Getting a few pointers from the real-life Iron Man

In the summer of 1995, a 24-year-old PhD candidate eagerly stepped through the doors of Stanford University. With two undergraduate degrees under his belt (an eclectic mix of business and physics), he decided the next phase of his life should entail conducting research in the field of materials science.

Two days later, he dropped out.

For one thing, this whole Internet thing was starting to take off, and he didn’t want to spend his time toiling away in a lab while the dot-com boom passed him by. Even more important, he wanted to take a time-out to do some long, hard thinking on what he wanted to accomplish in life.

How could he make the largest impact not just on those around him, but on the whole of humanity?

While answers to such questions are complex, the way he tells it, he managed to boil it down to three succinct points:

1.  He wanted to do something related to the Internet

2.  He wanted to push the world forward in the area of sustainable energy

3.  He wanted to advance human space exploration

A crazily tall order.  Even crazier however, is that he delivered.

That person, is Elon Musk, founder of such little-known companies as, PayPal, a global e-commerce payment juggernaut that powers, among other things, Ebay; Tesla Motors, the Silicon Valley startup that produced the world’s first fully-electric sports car; SpaceX, the world’s first privately held space transportation company.

In less than 20 years, one man has been able to disrupt not just one but three major industries that have or will have a huge impact on all of our lives. As a role-model for entrepreneurs, that’s not a bad record.

Not surprisingly, when actor Robert Downey Jr. was tasked to play Tony Stark, the over-achieving, brilliant industrialist who moonlights as Iron Man, he based parts of his character on Musk.

While Iron Man is a figment of fiction, there is a pertinent lesson every entrepreneur can learn from the very real Elon Musk: Don’t be afraid to set high goals for yourself. This has also been a recurring theme we’ve learned at JOLT — to think big.

Being an entrepreneur isn’t always easy, and often for every success we pull off, there’s a handful of failures just waiting around the corner.

As Dan Martell told us in a JOLT session, continuous testing and iterating is key when trying to determine your Minimum Viable Product (MVP). The unpredictability can sometimes lead entrepreneurs to start doubting themselves — to start selling themselves short from the get-go. Every once in a while, we need to be reminded that we shouldn’t be afraid to reach for the stars … just as long as we’re also willing to build the rockets to get there.