Building A Company Is Like Eating Glass And Staring Into The Abyss: Elon Musk

Elon Musk is perhaps the most successful entrepreneur of all time — he’s founded vertical-defining companies including Tesla, SpaceX, Neuralink and The Boring Company, and is currently the richest man in the world. But he’s the first to admit that the journey hasn’t been easy.

Elon Musk opened up about how difficult it was to start and run a company in an interview. “There’s a friend of mine who’s got a great saying about creating a company, which is trying to build a company and have it succeed is like eating glass and staring into the abyss,” he said. “What tends to happen is (things are) quite exciting for the first several months of starting a company, and then reality sets in,” he continued.

“Things don’t go as well as planned. Customers aren’t signing up the technology, or the product isn’t working as well as you thought, and then that can sometimes be compounded by a recession, and it can be very painful for several years. So I think, frankly, starting a company, I would advise people to have a high pain tolerance,” he added.

“It’s really hard,” Musk continued. “It’s really difficult, and it’s something that requires perseverance and grit. Maybe there are occasionally companies that get created where there’s not an extended period of extreme pain, but I’m not aware of very many such instances,” Musk said.

“I would definitely advise people regarding a company to expect a long period of quite high difficulty. But as long as people stay super focused on creating the absolute best product or service that really delights their end customer — if they stay focused on that, if they get it such that their customers want them to succeed, then they probably will. You have to focus on the customer and delivering for them. Make sure if your customers love you, your odds of success are dramatically higher,” Musk said.

Musk himself has gone through the grind. He’s famously spent many nights sleeping on the floor of the Tesla factory when the company was struggling to churn out electric cars, and there was a time when both SpaceX and Tesla were on the brink of bankruptcy. But he’s powered through these challenges — SpaceX is one of the most valuable private companies in the world, and Tesla is the world’s most valuable automaker. And by relentlessly focusing on what the customers want — Tesla has fans that rock stars and Hollywood actors would be proud of — he’s managed to turn both of them into massive successes.