Friday 3rd July 2020

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Infographic: A timeline of Elon Musk’s long list of failures

Image by Kickresume | text by Jeff Desjardins, Visual Capitalist

At first glance, it’s easy to be blown away by Elon Musk’s impressive resume.

He’s shooting for the stars with SpaceX, changing the future of transportation with Tesla, Hyperloop and The Boring Company, and he’s already had a profound impact on the e-commerce and payments sectors through Paypal. It’s no coincidence that most of these are $1-billion-plus companies.

But focusing only on his successes provides a superficial view of the man. To get the full perspective on his career, it is much more interesting to look at the failures and lows he has experienced. These are the moments when most people would have likely given up.

Failing often

As every entrepreneur knows, any business venture can be upended by failures at any moment—and it is how one bounces back from those failures that counts.

This infographic from Kickresume shows Musk’s struggles and failures throughout his career, and how he persevered to become a modern business icon.

A timeline of Elon Musk’s long list of failures


As the ever-quotable Winston Churchill once said:

Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.

After being ousted from his own company, having many rockets go bust and fighting to keep Tesla and SpaceX from going bankrupt, Musk kept pushing forward with courage.

What we can learn

Entrepreneurs hold people like Steve Jobs, Elon Musk and Richard Branson in high reverence. Sometimes we even put them on a pedestal, thinking we could only dream of making such a profound impact on the world.

However, this is obviously a one-dimensional view. These figures are not superhuman, and the reality is that they’ve all experienced tragic failures throughout the course of their careers. They’ve been disheartened, but they bounced back.

We have to recognize that success in business isn’t what it appears to be on magazine covers and headlines. Failure is an everyday part of doing business, and it plagues almost every entrepreneur in some shape or form. The difference is in how you react to it.


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