Elon Musk is not freaking out today.
Let me be clear right up front, I don’t know Mr. Musk personally and there’s a whole lot I disagree with him on (in particular, how he dealt with his employees during the height of the coronavirus). But I feel in my bones that this larger than life person who figuratively and literally manages to produce and deliver through wind, snow, sleet, hail, fire, and outer space is not reacting to the chaos around us with unfettered emotion. Whether or not you agree with him, there’s something to be learned about courageous leadership here.
He didn’t freak out yesterday. And he, in all likelihood, won’t freak out tomorrow either. How does he do it? How does he remain so, so … rational, in the midst of all this chaos? Well again, I’ve never met him, but I can venture a guess. Elon’s secret to not freaking out probably has something to do with his being di-lithium crystal-clear (which is even more clear than just plain crystal-clear) on what he can control… and what he can’t.
Leveraging your inner genius and turning that brain power into productivity is all about being able to stop listening to the chaos and noise, take a deep cleansing breath, and make a conscious decision about where and how you will spend your time. It’s about focusing on what you can control, deciding which of those things is the most valuable to you, and then only doing those things.
In this magnificent way, you and Elon Musk are equally capable. Feeling better? Good. Here is a three-step process to stop reacting and start producing like Elon right now. I don’t know if he actually uses this method but I encourage you to try it and see if you feel more Elon-y as you go through your work day.
Give your “to do” list the $100 test
Wherever your to-do list lives, take a good long look at it. Are there more than three things on that list? Yep, I thought so. Okay, now, imagine you have $100 to invest. Which three, specific actions will provide you with the greatest ROI by the end of your work day? You can divide the money equally or in percentages. You’re looking for just three clear, achievable tasks here.
Three. Clear. Achievable. Got it? So suck it up, my friend, and get specific. E.g., “get to Mars” is not achievable by the end of the work day, but “live-stream Mars-bound spaceship footage” actually is. See how that’s more specific? Elon’s $100 investment might look something like: 50% live stream Mars ship, 25% snuggle with X Æ A-12, 25% send Starlink beta invitations. Those are things Elon can control. Today.
Note that our imaginary Elon did not include in this fictional list: calling the new president, contesting the election, or cancelling work because he’s feeling overwhelmed. He narrowed his focus to what he could control. He got specific about it. Maybe he even went to Office Depot and got some Post-It Notes so he could stick them to his computer screens (I’m guessing he has an array of three). You could do that too. Not the array necessarily, but the Post-It reminders. So every time you look up, you refocus on your $100 investment.
Get a grip on your calendar
Now that you have your three most critical time investments for today sorted out, pull up your calendar app. What’s on there that’s not on your $100 list? Now, apply the “No, Not Me, Now Now” filter. What can you flat out say no to? Great leaders no all the time. They say no more than they say yes. This is something successful, productive people do. They are able to graciously say no.
If it’s not a hard no, then maybe it’s a “not me.” What items on your calendar can be delegated to someone else? Delegation is about trust. So pick someone you can trust to do or at least try to do this task and hand it off.
Oh, I hear you. There are just some things that Elon, I, and you, must do personally. No one else is capable of doing them. This is where you pencil a note to train someone else on a future date to do things like this. Then reschedule the activity or event for a day and time when it’s worthy of the $100 list.
Show your inbox who’s boss
Do you think Elon Musk sits down at his computer array every morning to see what other people want him to do with his day? No, he does not. (Again, never met him.) My point is, people who know how to lead courageously, do not live in fear of what others will think and neither should you. If you stop reacting to your inbox, others will learn that they are not in control of you. You are in control of you.
“The price of trying to make everyone else happy is making yourself miserable.” — Naval Ravikant
The best way to keep a laser focus on things you can control and send the message to others that you are in control of you is to set a specific time frame for reading emails. And be ruthless in your adherence to that time allotment. Stop exactly when you said you were going to stop.
What about all those messages you didn’t get to? As a courageous leader named Elsa always says, let it go. You, I, and Elsa cannot control what the nation, our industry, our company, or even our leaders and colleagues are doing. But we can control how we react to them and how we lead our teams through the chaotic human experience we call life.
Who writes about Elon and Elsa in the same article? I guess that would be me. Let me know if this resonated with you and how you did with the steps. Because I care. Elon cares too but he’s busy. I assume. Again, never met.