Who Is Elon Musk And How Did He Become So Successful?

Who Is Elon Musk And How Did He Became So Successful?
Image Source: SpaceX Unsplash 

The early life of Elon Musk

Musk grew up in South Africa, with his younger brother and South African father, and Canadian mother. Musk got interested in computers and technology at an early age. When he first saw a computer at the age of 10, he was hooked. Seeing a computer and understanding what it could do encouraged him to learn to code. 
 
Soon after, at the age of 12, he created a video game called Blastar, a spaceship game. He sold the game to a game magazine for around 500 dollars. This sale gave him the motivation to do more. He and his younger brother Kimbal actually planned to open an arcade store near their school, but their parents refused to give legal consent for a permit. In the end, they sold chocolate to their classmates.
 
Musk started to develop great ambitions, but because he knew he would have higher chances of success in the west, he made plans to move to the United States. First, he applied for a Canadian passport through his Canadian-born mother. He knew that was the fastest way to America. And it also helped him avoid military service in his home country. Because he didn't want to serve a country that was pro-apartheid.
 
In 1989 Musk arrived in Canada and lived for one year with his second cousin in Saskatchewan. During that time he did some odd farming and lumber-mill jobs. Then, in 1990 he got accepted at the Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario. Two years later, he transferred to the University of Pennsylvania, where he graduated in 1995 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in economics and a Bachelor of Science degree in physics.

 

His first company

Musk started his first company, together with his brother Kimbal. It was Called Zip2 and was a web software company. Zip2 focused on creating an internet city guide for the newspaper publishing industry. It contained maps, directories, and yellow pages. Clients were the New York Times and the Chicago Tribune.
 
At that time musk didn't have enough cash to afford an apartment, he could only rent an office where he would sleep on the couch and shower at the YMCA. Musk would work on the website during the night, while the website was available at day time. Musk said they worked on the website 7 days a week, all the time. In 1999 Compaq bought Zip2 for 307 million, and Musk received 22 million for the 7% percent of shares he was holding.
 
I think it's interesting to see that Musk struggled for a time. I'm sure sleeping on a couch, and having to shower at the YMCA isn't the most convenient and pleasant. But the key point we can learn here is to work hard and be persistent. He didn't give up on his dream. And although he sold the company. He would quickly lay his eyes on bigger projects.

 

Paypal.

After he sold Zip2, Musk used his newly gained funds to co-found a new internet company, called X.com. In the early days of the internet, paying online was much more complicated than now. Elon tried to find a solution to this problem by creating a financial service that used an email to make transactions, revolutionary for the time.

In the year 2000 X.com merged with Confinity and was renamed to PayPal. Not much later in 2002 eBay bought PayPal for 1.5 billion dollars. At the time Musk owned 11.7% of the company, which is 175 million US dollars.

And after selling his PayPal shares, he moved on to a new project, a project that is one of his biggest and most ambitious ever.

Image source: Muhammad Asyfaul Unsplash

SpaceX

Musk, who has always been interested in space, starting with his own video game, now dreamed of something much bigger. So it doesn't surprise anyone that he became involved with the non-profit organization Mars Society. Mars Society aims to educate society and the government about the importance of exploring and colonizing Mars. 

Musk became so inspired by the idea of building dome-like colonies on Mars that in 2001 he decided to go to Russia to buy refurbished Intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) from the ISC Kosmotras. The idea was to use these rockets to send greenhouse payloads into space. He failed to convince the Russian chief designers and returned empty-handed. In 2002 he would travel to Russia again to look at 3 ICBMs. The ISC Kosmotras offered him one rocket for 8 million dollars but Elon refused and decided to build his own rockets.

In the early stages of SpaceX, Elon used his own funds to start building rockets. In 2012 he stated that he had invested more than 100 million dollars. In 2006 SpaceX would attempt its first rocket launch. Unfortunately, the launch failed, yet it impressed NASA enough to award the company a Commercial Orbital Transportation Services program contract. SpaceX would fail 2 more times, which put a lot of pressure on Elon. Luckily in 2008 the Falcon 1 successfully launched into orbit.

This success would grant SpaceX a new contract with NASA worth over 1.6 billion dollars. To this day SpaceX receives a lot of private investments. SpaceX is not a publicly-traded company. So directly investing in the company is impossible. But according to Bloomberg, SpaceX is worth more than 100 billion. SpaceX’s investors include Sequoia Capital, T. Rowe Price Group Inc., Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, Alphabet Inc. (Google), and Baillie Gifford, according to PitchBook.

SpaceX focuses on long-term reusable rockets that can transport payloads to space, for example to the ISS, and then return to earth, to be reused again. In the long term, this will reduce space waste and costs.
 

