What Elon Musk, Steve Jobs, Marc Benioff, and Philip Knight share.

This summer I read 4 books that focus on different founder journeys. It was particularly interesting to read them in succession, because it’s easier to pick out common themes.

  1. Behind the Cloud by Marc Benioff (Salesforce)
  2. Shoedog by Philip Knight (Nike)
  3. Elon Musk by Ashlee Vance (Paypal, SpaceX, Tesla, SolarCity)
  4. Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson (Apple, NeXt, Pixar)

These are all wildly successful founders, with wildly differing journeys, that started different kinds of companies in different time periods.

Here are some of the common threads I noticed in their journeys to success.

  1. It was really f*ing difficult and they had several failures.
  2. They all obsessed about their business 24×7 and worked incredibly hard.
  3. They all improved significantly over time.
  4. They all made some bad decisions, but didn’t dwell on them.
  5. They hired believers, not mercenaries.
  6. They hired several key people through referrals.
  7. They told their teams what to do, not how to do it.

Here are some of the common threads about their founding teams, which are often overlooked.

  1. They had fun even in the worst of days.
  2. When faced with difficulty, the teams rose to the challenge and relished the opportunity to become better, faster, stronger.
  3. Every person on the team thought like a founder but acted like a craftsman.
  4. They were constantly, severely, under-resourced, and they used this as an advantage.
  5. Every person on the team worked 24×7 and insanely hard.
  6. Arguments from team members centered around what was good for the company, not what was good for the individual.
  7. The motivation for each team came from the desire to win, rather than the desire for a comfortable workplace or work-life balance.

Imagine Jobs without Woz or Atkinson, Benioff without the introduction to the Harris-Moellenhoff-Dominguez trio, Musk without folks like Shotwell and Mueller, or Knight without Woodell, Johnson, or Penny.

None of these founders could have achieved their visions without their believers. The individuals on each team were capable of becoming successful on their own, but instead they chose to be part of something bigger and make a dent in the universe together.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s