside the box? Well, let me share with you what I personally know about Elon Musk.
Welcome to the unstick, your mind podcast on Mimika TV. Get ready to get unstuck align with your true purpose and unlock your God given potential.
Hello, and welcome to another episode of Mimika TV. I’m your host Mimika Cooney. I’m so excited to have you here today with a brand new episode that I’ve been thinking about sharing for a long, long time. Now, as you can tell, I have a south African accent and I do feel this is part of a subject that I actually do have some insight knowledge to share about. And really the subject is the man. What we know as Elon Musk. Now, what I wanted to share with you today is something behind what I like to call the mind behind the man, because Elon and I actually went to the same school in South Africa were raised under very similar circumstances and are now living in the USA as entrepreneurs.
Now we hear a lot of things in the news lately about the, what he’s doing and all the controversies out there. But I want us to take a moment just to pause a little bit about what we all can learn from his innovative way of thinking now, for those who are not born and raised in South Africa, I just wanna give you a little bit of a backstory to really help you understand the framework and the mindset that Elon comes from. So you can better understand and appreciate the decisions he makes today.
Now I will refer to a few things along the way. And even though I will say, I have never met Elon in person, we have had very similar paths and have experienced very similar things, at similar times now. First things first, it is completely true. Elon and I went to the same school in South Africa for part of our high school career. Even though he’s a few years ahead of me, I can paint a little picture for you of what it was like being raised in South Africa. Now, just for those who don’t know, South Africa in the eighties was kind of like America in the fifties, a little bit behind the times. Well, a lot behind the times technology was not as far ahead.
I mean, things like television was only introduced in the late seventies. So there was a lot of things that us South Africans had to learn to do that we had to be innovative because as you know, apartheid really separated us from the rest of the world. There was no import or export, and really there’s the same that Elon Musk’s own mother has used in her own audiobook. She has used the English version, which is a woman makes a plan, but it really comes back to the same plot, which is “a farmer makes a plan”. Now we know if anyone who does farming, no one can control the weather. No one can control the outcome, but we can control what we put in to plan for outcomes. Now, a “boer maak a plan” comes from our South African mindset that no matter what comes at you, good bad with the ugly, you figure out a way that everything is “figureoutable” doesn’t matter what circumstances present today. There is always a way to think outside the box.
Elon Musk Innovation The Mind behind the Man
Now just a little bit of a backstory now during their apartheid era, we were all raised under what was considered a British school system. So all of us kids were at school where we learned, we were told we had to learn languages. So most of us know either two or three languages. The British school system was based on, you know, a lot of discipline wearing uniforms. So I even remember as a kid thinking, oh, one day I can wear civvies which is civilized clothing. It was really about compliance and discipline and playing by the rules. Now, one similarity that Elon and I have is that we don’t really like to play by the rules. We like to kind of think outside the box. And sometimes that gets you in a bit of trouble, especially when you are in a regiment society. But what it does do, it plants the seed and the need and desire and determination to create something more than what you presented with.
Cause what the world shows you in the environment you’re in. When you come from that innovative type of thinking, you’re always thinking of what’s next or what’s more well, surely there’s a better way of doing things now, you know, at this stage in South Africa, in the eighties, you know, there was a lot of political unrest. I remember even my dad as an entrepreneur, he was always frustrated about the news. Like you would watch the 6:00 PM news, usually an in African. So my mom would have to translate cuz we come from the British side of, South Africans, which we all understood Afrikaans, but a lot of the time, what was so frustrating was the lack of control. Now, as an entrepreneur, I remember growing up and seeing my dad so frustrated by the, the politics of the day, they would decide something. And the next day, the cost of goods and petrol and milk and bread would go up and it was very frustrating. Because there was no government assistance there wasn’t free healthcare, everything you had, you had to work for. And of course we were surrounded by poverty.
You just needed to go out your front yard. Usually behind a gate for security because security and crime was really rampant, which is still today, unfortunately, but there’s always this sense of how do I protect myself? How do I create something and how do I find something that I can’t just buy off Amazon, right? So you are forced to innovate. And I think a lot of us in modern society have become so comfortable with the, with what we have, we’ve forgotten how to innovate. Now, the other similarities that Elon and I had is we both of our parents got divorced when we were both 10 and that definitely had a significant shift and change in our mindsets and how we were raised. So we were both raised by very progressive women who at the stage, as I mentioned, you know, South Africa in the eighties was very behind.
