Startup Advice

How Elon Musk developed this “super power” to build successful companies

Dinushi Dias /

Elon Musk’s ability to learn and build new companies more rapidly than most people on the planet is reflected in how fast the multibillionaire reads, according to iEmpact co-founder Michael Simmons.

In a blog post on Medium, Simmons explains how he read dozens of articles and books to find out how the prominent entrepreneur has achieved his success to date, having

“To explain Musk’s success, others have pointed to his heroic work ethic (he regularly works 85-hour weeks), his ability to set reality-distorting visions for the future, and his incredible resilience,” Simmons says.

“But all of these felt unsatisfactory to me.”

Simmons says one of Musk’s greatest strengths is he’s an “expert-generalist” with an outstanding ability to transfer knowledge across different fields.

“Learning across multiple fields provides an information advantage (and therefore an innovation advantage) because most people focus on just one field,” says Simmons.

One way Musk appears to have developed this“superpower” is through his avid habit of reading from a young age.

“Starting from his early teenage years, Musk would read through two books per day in various disciplines according to his brother, Kimbal Musk,” says Simmons.

“To put that [into] context, if you read one book a month, Musk would read 60 times as many books as you.

“At first, Musk’s reading spanned science fiction, philosophy, religion, programming, and biographies of scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs.

“As he got older, his reading and career interests spread to physics, engineering, product design, business, technology, and energy. This thirst for knowledge allowed him to get exposed to a variety of subjects he had never necessarily learned about in school.”

Read more: Twelve books every ambitious entrepreneur should read

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Dinushi Dias

Dinushi Dias is a freelance journalist and a former StartupSmart reporter and multimedia content producer. She is the co-founder of Melbourne-based production house Dinushi & Power.

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