This recipe for success comes from Elon Musk. It is the most hardcore recipe, and is certainly nowhere close to be in the regimes of “easy”, but if one was to follow this, he would beat anyone and everyone around him. One would solve the best problems of all times and would walk an entirely different pathway to success. The formula sounds simple – work 14-16 hours a day. But this is the most difficult formula one can try. There is absolutely no beating around the bush. Period.

Below are the barriers one would hit as they would attempt this recipe for success.

The first barrier one hits is ~ Biological

  • The pain resulting from working more hours in a day does not go up linearly with time put in work. It goes up exponentially with time. Elon Musk has admitted this himself, but he keeps going. For a normal person, this is not impossible but it is certainly extremely difficult. You are not just testing your physical capabilities, but also mental capabilities, emotional capabilities to handle stress for those long hours, and more than that you are separating yourself from friends and family. There is even a saying in the startup world ~ Want to run a successful startup? Work, Sleep, Family, fitness or Friends: Choose any three.
  • Biologically, this is achievable. Think about the times when you are partying with friends. You can be awake for long hours without feeling bad about it. You certainly would be a little tired later, but you easily pull it off. The reason is not that the activities don’t require physical work, or mental work, but it is because you “love” to do those activities. The reason you don’t want to work for 16 hours a day is because you do not love your work.

Elon loves his work, and he tells this formula.

  • Practice managing cortisol: The second aspect of this is that when you are with friends, your body gets a rush of serotonin whereas when you are at work, your body gets a rush of cortisol. To adapt biologically to achieve anything that has to do with ~ 16 hours of work per day, one has to embrace a very good response about cortisol rush.
  • Look to the solution:And there is a hard but possible way to do it. No matter what the situation is, you have to look at the situation from the point of view of engineering problem, and deriving an engineering solution.

If you were given the same problem to solve when you had all the time in the world, vs when you have been given the task to solve when you have only an hour to solve it the difference would be that the latter builds stress – sometimes an enormous amount of stress.

  • Calibrate each task:Learn to get more efficient at embracing stress. To do this, “calibrate each task”. Think about a simple situation: You head out of your home to catch a flight, and you are stuck in traffic. Your stress level increases very quickly. If you were to calibrate this, and say – no matter what the traffic conditions are, no matter what the weather is – the journey to the airport from my home takes ~ 35 mins. Then if you take ~ 55 minutes in hands and travel accordingly you cannot be stressed out.
  • Do not stress: Most efficient people do not stress about a problem. They just identify it quickly, plan a good solution, and work on the solution. Their stress level remains low enough, and therefore they are able to make this a habit.
  • Do not let others get stressed out:When one person in the team panics, many others panic. It is very important to keep a very cool temperament when stressful situations arise. If a soccer team coordinates well, while keeping a cool temperament, they can win a match with one fewer player. But if one player demoralizes the whole team, they would never win a match.

The best of the best team players, do not lose temper, and do not let others lose their temper too.

Simple answer: Calibrate. Keep cool. Practice. Do not stress.

The second barrier one would hit is ergonomic barrier:

Probably there are still a lot of safety and ergonomic caveats that must be thought about while working ~ 16 hours a day.

Elon doesn’t mention his formula, but it is clear that he takes care of this.

  • Take enough breaks, drink enough water, eat balanced diet, and do not just eat anything and everything.
  • Take at least 7 hours of sleep, and if possible, try to put at least ~ 15 mins in work out.
  • Make every activity ergonomically correct. Marathons are not ran with incorrect shoes, or incorrect stepping. Correct those first, then build your way upward.

Simple answer: Be fit, take rest, and exercise.

The third barrier one would hit is ~ psychological:

  • This barrier simply means that you would be faced with situations where you are doing what you are not liking, and it becomes very hard to work on it. There is probably no way around it but to approach this problem systematically. There exist systematic steps one must take to resolve the problems.

Elon’s formula is ~ Love your work. If you are constantly on a hot seat, and you are the root cause behind every problem, something is not right, and you must make a change.

  • Make your work likable: If your work was your favorite thing to do, you could do it endlessly. Think about your favorite activity to do, which can be making a painting, playing piano, shopping, and so on. If the activity is fun, you can do it for long hours.
  • Automate: To make work fun, make the tasks you do not like ~ easy to do, and as brainless as possible, so that a computer program can do them.
  • Train and delegate: Often, there is a bucket of work to be done, but one might like only a few things out of the bucket, whereas someone in your group may be a person who is capable of taking care of the other things. It is often better to sort the buckets first and divide the tasks so that there is a one to one match between personal choices and tasks.
  • You are your own savior: Your supervisor will not do this for you. Some supervisors are very capable of doing this, and will do it too, but all in all, you are the best judge of your own problems and you must solve those yourself.

Simple answer: like your work, and make it better yourself.

The forth barrier one hits is boredom:

  • No matter what you do, and no matter how much you like to do it, if you are only doing menial tasks, then you would certainly get bored of them in long run. You must continually work on things that improve your work.

Elon’s formula is – Always focus on signal vs noise.

  • Signal vs noise:When you work on signal, that is ~ the problem which will solve bigger issues, you would always have better problems to work on, and better temperament to solve them. Those who have interesting problems to work on never get bored, and continue to work on them nonstop.

A simple example could be this: Customers come to my shop, and I make them fill up a form.

Because they need constant assistance, I have to work hard to keep up with them.

Can I build an electronic form so that when they book an appointment with me – they can already fill up this form? If the answer to this question is yes, this is like working on a signal. Whereas assisting each customer to fill up every detail on the form one after the other is like working on the noise.

Soon when your customers get trained to fill up the form, and fill them up accurately, you would have to do less and less of this noisy work.

Simple answer: Focus on signal vs noise.

The fifth barrier one would hit is the core:

  • What usually happens is that the most interesting problems to solve are actually the ones that need scientific thinking and are the hardest problems to solve. But those people who have enormous patience to solve them, acumen enough and time enough in their hands are the ones who learn the physics, and solve them.

Elon’s formula is – build things upwards based off the deepest and simplest physics concepts.

  • Often times, most people think from analogies and try to build solutions that are analogous to solutions to the existing problems. If one thinks from the very basics, probably better solutions are possible. There is absolutely no doubt about this, and if one thinks from the basics, tries and experiments with the deepest possibilities, and explores more and more, one would fail more, but each failure will bring a new learning, and leach new learning will bring a better solution.
  • The reality is that most people do not dive deep into the manuals, and are always struggling to solve the problems. The most hardcore people do not just dive deep into the manuals, they write them. They are the ones who define how problems are solved and how to best approach them. Therefore they are the ones who become like Elon Musk.

Simple answer is: Learn continually, ask deep questions and work hard on finding right solutions.

I believed in this recipe for success, and tried it for many months and I know it works. It is not easy, but it is not impossible. I have made others believe in this recipe for success. And they have made it possible for me to believe in the belief.
Stay inspired!