The following individuals have lived lives that exemplify many of Upgradable’s principles, especially intentional living, lifelong framing, life congruence, boldness, and first principles thinking. They certainly aren’t perfect–no one is–but we can still learn from them. Try to look beyond the story for the strategic substance. Just be mindful of luck, survivorship bias, and hagiography


“I think it is possible for ordinary people to choose to be extraordinary.”

Why: To make humanity multiplanetary, accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy, create the new world currency, ensure artificial general intelligence benefits all of humanity, connect the brain to computers, and enable fast, safe, and comfortable transportation.

What: Founder, CEO, CTO, and chief designer of SpaceX; CEO and product architect of Tesla, Inc.; co-founder of PayPal; co-founder of OpenAI; co-founder of Neuralink; and founder of The Boring Company. His successes has earned him centibillionaire status.

How: Musk developed an interest in computers at the age of 10 and taught himself how to program. He consumed a lot of science fiction and fantasy as a kid, which fueled his imagination as an adult. He developed deep conviction in himself and his work and was able to think big and defy his critics. He often analyzed problems in terms of expected value and from first principles. He also maintained an intense work ethic, reportedly working 80-120 hours a week for long stretches of time. He repeatedly kept “skin in the game” and took a substantial number of personal risks. His early successes in building Zip2 and (now PayPal) provided him the capital to invest in his current companies.

Image credits: Britannica



“It always seems impossible until it’s done.”

Why: To build a world of freedom and equality for all.

What: A political leader and philanthropist who served as the President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999. He emerged from 27 years in prison to help dismantle South Africa’s legacy of apartheid. He was the country’s first black head of state and the first elected in a fully representative democratic election. Widely regarded as an icon of democracy and social justice, he received more than 250 honors, including the Nobel Peace Prize.

How: As a young man in a racially divided country, Mandela developed strong values and began fighting the injustices he saw around him. This eventually landed him in prison. From his prison cell, he developed a long-term game plan of what he might do. When he was released he entered politics and carefully influenced a series of key decisions, holding firm to a morally just vision of the world. He weaved together values-based thinking, strong leadership, and strategic decision-making to transform a political party, a nation, and the world. He advocated for a unifying message of racial harmony, forgiveness without forgetting, power sharing, and a strong focus on the future, not the past.

Image credits: Britannica



“If you double the number of experiments you do per year you’re going to double your inventiveness.”

Why: To build an “everything store” and to open space for all.

What: Founder, CEO, and president of Amazon, founder of Blue Origin, and owner of The Washington Post. He was the first centibillionaire in recent history and is regularly the richest person in the world.

How: Bezos applied what he called a regret minimization framework to decide on the riskier path of creating an Internet startup as opposed to staying at his high-paying hedge fund job. Risk-taking was par for the course for Bezos. In his work, he always had a long-term “win big” focus and a hard-charger attitude. His inventive mindset and willingness to experiment and often fail was baked into the culture of Amazon. In his leadership, he has incorporated both firmness of conviction and flexibility, leading to high-quality, high-velocity decision-making. He developed a fondness for looking for evidence to disconfirm his beliefs and became comfortable with changing his mind often. Throughout his life, he remained deeply passionate about his ventures, believing in their long-term impact on the planet. 

Image credits: TIME


Bill Gates

“To win big, you sometimes have to take big risks.”

Why: To put “a computer on every desk and in every home”.

What: Co-founder of Microsoft Corporation, where he held the positions of chairman, CEO, president and chief software architect. He was a pioneer of the microcomputer revolution in the 1970s and 1980s. Later in his career, Gates donated billions of dollars through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

How: Gates started programming at age 13, earning him an early competitive advantage over others in the industry. His parents modeled for him a value system of independent thinking, hard work, ethics, and determination. To their dismay, he dropped out of Harvard to build Microsoft with Paul Allen to pursue his vision of the future of personal computing. Through decades of aggressive growth, shrewd partnership deals, and nonstop innovation, he developed Microsoft into what would become the most valuable publicly traded company in the world. He would be equally systematic with his philanthropy, using a focus on sound strategy and cost-effective interventions to maximize his impact.

Image credits: Britannica



“I like to play the game hard. To me the most important game of all is the game of life, to try to elevate the standard of living of whom you’re trying to help.”

Why: To fight hunger with science. He wanted to provide “a temporary success in man’s war against hunger and deprivation”.

What: An agricultural scientist, plant pathologist, and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970. Known as the “Father of the Green Revolution”, Borlaug helped lay the groundwork for agricultural technological advances that alleviated world hunger.

