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Elon Musk

Where Does Elon Musk Find the Time?

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By Brian Hurwitz

The rich and famous are often afforded a certain privilege that enables them to flout societal conventions. Simultaneously, the expectations stacked on their shoulders can be crushing. When these people fail to live up to them, the general public is as quick to tear them down as they are to build them up. Of course, some shortcomings are more forgivable than others. More importantly, some luminaries are more forgivable than others, and all too often the spotlight blurs the line between celebrity and icon. Inventor, entrepreneur and engineer Elon Musk is as renowned for his idiosyncratic genius as he is for his emotional outbursts are one of them. But if you're willing to forgive the latter because of the former, one has to ask where he finds the time to single-handedly change the world and be a father of five. And with all signs pointing to a sixth on the way, it seems plausible this modern-day DaVinci has invented an eighth day to his workweek.

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Elon Musk in his early days
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Well before he was a revolutionary billionaire, he was an introverted dreamer whose only assets were his mind and a vision to change the world. His childhood interests in science and technology led him to study both at the University of Pennsylvania. Despite graduating with degrees in both economics and physics, his application to work at Netscape went unanswered. When he went to their offices in hopes of convincing them to hire him, Musk was too shy to even introduce himself and left without uttering a word.

Soon after, he and his brother, Kimbal, raised money to start the web software company Zip2. Even though Musk was single-handedly responsible for its early success, the board of directors refused to allow him to serve as its CEO owing to his lack of business experience.

His next venture was as a co-founder of X.com, an online payment company that eventually became PayPal. This time, the board had enough faith in his abilities to name him CEO. However, after an argument with company leadership, Musk was ousted from the position. Adding insult to injury, he got the news while on his honeymoon.

To be fair, the eventual sale of Zip2 to Compaq made him a multi-millionaire at 28. And the sale of PayPal to eBay three years later made him a billionaire. But the overt lack of confidence his colleagues showed for his abilities at both companies and the ease with which they replaced him could’ve crushed him as easily as it appears to have motivated him.

A SpaceX rocket test
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That motivation led him to create SpaceX, a company whose purpose was to promote public interest in space exploration and colonization of Mars. The first launch failed. As did the second. Along with the third, which happened to be carrying a NASA satellite valued at $200 million. Having invested $100 million of his own money into a company that was on the verge of bankruptcy, most people would’ve cut their losses. Not Musk. As it happened, the fourth launch was a phenomenal success and resulted in SpaceX receiving a $1.6 billion contract from NASA.

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That same philosophy compelled him to found Tesla Motors with the intent of building cost-efficient electric cars. Yet its first car, the Roadster, was the opposite of economical. Fixing these problems led to several financial and conceptual setbacks, such as crash-related battery fires, that left the company teetering on the verge of bankruptcy. Musk had two choices: Shut it down or spend a chunk of his fortune to keep it going. Further failure was not an option to Musk, so he decided to invest in himself.

When the eventual release of the Tesla Model S was met with great reviews and high demand, it appeared Musk had turned failure into success one again. But it wasn’t as though he saw his investment returned overnight. For a time, Musk lived off of personal loans from friends. Immaterial of reviews, the company wasn’t doing well financially and had to borrow $465 million from the Department of Energy. In fact, Tesla didn’t turn a profit until 2013, ten years after its founding.

While revolutionizing the tech, space and auto industry, Musk also finds the time to be a father to the five sons he had with his ex-wife, Canadian author Justine Wilson. And with news that his current girlfriend, the musician/producer Grimes, is pregnant, it's possible he may have to invent a ninth day to keep up.

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