Inspiration Through Failure: Elon Musk and SpaceX

AHH the abort button is so close to his hand! Careful, buddy.     from AHH the abort button is so close to his hand! Careful, buddy. from


How many times to we fail and then give up? More than anything, failure keeps us from driving forward. But what if we looked at failure in a completely different way? What if instead of being afraid of failing, we welcomed failure as something that pushes us forward, even forward faster than success?

Elon Musk is often compared to Tony Stark, the alter ego of superhero Iron Man. I'm pretty okay with the comparison - both were child geniuses who built empires based on technology. Although I'd argue that Elon Musk is even more inspirational, because Elon Musk has transformed his genius into innovative visions for our future, and he's making them real.

One of those real visions is SpaceX, the company that's taking over NASA to become the primary channel for space flight. Musk doesn't profit immensely from these ventures (he made his fortune creating PayPal), but pursues them because he loves innovation.

Perhaps the most important lesson that we can learn from Musk is that failure is important, not just something that happens, but something that must happen in order for us to be successful.

Last week saw Musk live that out. SpaceX was poised to do something incredible - to send a rocket full of supplies to the International Space Station and then have that rocket touch back down safely so that the same unmanned machine could be reused. The mission went well until the moment of truth - touchdown - when the rocket came this close to landing perfectly but instead landed much too roughly (and when I say "much too" I mean it exploded). One could technically consider this mission a failure.

Rather than meeting this with bravado or blame, Musk issued the following tweet in the hours after the rocket missed it's landing:

  That's what I call "getting over it in 140 characters." Musk sees inspiration even in failure. And that's something that we can take to our children, and to ourselves, as we pursue our own successes.



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