How: Born on a farm, Borlaug eventually became an eclectic yet pragmatic scientist wholly dedicated to fighting hunger. He led a scientific collaboration with researchers from Mexico and later other countries to develop high-yield, disease-resistant wheat varieties. After 20 years of constant innovation, his efforts had yielded extraordinary returns. Approximately one billion people were saved from starvation from his and his collaborators’ discoveries. Throughout his career, he was driven by his passion for helping others. This led to a deep focus on doing what he considered his most important work (as opposed to “academic butterflies” or interesting pursuits that weren’t as important as feeding the world).

Image credits: Britannica



“It is important to make a dream of life and a dream reality.”

Why: To pursue “pure science…done for itself.”

What: A physicist and chemist who conducted pioneering research on radioactivity. She discovered both radium and polonium and contributed to finding treatments for cancer. She was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, the first person and the only woman to win the Nobel Prize twice, and the only person to win the Nobel Prize in two scientific fields.

How: Even as a young girl, Curie was interested in science and proved herself early as an exceptional student. Poverty didn’t stop her from receiving an advanced education, which she pursued with zeal even in difficult circumstances. She married a fellow scientist and worked side-by-side together for 20 years. Marriage enhanced her life and career, and motherhood didn’t limit her focus on her research. She wholeheartedly devoted her life to the research and continued her experiments even as her repeated radiation exposure eventually killed her. At a time when men dominated science and biases against women were rampant, her drive, competence, and dignified insistence on respect helped to change gender barriers forever.

Image credits: Wikipedia


Isaac Newton

“If I have seen further it is by standing on ye sholders of Giants.”

Why: To understand the world.

What: A mathematician, physicist, astronomer, theologian, author, and a key figure in the scientific revolution. He formulated the laws of motion and universal gravitation, built the first practical reflecting telescope, made seminal contributions to optics, and shares credit with Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz for developing the infinitesimal calculus.

How: Newton suffered from multiple traumas as a child, leading to an acute sense of insecurity which may have contributed to his lifetime of anxious obsessiveness. He was largely self-educated, with a special love of mathematics, physics, astronomy, alchemy, mysticism, and theology. He developed a systematic approach to organize his ideas, theories, and experiments. For two years during the black plague, he locked himself up at home to intensely study and write. He continued to work hard for 60 years, publishing multiple pioneering works. His process combined gritty dedication and single-minded focus, and he often spent long periods in solitude.

Image credits: Wikipedia



“Inspiration leads to invention. Tenacity is the breeding ground for inspiration. There can be no invention in the absence of tenacity.”

Why: To create foods to serve society.

What: Inventor of instant noodles; Founder of Nissin Food Products Co., Ltd. and the creator of the brands Top Ramen and Cup Noodles.

How: In Ando’s early career, he pursued a number of random jobs while tinkering with different food recipes. It wasn’t until he was 48 that, while in a shed he built in his backyard, he began to develop “ramen that can be quickly prepared and eaten at home with only hot water”. He reportedly conducted non-stop experiments alone for an entire year, sleeping very little and taking few breaks. After these months of trial and error to perfect his flash-frying method, he developed and marketed the first package of precooked instant noodles. This innovation became extremely popular around the world, generating substantial profits he reinvested into more research and development. Later on, he led Nissin to develop and globalize a new innovative product: noodles in a cup that could be eaten with a fork.

Image credits: Nissin



“Only those who attempt the absurd can achieve the impossible.”

Why: To unify the forces of nature in a single elegant theory.

What: A theoretical physicist who developed the theory of relativity and the mass–energy equivalence formula E = mc2, which has been dubbed “the world’s most famous equation”. He received the 1921 Nobel Prize in Physics “for his services to theoretical physics, and especially for his discovery of the law of the photoelectric effect”. He published more than 300 scientific papers and more than 150 non-scientific works.

How: From an early age, Einstein was fascinated by mathematics, science, and music. He developed a deep understanding of the problems of physics and became determined to solve them. He was fond of thought experiments, which he used to generate novel insights. Although he accomplished much, he was never satisfied–he regarded his major achievements as mere stepping-stones for the next advance. Despite repeated setbacks and rejections from fellow academics, he continued to fight hard for what he believed in. Throughout his decades long career, he focused intently on his work, but regularly took breaks to play the violin, go on long walks, or sail.

Image credits: Wikipedia


Elon Musk talks/elon_musk_the_mind_behind_tesla_spacex_solarcity;-success-quotes-from-spacex-founder-elon-musk.html

Nelson Mandela article/lasting-legacy-nelson-mandelas-evolution-as-a-strategic-leader/

Jeff Bezos 2018/05/17/jeff-bezos-on-what-it-takes-to-be-innovative.html jeff-bezos-personality-traits amazons-history-diversification-acknowledged-startups/

Bill Gates profile/bill-gates

Norman Borlaug

Marie Curie

Isaac Newton

Momofuku Ando

Albert Einstein