Juggling an iPhone, my iPad and the most recent issue of Mamalode, I stood among a gaggle of reporters for a press conference with world-renowned innovator and business magnate Elon Musk. Musk was in Montana—with his five sons in tow—as one of several featured keynote speakers for Montana’s 6th Economic Development Summit. [As a side, the line up for this conference also included Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook, who said “I love Mamalode,” when introduced to Elke, Safra Catz of Oracle, Meg Whitman of Hewlett Packard, Eric Schmidt of Google, and scores more of the world’s biggest executives.] For those of you who may not be familiar with Musk, his humble demeanor, casual speak and boyish spirit defy the magnitude of his continued impact on the world. He is probably best known for founding PayPal, Space X and Tesla Motors, and most recently, for unveiling Hyperloop, a proposal for subsonic air travel between Los Angeles and San Francisco.
And did you catch that he is a father of five boys? A self-made billionaire whose career began with the purchase of his first computer at age 10 and the sale of his first software—a space game called Blastar—for a profit at 12.
As I stood among this group of reporters and listened to their questions and Musk’s responses on topics of fuel efficiency, speed and space exploration, there was much I wanted to know. But, when I wasn’t distracted by his smooth South African accent, I kept returning to the notion that he began this remarkable career as a child. So what I really wanted to know, and what I asked Musk, was how we, as today’s mothers and fathers, can raise the next generation of citizens who want to have a meaningful impact on the world.
Musk talked about encouraging kids to be builders and creators. He reminded us that a company is just a group of people that work together to create/build a product or service. He referenced the fact that it’s very unlikely American children will ever have to worry too much about starving or finding shelter since there are social safety nets to protect them. And he summed it up with a call to parents everywhere to “encourage your kids to build stuff and take chances before they have too many obligations.”
Needless to say, when the press event was over, I made a point of thanking Elon Musk and providing a little reading material for the airplane. It’s true, he left with the latest issue of Mamalode tucked neatly under his arm.
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