Last weekend, Elon Musk unveiled the Model 3, fulfilling Tesla’s promise of giving the public an affordable electric car. The electric car is part of Tesla’s plan to build affordable family cars and bring the brand to the mainstream market. With mammoth expectations, Tesla now enters a long and laborious period of building a well-respected company that not only builds some of the best and most technologically advanced cars in the world but also cares for its consumers.
Basically, Tesla has to do what other car manufacturers have been doing for decades. Musk has been instrumental in conceiving and bringing Tesla to this point. However, now is the time for someone else to take over the reins of Tesla. This is because Musk is someone so supremely talented that he shouldn’t be wasting his time and talent with doing something as mundane as managing a manufacturing company. That job can be handled by someone else, leaving Musk open to doing things he does best—bringing to fruition ideas that hold potential to revolutionize the course of human civilization.
Who is Elon Musk
Musk is the CEO, chairman, and co-founder of Tesla Motors, perhaps the most exciting car manufacturer company in the world now. Apart from working to bring electric vehicles to the masses, he is the brain behind SpaceX, the company that has developed and launched satellites into space and is finding new ways for humans to visit space through affordable means.
Beyond this, Musk is behind with a number of revolutionary projects: these include Hyperloop, the project that aims to build the unprecedented new mode of transport; Tesla Energy, the company that provides full-service solar power and energy storage systems; OpenAI, the not-for-profit venture to build safe and widely available and applicable AI solutions; Neuralink, the ultra-high bandwidth brain-machine interfaces to connect humans and computers. And there are further more projects and ventures that have been Musk’s brainchild. He is truly a great serial innovator and entrepreneur.
Formative Years and the Beginning of a Genius
Musk was born on June 28, 1971 in Pretoria, South Africa. His father is of South African descent and his mother is Canadian. As a child, Musk was an introvert, usually keeping to himself. He was often the target of bullies in school. In one instance, some boys beat him up so severely that he lost consciousness. When he was about 10, his parents got divorced, further making his childhood difficult.
Amidst all the adverse circumstances, Musk focused his energies elsewhere and started taking interest in computers; he soon managed to teach himself computer programming. Even at a young age, his efforts were successful and he sold “Blastar,” a game he developed using the BASIC language at just 12 years old to a magazine for $500. This was Musk’s first taste of success.
Musk quickly realized his passion for technology and decided to go to Canada at age 18. He then moved to the United States for higher studies.
Science would continue to be a part of his life, as he studied both business and physics at the University of Pennsylvania in 1992. Considering he is busy building a great automotive company and a space exploration venture, that’s not what one would have expected from Musk. But, the true genius that he is, he chose to go beyond the beaten path and emerged successful.
Musk applied for a job at one of the leading Internet companies at the time, Netscape, but failed. He went to the Netscape office but didn’t get a job simply because he was too shy to talk to anyone. Imagine someone not getting a job because of his shyness—not many people would bet their money on such a person becoming a serial entrepreneur.
Finding His Entrepreneurial Streak
He continued his higher studies at Stanford University and started his Ph.D. studies in energy physics. But, the entrepreneur in him left the Ph.D. program within two days and he went on to launch Zip2 Corporation. Zip2 was an online city guide that provides content for the Chicago Tribune and The New York Times websites. Musk was removed as CEO by the company board. However, even when Musk was ousted, he kept his shares, earning a handsome figure when the company was sold. The Compaq Computer Corporation ended up buying Zip2 for a significant amount at $307 million (in cash) and $34 million (in stock options).
Musk went on to found PayPal or what was originally an online financial services website X.com. He also suffered a setback at PayPal when he was ousted from the company over the technical roadmap of PayPal. Eventually, X.com became PayPal and it was acquired for $1.5 billion in stock by eBay in October 2002.
Yes, it’s Rocket Science
He continued launching new businesses and founded Space Exploration Technologies Corporation or SpaceX in 2002. But unlike his previous successes, SpaceX has highlighted Musk’s failures and successes. Musk’s SpaceX has faced a string of failures. It began in 2006 with three rockets crashes; in September 2016, a SpaceX rocket caught fire while fueling. However, he persevered after each failure and was determined to build a better space rocket. At times the failures were financially steep, but with Musk’s unwavering determination, SpaceX has bounced back. And as of today, SpaceX stands out as one of the most credible future space travel programs. SpaceX’s intentions are clear: spacecraft technologies that will enable commercial space travel. Along with the intention of revolutionizing inter-planetary travel, Musk expanded the company’s goals in 2012 to include a self-sustaining 80,000-person colony on Mars.
Meanwhile, SpaceX completed yet another successful trip to the International Space Station. In March 2017, the Falcon 9 rocket, a device made from reusable parts, was able to get through its test flight.
It’s easy to succumb to repeated failures, but Musk has truly shown the spirit of Strive. If you strive hard enough and be innovative, you can triumph. In Musk’s own words, “When something is important enough, you do it even if the odds are not in your favor.”
Teething Troubles at Tesla
Tesla Motors is one of Musk’s famous ventures. The company began producing mass-market electric cars in 2008 and introduced a sports car called the Roadster. That endeavor severely strained company’s finances, almost bringing it to the brink of closure.
In one instance, a Tesla vehicle on autopilot crashed and ended up killing the driver. Not surprisingly, the media played to the galleries and the public questioned the safety of his vehicles.
Tesla also found itself in a bind as it nearly collapsed during the financial crisis. With no funds to finance Model S, Musk invested his own money from PayPal (his last $35 million) to make sure the model was properly developed. He ended up bankrupt and admitted this in a February 23, 2010 court filing. This was also all happening amid a divorce case and a life lived off personal loans since October 2009. Musk insisted on personal bankruptcy just to keep Tesla going.
His efforts weren’t for nothing, as the demand for Model S has never been a problem. The company’s first electric sedan won Motor Trend magazine’s Car of the Year in 2013. Tesla has also fulfilled its goal of 400 cars produced a week to ensure profit generation.
Apart from its cars, Tesla has also introduced energy storage products such as the Powerwall home battery and the Powerpack industrial-scale battery. The company was also able to acquire SolarCity and plans to release the Solar Roof this year. This will expand the company’s offering of affordable energy generation.
Musk has always been a private person and he never speaks much about his personal life. He has witnessed a lot of painful moments in his life, right from being a victim of sever bullying to the death of his 10-weeks old son in 2002 to his near-death experience in South Africa while on a vacation.
Despite witnessing such personal tragedies and life-shattering moments, Musk has persevered and shown the true spirit of a true innovator and genius. He has remained single-mindedly focused on thinking and executing things at a different level and scale.
Moving Forward After Setbacks
Musk has been at the mercy of public scrutiny but continues to take big risks in his businesses. None of his past mistakes and challenges stopped him from making the necessary sacrifices to move his enterprises forward. With a hunger for providing the world a better future, his tenacity and risk-taking will continue to give him and the rest of the world advancements we have yet to imagine.
Elon Musk’s journey shows us that failures should not stop one from finding future successes. How are you striving? Sign up to be notified when the strive book becomes available.