Elon Musk Innovation The Mind behind the Man
The women were not given a lot of opportunities was very much a man’s world. So being raised by a woman who is very strong minded, who was determined to do the right thing, and might I add, they were both professional models at a time, which getting out of the country seemed almost impossible. And I know, Elon’s mom Maye is now a very well known model and she’s done some amazing things in life, which is just so amazing. But even for her, for a lot of people don’t know the backstory of that, you know, with Elon, he also was raised in a very volatile environment. Our childhoods were plagued by fights and a lot of tension between our parents. So having gone through that from a young age, you have to really learn to navigate how to defend yourself, how to step stand up for yourself and how to protect those you love. So being raised by single mothers in the eighties and South Africa required that women had to go out and work. And in my personal case, my mom didn’t have the option. There was no such thing as alimony, getting child support was a major problem. So she had to go out and make something of herself.
She had to work sometimes two, three jobs. Now for many of us who were raised by single parents, we know what that’s like, and it creates this burning desire to want to do better, to want to excel, to knowing that there has to be something better on the other side. And I think that’s a really key part in becoming so determined later in life. Now, the other thing that which unfortunately said to say that we have in common is both Elon and I were severely bullied as teenagers. Now let me just frame this for you now, bullying today, you know, we talk about cyber bullying, but those back in those days, it was really about people making assumptions about who you are or what station in life and being raised by single parents who didn’t have a lot of money did make it seem a little strange because back in the day in South Africa being a divorced mother or from a child of a divorced family was almost taboo. It wasn’t even acceptable. It was almost like, oh, what is wrong with that family? If they, you know, they have a divorce, like most people would have a lot of problems behind closed doors, but never say anything.
So for a woman who divorced her husband was considered very extreme, did very extreme out there. So of course, you know, for those who don’t understand your current environment, your situation, and when you are a little different, you know, people, kids can be mean, and can sometimes criticize things they don’t understand. Oftentimes it makes it very hard for you to create something out of nothing. When you feel like you’re fighting against the current now from what I know of Elon, he had a very tragic, not tragic, but yeah, it was tragic in that it really affected his mindset. Is that being bullied. And he was physically hurt as well. He was thrown down the same staircase that I know exactly, that I walked myself, which was concrete stairs. We had no elevators at school in those days. And you had to change classes. And unfortunately those who were bigger and stronger and older than you, who didn’t understand the strangeness or the way that of thinking, or even you would get criticized and bullied for being quiet, which was my case. People would often misinterpret deep thinking for being snobby or who knows what kids think, right? But the end of the day, both our parents, both our moms and his case, and in mine decided that there was not an environment we wanted to raise our kids in. We were not thriving. It was not healthy needed to think outside the box. Now, luckily for Elon, his parents, his mom was able to get him out of the country and he finished his schooling in Canada, but like him, both him and I went through the immigration process of what it’s like to be an immigrant in a country.
Elon Musk Innovation The Mind behind the Man
Now, for those who come from immigrant, parents can understand this a little bit. Being an immigrant is when you have no history, you have no support system. You don’t have your aunts and uncles and friends around the corner who can come and help with childcare or who can, you know, pick you up from school. Or there is none of that. So you have to learn to innovate. You have to learn to figure things out. You have to become independent before you even think you’re ready to become independent. And you have to be willing to take the risk to try something that seems scary and bigger than you can imagine into the unknown, into an area you’ve never been to, which does come with its own fear, but it’s almost like you have to do this afraid. Now having gone through the immigration system and all the hoops and the loops we had to jump through, in a known my family’s case took seven years to go from being an immigrant to becoming an American citizen. And now that we’ve been here over 15 years, I can say it was definitely a hard road, but it was definitely worth it because we were determined to go through the hard in order to get to where we are today.
Because we know that short-term sacrifice means long term gain. Now not many people have a long view of life or not thinking they’re far ahead, but for Elon, what I love about it is he’s always thinking a hundred steps ahead of everybody he’s playing 4D chess while the rest of us are trying to figure out where the pieces on the board are. And that’s what I love about being an entrepreneur is that, that innovative thinking of thinking of what could be, what what’s a better way of doing things. And I always think, if we could adopt that mindset in all areas of our life, from how we run our business, to how we raise our kids, I think we will have a much better running society instead of always first instinct is to fight against what we don’t know and to fear what we don’t know.
So some of the innovative mindset tips that I’ve gathered and having gone through and, you know, really studied Elon and, and looked at the similarities that we have and really trying to understand it is how could we teach this to others? How could we ourselves as parents teach an innovative mindset to our kids? Well, first of all, having understanding what it’s like to live in an oppressive society and having that empathy for something and wanting something more, I think is keys. So first of all, and I’ll be admit, I. I’m guilty of this too, is giving our kids too much, allowing ourselves to almost be lazy in our approach and not allowing ourselves to be pushed past our comfort zone, because how can we think bigger to make the world a better place? So some of the things that I’ve learned from Elon’s adventures, if we look back at the history of his, of his entrepreneurial career back when his vision for PayPal was to create something out of nothing.
