For Elon Musk, 2018 must have been a wake-up call equivalent to an ice-cold shower.

As the owner of the aerospace company SpaceX as well as electric car manufacturer Tesla, the 47-year-old eccentric billionaire entrepreneur undoubtedly had quite the tumultuous year.

Whether it was getting high with Joe Rogan on a live podcast, or tweeting out unfounded accusations of pedophilia, Musk’s personal behavior has garnered quite a bit of attention, most of it unflattering.

And while it’s evident that Musk retains a zest for life, some have questioned whether his antics spell trouble for the businesses he’s built, as well as the government agencies that rely on his services.

Musk himself has admitted he is impulsive and is not a model CEO. For his part, he appears to recognize that his youthful exuberance often looks like childishness to investors.

The first step to change is to acknowledge the problem, so Musk’s admission of impulsivity is certainly welcome. What’s more, he may finally be taking the lessons of 2018 to heart. This year of 2019 may be the time that Musk buckles down and matures. Based on recent events, in fact, this is precisely what he appears to be doing.

For a long time, Musk’s Tesla struggled with a habit of overpromising and underdelivering; however, there is no reason to believe those days are coming to an end. Ever since Musk admitted that Tesla faced a serious threat of bankruptcy in November, the company has seemed to start gradually coming off its fantasy island and back down to earth.

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Tesla finally may be “waking up” from its Model 3 dream, with the company last week announcing a 7-percent workforce cut, as Business Insider recently reported.

While this move caused short-term pain with investors, as was likely expected, it may be the first step of many on the road to recovery and business success. Perhaps the company finally realizes that rather than continuing to propel assurances it can make affordable Model 3s for the masses — something the company has not achieved in 34 months — it should focus on doing what it can do well, which is making slick, luxury electric vehicles.

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Downsizing today will help the company find its niche and grow tomorrow.

Likewise, it seems more than a coincidence that Musk’s SpaceX has also seemingly taken a paradigm shift in the new year. At the end of 2018, the company changed the name of its flagship rocket from BFR (an acronym that many believe stood for Big F***ing Rocket) to “Starship.”

While this change may be small in the grand scheme of a multi-billion-dollar industry, it does demonstrate that Musk is taking a more serious approach to the perils of space flight.

The Air Force recently passed over SpaceX and expressed a desire to more thoroughly review the company’s performance — so Musk may be realizing that now is the time to use more resources to resolve security concerns than on building his company’s brand.

After all, it has been four years since his successful lawsuit with the Air Force, and his company is finally receiving the name recognition that it deserves. Now that SpaceX has become a well-known entity in government circles, and an uneven playing is no longer an issue, Musk has the luxury of dropping the marketing stunts so he can focus on ironing out security concerns and doing better work.

The process of personal development involves making difficult decisions. For Elon Musk, his willingness to adjust in the face of growing adversity shows that 2019 may be the year of his maturation.

Like Tesla, SpaceX also made the difficult yet necessary recent decision to downsize, laying off a small portion of its more than 6,000 employees. The choice was made to “continue delivering for our customers and to succeed in developing interplanetary spacecraft,” and to “become a leaner company,” according to a company spokesperson.

While some might interpret this downsizing as an indicator of SpaceX’s vulnerability as a company, it seems more apt to describe the change as a shift in mentality and the start of something good.

Reality doesn’t always conform to one’s expectations, and Musk knows that more than most. The choice to downsize and make changes across all of his companies is a humble recognition that, in order to move forward with space exploration, certain sacrifices must be made.

The process of personal development involves making difficult decisions. For Elon Musk, his willingness to adjust in the face of growing adversity shows that 2019 may be the year of his maturation.

James Lowe is a two-decade radio industry veteran and now host of his own nationally syndicated radio show based in Kansas; it’s carried on the IHeartradio App. Learn more at

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