Elon Musk

When it all becomes clear

We all have a moment, or moments, when something we knew only by rote memorization becomes something more.  We move from repeating what the answer is, to understanding why the answer is.  This is when the light bulb is turned on and what was once hidden becomes visible.  When that happens, it expands your ability to use your understanding of why, to make the what happen.

Quantum Mechanics in Chemistry

The eminent scientist Linus Pauling earned his Ph.D. in 1925 and the following year he accepted a fellowship to study under several leading physicists who were pioneering Quantum Mechanics – Neils Bohr, Erwin Schrodinger, and Arnold Sommerfeld.  Here, according to Sam Kean in his book The Disappearing Spoon, “Pauling figured out how quantum mechanics governs the chemical bonds between atoms.”  It was for this that one of Pauling’s colleagues noted that, “Chemistry could now be understood rather than being memorized.”

From this point forward, the ability to use the chemical properties improved dramatically.  Pauling himself worked on projects that produced synthetic antibodies and substitutes for blood plasma and many others on his way to receiving two Nobel prizes.

It wasn’t knowing only that chemicals reacted in a certain way, it was using Quantum Mechanics to explain why they reacted this way at the molecular level that allowed this to happen.

Human Flight

In 1899, Wilbur Wright wrote a letter to the Smithsonian Institute.  He explained how he had studied the work of early aeronautical scientists and asked for all papers that the Smithsonian had published on human flight, “I wish to avail myself of all that is already known…” Wilbur and his brother Orville studied all the scientific books that they received, as well as one book titled Empire of the Air, by Louis Pierre Moullard which discussed the possibility of achieving human flight by studying the birds in flight.   The Wright Brothers observed the flight of birds looking for information on how they accomplished this feat.  “Learning the secret of flight from a bird, was a good deal like learning the secret of magic from a magician.” – Orville Wright

Wilbur then began communicating with and questioning the most well-known aeronautical engineers of the time including Octave Chanute, who gave the brothers the idea to perform their experiments on the coasts of the Carolinas (where their famous Kitty Hawk flight took place).  In a letter Wilbur wrote to Chanute, he outlined what he and Orville now understood about flight, “What is chiefly needed is skill rather than machinery.”  And in a speech to the Western Society of Engineers, Wilbur shared that, “The bird has learned this art of equilibrium, and learned it so thoroughly that its skill is not apparent to our sight.  We only learn to appreciate it when we try to imitate it.”

We all know the rest of the story here.  The Wright Brothers did indeed build a plane and learn how to fly that plane which started the aeronautical revolution that let Elon Musk launch the latest Space X rocket last month.

It wasn’t knowing only that birds can, it was discovering why birds fly that allowed this to happen.


The takeaway for us is the knowledge of why things happen is out there for the asking.  Don’t settle for learning that something happens in a certain way, discover why it happens in a certain way and you will achieve great things – When it all becomes clear.

“Isn’t it astonishing that all these secrets have been preserved for so many years, just so we could discover them!” – Orville Wright

You’ve changed

Remember your school reunions? Some people “Haven’t changed a bit,” while others hear, “You’ve changed.”  I am not sure which one is meant as a compliment but I know which comment I wanted my classmates saying when I walked in the door because I planned and strived to be different, better than I was before.

Reunions are often meant to relive the glory days of old, simpler times when in retrospect life was easy.  But why live in the comfort zone?  We should be seeking change, doing everything possible to learn, grow, experience new adventures.  As Jim Rohn said, “Your life does not get better by chance. It gets better by change.”

Here are three considerations for those who are eager to start the journey of becoming the fullest version of themselves.

Change inspires greatness.  Be clear that the road to greatness is built on change.  An oak tree would still be an acorn if it wasn’t willing to change.  Who you are is good, who you can be is great.

“I’m interested in things that change the world or that affect the future and wondrous, new technology where you see it, and you’re like, ‘Wow, how did that even happen? How is that possible?’”- Elon Musk

Change requires sacrifice.  Becoming something new means leaving behind something old.  The level of intensity that got you where you are today won’t get you to where you want to be tomorrow.  If you’re into fitness you know that your level of growth is directly tied to your level of effort.  All growth follows the same principle. 

“All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another.” -Anatole France

Change desires more.  Change is like Newton’s Law of Motion which states, “An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.”  Starting the process of change is difficult, but once started you will want to keep moving forward through the next change to reach new success.

“To exist is to change, to change is to mature, to mature is to go on creating oneself endlessly.” -Henri Bergson

Be different – make a difference.

The future will be different than today, that we know for sure. Maybe you can get there first by not holding on to the way things have always been done. There may be a better way. You may have unique insights. You have individual talents – use them. Who knows – you might just change the world.

“The ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.”– Steve Jobs

It’s ok to stand out. If you really want to have an impact and make a difference, you going to have to reconcile yourself to being different. Otherwise you just doing what everyone else does and that rarely changes anything.

“Why fit in when you were born to stand out?”– Dr. Seuss

It’s ok to try new methods. You can’t be satisfied with just being different – new methods have to be better at getting you to the future There’s no guarantee that the new ideas will always work. But you can be sure that the same ideas won’t bring you to the new answers needed for the different future.

“You shouldn’t do things differently just because they’re different. They need to be better.” – Elon Musk

It’s ok to change along the way. It’s actually better than ok, its preferable to change. I had a mentor tell me that my goal for any given year was to go so far, I would need a telescope to see where I started. Expect to learn, look for opportunities, and grow from them.

“If you are always trying to be normal you will never know how amazing you can be.”– Maya Angelou


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