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Inside Elon Musk's Head: Hyperloop Inspiration

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Some call Elon Musk's plans for The Hyperloop "insane," others call it "genius," but the question remains: What's going on inside Musk's head and where does he get his wild ideas?

It's a question I put to Musk during an in-depth interview earlier this year, when we talked Hyperloop, flying cars and Mars. Here's the video. Our discussion on innovation starts at 1.02.00.

Here are highlights of our conversation:

Alison van Diggelen: So I'd like to get inside your head a little bit. When you come up with an idea, do you doodle it on a pad of paper, or do you get your iPad out and take notes? I mean, when you come up with something new, a new rocket design or whatever it is, how does that manifest itself? Could we see you being creative?

Elon Musk: It's somewhat clichéd but it happens a lot in the shower. I don't know what it is about showers. (audience whistles). I know, exactly. Get the camera. (laughter) Like, yeah. I just kind of stand there in the shower and ...

Alison van Diggelen: So you have long showers... create lots of ideas...

Elon Musk: I do actually (laughter). Long showers. It sounds wrong... Not to mention the Burning Man epiphanies. Those are huge. And then there are some times late at night when I've been thinking about something and I can't sleep then I'll be up for several hours pacing around the house, thinking about things. Occasionally I might sketch something or send myself an email...

Alison van Diggelen: Who inspires you or do you have a mentor?

Elon Musk: I don't have a mentor, though I do try to get feedback from as many people as possible. I have friends and I ask them what I think of this that and the other thing. Larry Page is a good friend of mine...I value his advice a lot, and I have many other good friends, so I think it's good to solicit feedback, particularly negative feedback actually. Obviously people don't love the idea of giving you negative feedback, unless it's on blogs...they do that.

We also discussed the following:

On the importance of building a prototype:
Elon Musk: "have a demonstration or...be able to sketch something so people can really envision what's it's about. Try to get to that point as soon as possible. And then iterate to make it as real as possible, as fast as possible."

On Building a Sucessful Business @1.05.00
Elon Musk: "In the beginning there will be few people who believe in you."

On The Importance of Sleep @1.07.00 Although Musk "pulled an all nighter" to produce yesterday's White Paper, he's a firm believer in sleep.

On Steve Jobs@1.00.30
Elon Musk: "I think Steve Jobs was way cooler than I am."

Finally, here is an Elon Musk time management tip:
Elon Musk: "Having a smart phone is incredibly helpful because that means you can do email during interstitial periods, like if you're in a car (he has a driver), you're walking, in the bathroom, everywhere."

On Government Regulation and Climate Change
Elon Musk: "When you have an un-priced externality, then the normal market mechanisms don't work and then it's the government's role to intervene in a way that's sensible. The best way to intervene is to assign a proper price to the common good that is being consumed. (i.e. A Carbon Tax)"

Read more on Elon Musk and his revolutionary journey from South Africa to Silicon Valley at Fresh Dialogues.