Entrepreneurship, innovation and your will.


By Mark Schaefer

I’m at SXSW, the annual Spring Break for geeks and in past years I have written about my observations from this intense and crazy world where technology, innovation, and hope collide. But this year I decided that I just wanted to kick back and take it all in rather than concentrate on developing content.

But I did hear a talk yesterday that pretty much blew me away.

The keynote speaker was Elon Musk, a founder of PayPal, the CEO of Tesla Motors, and the CEO and CTO of SpaceX. Oh yes, he also runs a company that installs solar systems and he has five kids.

Elon Musk is certainly on a different level of human civilization. He thinks, acts, and processes as if he is taking his direction from a newly-evolved strand of DNA.

But he told a story about why he started SpaceX that got me thinking.

Elon said that he has always believed that the human race should keep exploring space and thought that we would colonize Mars in his lifetime. But when he searched the NASA website, he couldn’t find any plans to do so. He kept searching, kept questioning, and was disheartened that he would not see a person land on Mars in his lifetime.

He originally started SpaceX to inspire people in hopes that NASA funding would be approved for a Mars mission but realized that it wasn’t going to happen. Somebody had to make it happen.

Here was the quote that captured my attention and imagination:

“We can figure out the technology for an interplanetary mission. But we needed the will to do it. Somebody needed to have the will to make it happen.”

And so that became his mission, to provide the will for the human race to move throughout the solar system.

So with no experience in the field, he has now created and assembled a private company that just sent a payload to the International Space Station. He also showed a video during his talk that demonstrated a successful test of a re-usable multi-stage rocket that could dramatically change the economics of space flight.

I had not considered this idea of “will” in a long time. It’s fashionable on the social web to talk about following your interest, your passion, or creating your art, but having the will to drive significant change … isn’t that the realm of something deeper?

He mentioned in his talk that he invested everything he had in his vision. Every penny he made from Paypal, his personal fortune, as well as everything he could leverage from every friend and business connection he had. “I’m all in,” he said.

This was both inspiring and disconcerting. If I had to be “all in” on a venture that could change the world, what would it be? Would I ever take that chance? What is the role of “will” in my life? Is “will” an under-tapped resource for all of us or something that only be activated by a super human entrepreneur like Elon Musk?

Any way, I figured if this story captivated me it might be interesting to you too.

You might have a dream, you might have the passion, but do you have the will?


Keynote speaker Mark SchaeferMark Schaefer is the chief blogger for this site, executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions, and the author of several best-selling digital marketing books. He is an acclaimed keynote speaker, college educator, and business consultant.  The Marketing Companion podcast is among the top business podcasts in the world.  Contact Mark to have him speak to your company event or conference soon.

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