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You Can Be Like Elon Musk, Here's Where to Start

You Can Be Like Elon Musk, Here's Where to Start

by Sangeeta Bharadwaj Badal

Story Highlights

  • We all have the talent to build, but need to discover our best path to do it
  • Gallup's four keys can help you find your path as a builder
  • The world needs more builders to create economic energy

We are all born to build. People like Elon Musk have figured out how to do it.

He discovered the best path to creating his biggest idea. He knows what he's good at and how to apply it. He is a builder.

So -- wait, what is a builder? And what does it mean to build?

Builders are like entrepreneurs, but they are more than that.

A builder is any ambitious, self-motivated person who wants to change the world, even if just a small part of it.

Builders include entrepreneurs in university labs or incubators, innovators in the high-tech world of Silicon Valley, the kid running a lemonade stand, and Elon Musk and his mission to Mars.

Builders are the people who generate economic energy -- they create demand by creating customers.

And they can be found at any age and in any industry or role.

You may have the ambition to be like Elon Musk, or you may just want to find a way to implement your idea and make your community better. Either way, you still have to answer the toughest questions before you can move toward success:

  • Where do I start?
  • What is my best path to building something great?

Gallup wrote a step-by-step book to help you discover exactly that.

We studied more than 34,000 people and companies -- here's what we discovered about building.

Because builders are so important to our economy, communities and country, Gallup learned everything we could about them.

  • We studied more than 4,000 entrepreneurs who own businesses and more than 30,000 builders of all types who work for employers (non-entrepreneurs).
  • We conducted focus groups, asked questions and listened intently as highly successful builders explained what they do and how they do it.
  • We borrowed insights from economics, psychology, biology, anthropology, sociology and management and asked stakeholders, policymakers and support providers what it takes to build something that is sustainable and creates economic value.
  • We collected and analyzed data on some exceptional builders of the U.S. economy -- such as the Inc. 500, with an average three-year growth rate of over 3,300% -- as well as others that started small and had every intention of staying small.

Here's what we found.

The career path of a builder consists of three things: context, an individual's characteristics and opportunity. Discover our complete findings and your unique builder talents in our new book, Born to Build.

Some builders will create new ventures, while others will find opportunities in existing organizations. Each path has its own twists and turns, accelerators and impediments.

To help you navigate your path to building, Gallup discovered a proven approach. We call them the four keys to successful building.


Use these four keys to proactively build your future:

  • Creating Self-Awareness: This is the primary building block. Being cognizant of your capabilities, motivations and feelings will lead to psychological clarity and better outcomes.
  • Recognizing Opportunities: Hone the ability to recognize a process that needs to be improved or a gap in what is versus what should be.

  • Activating on Ideas: Turn ideas into hypotheses, launch tests, measure outcomes, learn from the tests and try again until you have a product, service or solution your customers want.

  • Building a Team: Build teams with the right talent distribution to create a sustainable and successful venture.

Investors, coaches, mentors, teachers and leaders can help budding builders navigate the unknown terrain of building something by using these four keys.

If they do, we are one step closer to new good jobs, economic energy and healthy communities.

The World Needs More Builders

The world needs more builders, and people have a need to build.

So why the disconnect? Why aren't there more builders? The first problem is that not enough people understand their natural talents and how to turn those talents into actions.

And companies and educational institutions are not doing enough to refine those natural building talents.

Imagine if we encouraged more people to build -- college students, employees of big companies and small, the kids who can't sit still in class, but have a spark in their eyes.

If more people developed their ideas, built things, created business models around those things and took them to market, new jobs would appear and companies would grow. And building not only spurs economic growth, it adds fulfilling engagement and meaning to people's lives.

It all starts with self-awareness; discovering your builder talents and putting them to work.

The next four articles in this series will examine each key in-depth. First up is the most important key, creating self-awareness.

You can start building today. Discover your unique builder talents and get a step-by-step guide to successful building by ordering Gallup's new book, Born to Build.

Jennifer Robison contributed to this article.

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