Now, remember those days we didn’t have online banking like we have today, or just paying somebody with the click of a button, right? This was very innovative. And this was also before internet security and all of that. So he was at the forefront in the cutting edge of technology before it became adopted. Now, you know, when you’re creating something and you have a vision for something that people are not quite used to yet, the same thing with steep jobs in the iPhone are totally shook the world. And the way we do life, the same way that cars did in Henry Ford’s day when you used to riding horses. So in Elon’s case, PayPal was really an integral part of shifting the status quo. Now then after he had sold that company, you know, and we don’t often hear about the hard times. We just hear about the successes we know of him as being head of SpaceX. Now, I always, always laugh about this and joke and say, cuz back in South Africa, when we were kids at school, you know, our teachers would say, you need to pay attention.
Elon Musk Innovation The Mind behind the Man
And I can imagine the teacher and the sound of the voice, like “Elon, are you daydreaming of going to the moon again?” And he’d probably it’s say in his mind, “actually, yes I am”. How many of us were told as kids stop being a daydreamer stop thinking and just focus on what’s in, in front of you? And I probably think, and I would agree, this is the worst kind of advice where if we had told, yeah, what are you dreaming of? What are you thinking of when Elon was back in South Africa at school, probably bored beyond tears because of the slow pace of the education system that he was dreaming of outta space. He was dreaming of rockets. So now as an adult and the owner of SpaceX, he’s always thinking of how can we go further and beyond where we are now. And also if you think about it, how many failed launches has he had? This comes back to the idea of keep trying and keep trying, right? Failure is not failure. It’s simply experiments. Now in his case, he has the budget to be able to make those mistakes and experiments. But every iteration is a step further.
Every failure is learning how to do something better. So again, if we needed to teach this to our children, how do we teach innovation is being willing to fail. It’s okay. If you fail and actual fact, you should embrace failure and, and count as is a celebration that you’ve actually learned something beyond what you know, now moving on to what he’s doing today. And of course there’s big controversy about Elon buying Twitter. And again, I have to have a little bit of a chuckle because I just imagine again, Elon growing up in South Africa and thinking, where is the town square? Where are people needing to talk? Where back in our school days, whenever you went to school, you would have assembly in the morning.
Now in South Africa, assembly is when all the kids assembly in one area. And in the school we went to, it was usually this, concrete centerpiece of where all the buildings were that all of our teachers would line us up and we would get in a straight line behind our class members. And the first thing we would do is, you know, recite the national Anthem. And we were all taught to say the Lord’s prayer and then announcements. And then we were told about what would be happening for the rest of the day.
Now, of course, everyone knew that if you wanted to get the message out before the days of email, you would have a bulletin board, which would be usually a chalkboard or a chalkboard again, under this entrance of where most of the traffic would be usually outside the office. So when the kids would bring in their folders, Attendance folders to the front office, it was usually an common area. And you knew that people would see it. And what I find I’m using today is that the chalkboards of yesterday are now the Twitters and Instagrams and Facebooks of the world. And what I find so amusing about Elon’s takeover of Twitter is that he knows where the people are gathering. He knows that if you can get attention and everyone assembles in the same place, in order for you to get your message out there, you know, you canbe heard.
But the other thing people tend to overlook is the sense of freedom. Cuz back in South Africa, in the eighties, you couldn’t just say what you wanted to say. You were always restricted and there was always the sense of you better comply or else you would get punishment or detention in our case at school. But what I really appreciate about the fact is that he’s always innovating. He’s thinking, how can I make this better? Instead of this being a politicized controlled situation, how do we give the power back to the people? How do we give them a voice? And again, that’s an innovative mindset. How can we innovate beyond what we see so we can create the future. And to wrap this up, I will say that one of the things that I think is so key to all of what drives Elon is that he’s creating a future for his kids. If you know, anyone knows his story, he has quite a few kids and I think it’s six or seven kids he has now. And everyone thinks like, why would you wanna do that? Especially in today’s society. But let me tell you, our children are the future.
Without an innovative mindset, without encouraging creativity, without encouraging entrepreneurship and reaching further than what we see today, what are we creating for our kids? So in the ways most of us are just trying to reach for the stars. Elon is reaching for Mars. So just think how can you today embrace an innovative mindset, reach for Mars and to create the world for yourself, your children and your children’s children. I hope you enjoyed this story down memory lane, and I’d love to have your comments and ahas click below the video. I’d love to hear your insights on your thoughts on this topic. And if you enjoyed what I had to share today, make sure to share it with your friends, click on the like button, share with your friends. And I’d love to hear connect with you. So if you want more freebies that are only share with my newsletter community, go to mimikacooney.com until next time take care.
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