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Tesla

Tesla was founded in 2003 by the two entrepreneurs Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning. The name Tesla is a tribute to the inventor and engineer Nikola Tesla, who is best known for his contributions to the design of the modern alternating current (AC) electricity supply system.
 
In 2004 Elon Musk invested around 6.5 million in Tesla, becoming the largest shareholder, and serving as CEO ever since. They built the first commercially available electric car in 2009, the Roadster sports car. Many models would follow, with the model 3 being the all-time best-selling electric car worldwide in 2021. It sold over 1 million times. And in 2021 Tesla's market cap reached 1 trillion dollars.
 
Image: Vlad Tchompalov on Unsplash

A personal note

Personally, I think Elon's strength is to analyze the market and find flaws. And at the same time knowing when the right moment is to create and grow something. I don't think SpaceX would be possible 60 years ago, most of its funding comes from NASA, which had a lot of other problems to deal with at that time. 
 
The same goes for PayPal and Tesla. These are projects that wouldn't have been possible before. This means that new technology brings new opportunities for everyone. And Elon has a sharp eye for seeing them. It also means that Elon would have found problems to solve no matter at what age he would have lived.
 
I think the most important thing that we can learn from his story is that Musk found a passion. And he stuck to his passion and found a way to monetize it. At the same time, he was thinking big, he knew he had a lot more chances of becoming successful in the United States than in his home country.

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Net Worth Today.

Please understand that it's very hard to know exactly how much a person is worth in assets. And I am talking about assets because net-worth means what somebody owns in total, not necessarily what he has in his bank account. 
 
That being said, what do we know? Well, according to Forbes, Elon Musk is, at the moment of speaking, the number one richest person in the world with around 270 billion USD in assets. 
 
He is followed by Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, who is worth 190B. The third-place goes to Bernard Arnault & family with 166B and the fourth place goes to Bill Gates, who is worth 135B.
 

What tips does he have to be successful?

I know there is much we can learn from Elon's life, and here are some tips he has given us. They are from a podcast, listen to the podcast here.

Elon advised people to be useful, because being useful means having a meaningful life. "Do things that are useful to your fellow human beings, to the world. It's hard to be useful — very hard,” he said.
 
And just like me, Elon advised everyone to read and educate their brain. As a kid Musk loved to read encyclopedias, knowledge that certainly helped him later in life. He said this: "I would encourage people to read a lot of books. Try to ingest as much information as you can, and try to also develop a good general knowledge so you at least have a rough lay of the land of the knowledge landscape”.
 
Another tip he suggests people do is to try and contribute to society. We should contribute more and consume less. "Try to have a positive net contribution to society. That’s something to aim for,” he said. 
 

What does Elon Musk invest in?

From Elon’s history, we can see that he is very interested in technology, communication, space, and things that are related. So, as you can see, a sci-fi game enthusiast that is interested in colonizing Mars can become the richest and most influential person on earth. 

So what would Elon invest in today?

We don't know for sure, but many of his investments are most likely private. But we do know that he has made investments in cryptocurrencies.

But knowing that most of his investments are technology-focused. We can assume that a large portion of his assets is in this and related sectors.

These are the companies that we know Elon has investments in:

Tesla, SpaceX, Neuralink, SolarCity, NeuroVigil, Cryptocurrency, DeepMind

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What can we learn from Elon Musk?

There are many many things that Elon Musk does right. And I want to summarize a few that I think are most noteworthy.
 
He has big dreams.
To become successful, you have to set a goal. Many of us set goals that are reasonable and not bigger than we think of what we are capable of doing. And although Elon never knew he would be successful, he had big plans. If he would have only set for a job at NASA or google, that might have been everything he ever achieved. But he dreamed bigger, and it paid off.

He is persistent.
None of his companies were a success right from the start. But he didn't stop when times got difficult. He kept going and made it happen. We have to keep going. even when we think we failed is very hard for most of us. This is where you have to decide if you want to quit or keep going. The fact that his companies were a success, shows how committed and persistent he is.

He learns from failure.
Elon didn't just give up when he failed. He focused on finding a solution for his problems and he did. That is what he always did and people like him will keep doing. Instead of crying and blaming others, he used his curiosity to figure out why things fail, and how to make it work. And yes, SpaceX and Tesla had a ton of problems, but Elon and his companies face them and focus on solving the problems. That brings me to the next point.

He focuses on problem-solving.
Each company that he created or invested in focused on a problem. PayPal enables its users to make secure and quick online payments. Tesla helps work on an eco-friendly and sustainable future. SpaceX is a long-term project that helps build better communication technology and focuses on new opportunities in space. Thus focusing on problems that matter, and helping people on a large scale is important if you want to succeed as well.



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Ron Hoekstra is the founder of The Liberty OnDemand. With his many years of experience in the field of graphic design and self taught knowledge about business, digital marketing and leveraging wealth. He can give you valuable insights and content to help you grow and become more successful!


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