Although he is known as the Iron Man of the real world, Elon Musk’s life is nowhere as easy as it has been for Tony Stark. Even though Stark battled villains and supervillains, he never had to struggle in his formative years. Everything was hunky dory for him.
It was not the same as his real life counterpart. Elon’s success has been dabbled with equal amounts of failure. When you read through it, it is almost as if he has failed as much as he has succeeded.
The real thing is – Musk always has been one success ahead of his failures. And going through his story – that’s all it takes to finally make your dreams come true.
1. Elon Musk was rejected for a job at Netscape. He submitted his resume, no one responded, so he went to the company personally, no one responded.
Elon was sufficiently qualified. He had a physics degree from the University of Pennsylvania and a business degree from Wharton. When Netscape did not respond to his resume, he turned up at their office and sat in their lobby. But no one approached him.
And because Elon was a shy guy, he did not approach anyone either. And after some time he just left and never looked back.
Netscape was the leading Internet browser in the 90s. The company failed spectacularly and by 2006, it had just 1% of market share.
Elon Musk went ahead and started Zip2, a web software company, which he sold to Compaq for $307 million.
2. Now although he founded Zip2, he was demoted from the position of CEO to a CTO by the board because they thought he was not competent enough to be CEO.
Zip2 was a web service equivalent to the yellow pages we used to get in the 90s. He started it by selling the service going door to door of companies in the silicon valley. Eventually, he found investors and the company grew from a service into a product.
But the board thought that Elon was not good enough to be a CEO. So, he was demoted in the company he founded.
But there was no regret as he made a cool $22 million when the company was sold to Compaq.
Elon also met Greg Kouri who became the co-founder of PayPal with him.
3. Paypal was termed as one of the 10 worst business ideas in 1999.
With over 230 million users today, it is hard to imagine that people would term Paypal as a failure. But it was termed that. Not everyone shared the foresight of Elon Musk.
It also may have to do with the initial money transfer technique – which was from one palmtop to another palm-top. That meant very few people would use it.
Later, Paypal grew into a service where people could send money through their emails and that changed the money transfer game forever.
4. Elon was fired from Paypal because he preferred Microsoft to Unix. He was on a flight to Australia when he was fired.
Elon wanted to run PayPal on a Microsoft platform (Windows) and the board wanted to run it on Unix. No one backed him up and he lost the boardroom war.
5. The last vacation Elon Musk took, he contracted a lethal form of cerebral Malaria.
This is the reason he never takes a vacation. Cerebral malaria is a lethal form of the disease and Elon contracted it in 2000 during his visit to South Africa. His whole attitude towards “taking a vacation to chill out” completely changed.
“That’s my lesson for taking a vacation: vacation will kill you.”
6. He lost his first son to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) in 2002.
His son was just 10 weeks old when he lost consciousness when his mother had just put him to sleep. By the time paramedics arrived, his son was already dead. They did put him on life support for the next three days but to no avail.
Elon stringently does not talk about it and made it clear to his first wife too.
7. He envisioned a colony on Mars way back in 2001. But Russians refused to sell their rockets to him. So he decided to make his own.
The Russians flat out said no. So he started his own company, SpaceX. But he still needed some tech to kickstart it with. You cannot build a rocket from scratch, even when you are employing all the ex-NASA scientists. So he went to NASA after he founded SpaceX.
The priced their rockets at a very high rate. So he approached Russia again. And again they rejected him.
So he started investing in SpaceX rockets with his own money. No funding whatsoever.
His first 3 rocket launches were failures.
8. Elon Musk, by his own admittance, terms 2008 as the worst year of his life. Tesla and SpaceX were both going to go bankrupt, with him.
His first Tesla car was too expensive to manufacture and there weren’t enough orders to keep the company profitable or even. Tesla was bleeding money. At the same time, even though SpaceX had won a NASA contract, the third rocket exploded at launch, destroying the NASA satellites aboard.
“I never thought I was someone who could ever be capable of a nervous breakdown.”
But things looked up from there. The fourth launch did go well and orders started coming in for Tesla. Soon Tesla diversified into Musk’s ultimate goal – affordable clean means of transport. His latest model can be bought by the middle class and is just as efficient as the luxury model.
And SpaceX is launching cargoes to the International Space Station successfully and making reusable rockets a real thing.
Life is hard when you are out to do things that are ambitious. Life may seem unfair sometimes, and you might feel that everything is going against you, even though you have sufficient self-confidence in your abilities.
The trick is to keep believing – with everything, your mind, money and abilities. And nothing can really stop you.