Elon Musk, the founder and owner of SpaceX, Tesla, X.com (formerly Twitter), and The Boring Company, has reclaimed the title of the world’s wealthiest person according to Forbes’ The World’s Real Time Billionaires list as of the end of November 2023. His current net worth now stands at a remarkable USD 241.1 billion, which, by itself, represents nearly 30% of Switzerland’s 2022 Gross Domestic Product (GDP) level.

Although his success is widely known around the world, the childhood that formed and shaped Musk’s path to greatness is something that often remains unheard – but yet crucial.

From an early age, Musk exhibited an exceptional ability to absorb knowledge, a trait his mother observed: “When he started reading, everything he read, he memorized.” Yet, initially, this gift posed challenges rather than an advantage. While he attended grade school in Pretoria, South Africa, Musk was not only the youngest and smallest kid in his class but also the nerdiest. He was much more inclined toward books and learning practical skills than social development. Ultimately, “he hated going to school,” his ex-wife once said.

Overall, his experience in school was far from smooth. As a geek, Musk faced a plethora of issues when gangs of boys would sometimes hunt him, going as far as pushing him down a flight of stairs, resulting in a hospital visit – i.e., beating him almost to death.

Elon Musk at an early age
Source: Observer

In response, Musk sought refuge in computer games – “constructed a little universe” for himself – which later got him into coding. At the age of twelve, he developed “Blastar,” a science-fiction-inspired space game with the main goal of destroying an alien spacecraft carrying deadly bombs – an early testament to his fascination with space. In his interview with Joe Rogan, Elon said, “I thought I was insane […] because it was clear other people did not. Their mind wasn’t exploding with ideas.

Bullying, however, wasn’t the only challenge of Elon’s childhood; his father-son relationship was also tumultuous. Errol Musk was far from a role model for his kids, failing to support them through challenging times. In an interview with Rolling Stone in 2017, Musk called his father a “terrible human being.”.

You have no idea about how bad. Almost every crime you can possibly think of, he has done [...] Almost every evil thing you could possibly think of, he has done.
— Elon Musk

Justifiably so, considering Errol once called his son a “loser” for getting beaten up (although he denies this fact). In Walter Isaacson’s 2023 biography of Elon Musk, he reveals Elon “had to stand for an hour as he [Errol Musk] yelled at me and called me an idiot and told me that I was just worthless.”

All facts considered, Elon had no single reason for imitating his father, so instead, he lived by a different creed. The pivotal shift came when Musk realized the power of opposing the norm and decided to work on new technology in Silicon Valley – with Neil Armstrong, and not his father, being the main inspiration.

Musk once stated the following on the matter: “On Wikipedia, it says that I was inspired by my father in terms of technology. I think this is actually not true. […] He was somewhat of a Luddite, actually.” Musk recognized technology’s potential while his father resisted it, a stark contrast that influenced Elon’s determination to carve his own path.

In 1995, when most people thought the Internet was going to be a fad, he saw the opportunity: no one was actually making any money on the Internet. In the following years, he founded Zip2 and X.com – an early online bank in the US – which, after merging with Confinity in 2001 changed its name to PayPal which later revolutionized the traditional banking landscape.

At an early age, Elon Musk wanted to escape the world that rejected him. With time, he instead learned that he could reshape it according to his own vision, becoming a person we call a “visionary.”

From launching numerous spacecraft to revolutionizing the banking and automotive industries – Elon has done a lot for this world. Yet, his journey underscores a poignant reality: visionaries who challenge norms are often labeled as “geeks,” “outsiders,” or “weird” before achieving extraordinary success. Musk’s story is an invitation for those who do not quite fit in the world to try shaping it according to their vision instead of escaping it.

In his own words from a “60 Minutes” interview, the response to critics’ skepticism should always be, “We’ve done it.” His narrative serves as a call to action, urging others to break away from conformity and forge their own unique paths. Elon’s story serves as a testament to the idea that those who dare to reimagine the world are often those who redefine success beyond conventional limits. Indeed, success doesn't come to those who blend in but to those who seek to escape the confines of the matrix.

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