Elon Musk: Why You Shouldn’t Waste Your Life Looking Up to Your Heroes

‘Wait, holy sh*t, no way. Show me!’ I received this excited yet doubtful reply after I gave my friend my news.

‘Yeah, that just happened.’ I replied with a screenshot of proof.

‘haha jeez that’s so awesome man, congrats!’ The reply came almost instantly.

Robert Greene writes formidable books. His work inspires and motivates many people but unconventionally through telling hard hitting truths and exposing the darkest corners of human nature. But before the reader dips into a damaged mindset, Robert arms them with tools necessary to expose or counter seducers, powerful people, and the most deceptive of strategists.

I’ve accredited a lot of my own personal success to his work and have thanked him for saying exactly what was necessary and allowing me to see the world for what it is, not what I wanted it to be. However its through this that he has empowered me to not simply accept this, but rather tackle this and fight to move toward progress and help shape a world of more self-reliant people.

If it isn’t clear, Robert Greene is someone I look up to. In fact, his book, The 48 Laws of Power was the very first non-fiction book that a 18-year-old Justin picked up to proceed for his entire worldview complete collapse… only for it to be rebuilt with a stronger, more powerful foundation. I admire his ability to collect stories throughout history and comprise them into tactical action-points to look out for in our everyday lives. His work as a thinking and a writer builds on great personal inspiration.

However, despite my worldview changing from reading this book, not much immediately changed in my world. I was still on a similar career path. I hadn’t made any massive advancements. I hadn’t actually accomplished anything that I could directly attribute to reading Robert’s work. Really, reading his work had changed the way I thought, but hadn’t affected the way I acted.

I notice from a lot of people whom approach me or thank me for my writing or anything else that I share to the world, that not much has seemed to have really changed the way they act. I remember a time when I was once told that I was an excellent source of motivation for someone, but they couldn’t actually think of what they could possibly do with that motivation. Arguably, I think motivation is actually useless if it isn’t applied to some form of work. Feeling good about the idea of action is not sustainable if it isn’t paired without actually have implemented the idea or moving beyond that initially motivated action to further actions.

In reflection, reading Robert Greene’s book, despite being incredibly impactful in the way I see the world, didn’t do anything to change it. And whilst sometimes a particular action requires a change of thought process first, lack of action is not truly taking that thought process to its conclusion. Now I should make it clear that this is not at all an attack on Robert’s work. In fact, few writers today have changed the way I think as drastically as he has done in the past. But his work doesn’t bear the responsibility of changing my world. His work is simply the catalyst. Much like any non-fiction work you come across, none of it actually impacts the way you live, until you implement your initial learnings and allow them to produce results and further learnings for you to make a final decision on.

‘Tell me and I’ll forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I’ll understand.’ — Chinese proverb

So what exciting news did I tell my friend that required? The screenshot that I sent as proof should hopefully highlight my reason for excitement.

An article I had written was featured on the homepage of The Mission, the most popular active publication on the Medium platform, sat alongside an article by The Robert Greene.

My mind was blown. I was sharing a page with a hero of mine. Now, this was exciting for a few different reasons.

Of course, the readership was great.

Simply being featured in a high-profile position can often bring a larger audience for your work. With Medium providing such a great platform for writing more challenging work and connecting with a network of like-minded writers, accessing a larger readership is easier than ever before in the writing space.

I was now ‘associated’ with Robert Greene.

The West Coast rapper Nipsey Hussle talks often about how association in an extremely powerful tool for marketing. He spoke about how being associated with certain brands or individuals can automatically drive up the level of integrity, value or appreciation by a fan or in the perception of a consumer. For most people who intentionally try and do this for their own work through network, achieve this effect of association through collaborations or by mentioning them constantly.

However, this can be difficult if the person someone is trying to be associated with is hard to reach or simply does not want to work with others. This is why creators often have to allow luck to take part in their process and be patient for moments of grace to fall into their laps. This would be one of those moments. I could not have predicted that Robert Greene would publish an article on the same day as me, let alone through the same publication as me. Of course, action was required on my behalf, simply by the fact that I had to have something to publish. But the result of association was not something I could have strategised to have achieved.

“Luck is where opportunity meets preparation.” - Seneca

So what had I learned from this experience? I learnt that you cannot afford to waste your whole life looking up to your heroes.

Having people to look up to provides a foundation for insightful thinking. Although I advocate for a deep self-reliance, when struggling to think of what you want from your own life and in times when introspection becomes tough, look to those whom you admire can lend a guide to what it is that you see important and what you want from your own life. The people you look up to can be an indicator of your own priorities, and your priorities can be an indicator of how best you can move through life.

But I must re-iterate my select choice of words in my new found learning. Don’t waste your life looking up to your heroes. To spend an eternity looking up to the sky and wondering what life is beyond the Earth provides nothing more tangible than building a spaceship and exploring galaxies would grant, but exploration creates a larger base of opportunity to you answering your haunting life-question. Looking up to your ‘heroes’ your whole life sits in the same vain.

Elon Musk famously showed a powerful build-up of emotion when being interviewed on this segment of 60 Minutes. He reacted this way when he was asked to describe his feeling toward the backlash from ‘American heroes’ Eugene Cernan and Neil Armstrong for Musk’s company’s partnership with Nasa. These former astronauts publicly testified against the commercialisation for space travel back in 2011. Clearly, Elon Musk admired both Cernan and Armstrong.

Those guys are both heroes of mine. So it was really tough. - @elonmusk

Musk proceeded to confirm that he was inspired by astronauts like and including Cernan and Armstrong and his expression during the interview demonstrated a glimpse into the child-like excitement that had temporarily been devastating crushed.

But we all know how this story continued. Musk pressed on with SpaceX and its funding from NASA and has gone on to have a successful maiden voyage of the companies most recent venture: The Falcon Heavy Rocket. By 2020, Musk plans to use the experience in developing the Falcon Heavy to make an even larger rocket, named the Big Falcon Rocket (BFR), for the exploration of the planet Mars.

Elon is a revolutionary, and it could even be said that he is ironically also a hero of mine. But looking up to him for an eternity would provide inspiring entertainment and an encouraging outlook toward humanity’s future. But it’s the action that I personally commit that could allow me to one day interview him, or sit alongside him and discuss flamethrowers.

Being featured next to Robert Greene on a publication homepage still, has me shaking with excitement as I write this. But here’s a note to myself and anyone else who wants to create an incredible impact on the world:

Rather than spending your entire life looking up to your heroes, spend time working on yourself. So that one day, you can look to the side to see yourself right next to them.

Where I got this insight from:

I’ve spent 100+ hours dissecting the biographies of legendary artists to find ideas that I can use in my work.

If you want these ideas from the world’s best artists:

👉🏻 Check out the ICONS podcast here

“Podcast is incredible, highest of quality. I’m a big 50 Cent fan and I learned so much.” — YouTuber, Not Economically Viable


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