How Elon Musk’s Storytelling Can Help You Grow Your Good Idea

Elon Musk, the marmite man.

Do you love him, or hate him?

Whatever your view, it’s undeniable he has an unparalleled track record in bringing big ideas to life – using masterful storytelling to get people on board.

It takes skill and effort to take a complex subject matter and make it simple.

Answering this question is one route to demonstrating how you convey your idea in it’s simplest terms…

What problem are you committed to solving and why?

If I can only chose between love or hate. Then, I love him, but with the caveat that he’s human, so isn’t perfect.

I read the following Twitter thread recently, which digs into stories that might be driving him. Especially around his recent comments that he hates Chomsky. It’s well worth a read.

Great find Neil – an interesting example that interrogates the winners and losers that fall out of a story system that is mainly controlled by the 1%.

A stark (excuse the pun!) reminder about how important it is to examine the stories we tell ourselves about the work we do, within the context of wider narratives within society. Whether you identify with them or not.

I found a great example of Musk’s own elevator pitch - and as always, he certainly places himself as the hero in his story.

“I’m Elon Musk, I’m an internet billionaire, I founded PayPal and X.com. I sold X.com to Compaq for 165 million dollars in cash and I could spend the rest of my life on a beach drinking Mai Tais, but I decided that humanity needs to become a multi-planetary species to survive and I want to do something with my money to show that humanity can do that and I need Russian rockets and that’s why I’m calling you.”

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Love it (and because this post needs to be a minimum of 20 characters, here’s some emojis :+1: :+1: :+1:

In Will Storr’s The Science of Storytelling he suggests that flaws might be part of a hero’s appeal:

“At the start of a story, we’ll often meet a protagonist who is flawed in some closely defined way. The mistakes they’re making about the world will help us empathise with them. As the story gives us hints and clues about the causes of their errors, we’ll warm to their vulnerability and become emotionally engaged in their struggles. When the dramatic event of the plot coax them to change we’ll root for them.”

Might explain why people who like Musk, love Musk?

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The narrative around billionaires being the real villains (rather than just symptoms) of the broken economic system is growing and one to keep an eye on.

This focus on billionaires is an interesting move on from the 1% as the villain. It personalises and makes the 1% real (even though 0.0001%). They also make it easier for people to explain/showcase the selfish behaviours that are bad for the rest of us.

It’s coming from the spread of the idea that the broken systems e.g. healthcare, transport, food, energy, etc. aren’t isolated but interconnected. And the thing that connects them is the current underpinning economic system, values and behaviours.

Some of this debate is really interesting in the US - land of the American Dream - where a growing number, even on the right, have been saying, yes earn millions but billions is too much.

Could it mean the top-ten rich lists start looking more like ‘most wanted’ ones instead?!

Maybe history will choose to forget Musk’s role in transforming critical sectors for good (e.g. batteries and EVs) at a key point in human civilisation? A hero to engineers and a villain for anyone currently under the age of 20? What does that do to his future customer base? (Assuming we’re all pay-as-you-go rather than Tesla owners)

Perhaps this threat to his legacy story will see him transform the philanthropy of billionaires - he has already sold everything he once owned. Or will the power of being a billionaire, just be too tempting?!

My American cousin works for him as a sort of body guard … he idolizes him and is treated very well.

I think Elon is the certainly the Howard Hughes of our age. He certainly has a story to tell and whether it is a good story or not as good a story he’ll still get listeners…millions of listeners. And even before they read the story they will think the story is good. Who’s bigger ‘ELON MUSK’ or Tesla? Who’s story do you want to hear?
With this story we know there’s another chapter happening as you read it … many other chapters…