I know there are a lot of people who want to be like Elon Musk. He is currently the richest person on the planet. He founded two extremely well-known companies worth billions: Tesla and SapceX. He is sometimes compared to the fictional comic book character Iron Man. He has huge vision and bold ideas and the ability to execute them. He has a very high IQ. Sounds pretty good when we put it like that, right?
Elon has a prodigious output. He gets BIG things done. He has incredible ideas and vision and he is able to execute, bringing those ideas to reality and eventually to market. I’m sure a lot of people have had ideas about building electric cars for a long time. Yet, Elon did it. And not just as an inventor but as an entrepreneur. He not only built the most successful electric car to date, but he built it as the most recognized brand in that space. And yes, there are big competitors coming after him. And with the amount of money at stake, they will likely invent something superior, but he will always be the one who was first to market. He made his mark and history has been made. And it looks like he will continue to make history with several other projects, most notable SpaceX.
However, the pace and amount of time he spends working at the expense of his health and family life are not things I find compelling. There are many who believe he has been on the verge of a mental breakdown on many occasions.
Tim Denning, a popular writer for Medium.com calls Elon a “slave” and and his work ethic “psychopathic.” He summarizes a New York Times interview, where Elon welled up with emotions as he shared details about his 120-hour work week, along with the fact that he worked 24 hours straight on a recent birthday, hasn’t had a week off since 2001, and rarely goes outside, staying in his factory 3-4 days at a time. That does not sound healthy or sustainable, at least not for me or anyone I know.
For those of us who want to leave a lasting legacy that is more than just financial, rest is possibly the most underused, underappreciated tool in our toolbelt.
Since exiting the auto body industry I’ve been working on what some call a passion project. My son and I are building a retreat center on 50 acres our family has owned for almost 20 years in Daniel Boone National Forest. Working with him over the past year has been such a gift. We are doing something we both love in a place that has deep roots in our family tree. Recently I was there hiking and surveying our progress with a friend of mine who is nearing retirement. He asked me a question that neither of us had considered, even though we both have been serious students of the life of faith our whole adult lives. He asked, why do you think people of faith see the start of the day happening in the evening? From the reading I had done I knew this to be true but it never dawned on me to ask this. Most western cultures see the start of the day as the morning. Our days begin at sunrise and off to work we go. Then it dawned on me. Maybe these other cultures know something we don’t. Maybe time is best marked by starting in rest and not necessarily with work. Maybe rest comes first not as a reward for working hard, but as a necessary starting point.
Jewish people have known this for centuries: they call it the Sabbath. Their scripture starts with God creating the world culminating in the creation of humans. And what happened the first full day after that culminating act of creation? God rested. And Humankind rested with God and each other.We are designed with a built-in need for rest and capacity for relationships. Those come first. And out of that place of rest and relationship comes creative work.
A wise man once asked, “What does it profit you if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?” And the obvious answer to that is nothing. If we sacrifice our health and our most important relationships on our way to the “top,” we will have nothing to show in the end. Do we really think our spouses, kids and friends will be grateful for the extra money we leave behind or impressed by all our accomplishments if along the way we sacrificed time with them or our own health? Rest and relationships first and foremost. Out of that will grow your most lasting and meaningful contributions.