Elon Musk, born in South Africa and educated in Canada, is most well known as California’s electric car mogul. He’s widely considered to be this universe’s closest thing to Tony Stark - genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist. Video game nerd, meme god, and Twitter troll have also been used to describe him, but we’ll get into that later.
Musk is in the headlines more than most public figures these days, and for good reason. Anyone who tries to change the world is bound to draw attention, and I don’t think anyone is changing the world more than Elon Musk at the moment.
From electric cars to space rockets to payment revolutions, Musk is behind virtually every bleeding-edge technology on the market today. It’s honestly shocking that the man has time for this innovation, however, when you examine his personal life and professional mishaps more closely. Most people with his story would be lucky to be mopping the floor at the SpaceX headquarters, much less own the whole operation.
But Elon Musk doesn’t operate as you or I do. He’s on another level. Let’s try to figure out why.
Let’s get the nasty stuff out of the way first. People with common sense know that no one can realistically deny that Elon Musk is a genius, but there is a growing number of people who seem to think he’s just some spoiled rich kid who got lucky.
The main reason behind this frankly moronic take is that his family was wealthy growing up, and that because of this “leg up”, Musk is actually a fraud who merely projects a facade of brilliance.
This is, of course, ridiculous. Let’s assume for a moment that Elon Musk received huge sums of money from his family in order to start his businesses. Let’s say his father gave him $50 million cash to get started (he didn’t). Turning $50 million into over $200 billion in net worth represents a 400,000% growth of that initial capital.
That’s like turning a $50 Christmas gift from your grandma into a $200,000 enterprise. Very, VERY few people have that capability.
The reality is, however, that Musk only received the equivalent of about $47,000 from his father, and that was a loan that had to be paid back.
The unfortunate truth for the growing number of people who hate on the founder of Zip2, co-founder of Paypal and current CEO of Tesla is that his success is truly the result of grit.
$50,000 is an amount of money that hundreds of thousands of people receive from their parents. Hell, if you went out-of-state for college and your parents paid for it, you’ve probably effectively received far more than $50,000 from your parents. The only difference is that Musk received that money directly, and used his brain and work ethic to turn it into the largest and most impressive technological empire the world has ever seen.
While most people his age were getting their bachelors’ degrees, Elon Musk was thinking of ways to change the world.
One of the most visible ways in which he’s done this is with electric vehicles. Before the Falcon 9 and space exploration technologies, Elon Musk designed the first Tesla Roadster in 2008. It was rough. It had quality issues, a pitiful range, a massive price, and very low availability.
But, in case you haven’t gathered, Musk is not one to give up easily. The newest version of the Tesla Roadster - set to be released in 2023 if chip makers can catch up with global demand - will be the fastest accelerating car in the world. From a dead standstill, it will reach 60 miles an hour in just 1.9 seconds.
Like something you’d see in Iron Man 2 or James Bond, the Tesla Roadster will be at highway speeds before you have a chance to remember whether you’ve ever seen Iron Man 2. It’s the one with the Russian guy. Musk also makes a cameo in it.
Do you remember what electric cars were like before Tesla? They sucked. Big time. They were tiny and horrifically unsafe. They could go about 30 yards before needing a charge - which took several hours. Driving an electric car in 2008 meant making significant sacrifices in your daily life. Tesla changed that forever, and its because they had Elon Musk at the helm.
The fact of the matter is that without Tesla, electric vehicles would never have become cool. The car industry would still be 10 years away from any kind of practicality.
In 2013, Musk published a whitepaper detailing plans for a high-speed transport tube, or hyperloop, which could move people and cargo between cities at 700 miles an hour.
Now, people like to say that billionaires always horde their wealth and ideas. But Elon Musk gave his designs for the hyperloop for free to any company that wanted them, and told them they could develop it for a profit.
No working hyperloop as been made yet, and I suspect none will until Musk is done with revolutionizing civilian space travel and the car industry. Once he has enough hours in the day, we’ll have a hyperloop up and running in about 5 minutes.
This fact speaks for itself. NASA has been around for a very, very long time. Sure, it was once a beacon of technology, bringing humans to the moon and back, launching space shuttles, and building most of the international space station.
Now, of course, NASA is not what it used to be. Because it’s a government agency, it’s bound by red tape and beaurocracy. No one can put pen to paper at NASA unless a congressman in a four-thousand-dollar, yet somehow still poorly fitting suit tells them it’s okay.
SpaceX, being a private company, is free to innovate as much as they want. The result of this freedom is safe, reliable space travel that is getting cheaper by the day. The Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy have proven to be viable bases for current international space station cargo loads, and just maybe the starship of the future too.
It was a slide-and-shoot Space Invaders-type thing called Blastar that he sold to a magazine for $500. It was pretty rough, and relied on a 1 Mhz chip. Here’s a remake, that has varying reports of accuracy to what Musk created back in the day. Some say it’s an okay replica given that it’s web-based. Some say its nothing like the original.
Between startups, The Boring Company, Neuralink, Solar City, Tesla Motors, the richest person in the world still finds time, occassionally, to continue his love of video games, claiming to have played through every Call of Duty since the original, among others.
Since that first “success” at such a young age, Musk has hardly stopped. He has started and sold many companies over the years: He sold Zip2, a map and city guide company he and his brother Kimbal started, to Compaq; he sold X.com, which later became PayPal, to eBay or $1.5 billion. The South African mogul is sure to be in the history books along with other such business icons as Bill Gates and Warren Buffett.
Pick a continent, and there is a good chance Elon Musk has made a name for himself there. He’s family is South African, but he’s an American citizen. His first wife, Justine Wilson, was his love interest at Queen’s University in Ontario. He has several children with names of varying intrigue, from Xavier to X AE A-XII. He’s lived all over the country from San Francisco to Austin, TX.
He’s appeared in so many pop culture movies and shows that its hard to count, but some include The Simpsons, Iron Man 2, and The Big Bang Theory. He even bought the Lotus Espirit used in the Bond movie The Spy Who Loved Me. He’s also been a recurring guest on The Joe Rogen Experience podcast.
Elon Musk is a phenomenon, like Robert Downey Jr. or sliced bread. He’s also now the sole shareholder of Twitter. From New York to Los Angeles, this quiet science-fiction nerd with Asperger’s is a household name.
You are more than welcome to think whatever you want about Elon Musk and his successes, failures, and antics. But the fact of the matter is that he is an extraordinary man and one of the most important futurists in history. He is undoubtedly a genius.