You Will Not Be Elon Musk
In 1992, Gatorade launched the inspirational “Be Like Mike” television ad that prompted millions of fans to imagine themselves as Michael Jordan with flashy highlights and a catchy jingle.
The song begins:
“Sometimes I dream
That he is me
You’ve got to see that’s how I dream to be
I dream I move, I dream I groove
If I could Be Like Mike”
For those 61 mesmerizing seconds of the ad, many of us were taken away to a Gatorade-drinking, high-flying fantasy land where we were “His Airness,” Michael Jordan. I’ll admit that I was one of those who imagined himself as a completely different person – more athletically gifted, more famous, more successful, more many things.
I’ll also admit that the advertisement led me to imagine what it would be like to be Michael Jordan, having a Michael Jordan moment. However, it did not encourage me to take any steps to building my talent, strengthening my work ethic, or developing a killer instinct. It simply led to innocent daydreaming.
Jordan wasn’t the first idol of mass consumption, but he was one of the biggest and arguably the most commercialized. Before Jordan, there were the likes of Babe Ruth, Muhammad Ali, and Joe Namath. Larger than life athletes who compelled us commoners to want to be just like them.
Athletes have continued to inspire us over the past few decades, but there has been a simultaneous growth in idolatry of successful entrepreneurs as well. Bill Gates. Mark Zuckerberg. Steve Jobs. These men visionaries who started at young ages, developed new and creative businesses, and grew them into massively successful enterprises.
Among entrepreneurs and business leaders, Elon Musk is perhaps the most looked up to of the bunch these days. Musk cofounded PayPal, founded Tesla, and runs SpaceX.
On Quora, the curated by vote Q&A site, there is a litany of popular questions about Musk including:
- “How do I become as successful as Elon Musk?”
- “What will Elon Musk consider a boring day?”
- “I want to be like Elon Musk. How and where do I start?” (from a 16 year old)
- “How can I work as hard as Elon Musk?”
There are many people who take inordinate interest in how Musk lives, breathes, sleeps, dresses, and more. While I think it is very interesting to learn how others live and work, especially those whom we look up to, I can’t help but detect in both questions and answers the wish to learn how Musk functions, in order to crack the code and “be like Musk.” I can’t help but wonder if people believe that there is a path, with sequential steps, to becoming Elon Musk and a discovery of this path will enable them to become like him.
No one will be Elon Musk l, just as no one will be Elon Musk’s neighbor or his accountant or his hairdresser. Uniquely successful innovators didn’t get where they are by following a roadmap. They created their own, unique path – often unintentionally (Musk has had his fair share of setbacks).
Yes, it’s a cliche, but it’s absolutely true: There is nothing wrong with being ourselves.
Perhaps there is something in the way that a celebrity functions that resonates with us to the extent that we take on the activity and it makes us better in what we do. We should use this information to help us develop a better understanding of what will work for us and not what will make us more like someone else.
This article was written by Avenue Group Founder Jeremy Greenberg