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Billionaire Elon Musk And The Art Of “Successfully Failing”

We all know Elon Musk as an extremely intelligent person and currently the world’s richest. However, prior to becoming a billionaire, his only assets were his “brain” and his vision to change the world and humanity.

Source: Pinterest

His ideas, initially widely considered fantasies, are now becoming true. He can be considered a Serial Entrepreneur who is constantly coming up with new ideas and starting up new business, despite having already owned at least one business. Instead, a new term can be coined: Parallel Entrepreneur, who implements many ideas at the same time in many different fields and industries.

Not only building a business, he also revolutionized all industries in which he was involved such as: Ecash (Paypal), electric vehicles (Tesla), rocket technology (SpaceX) and energy services (Solarcity).

But before conquering the top of the highest mountain, Elon Musk had to undergo many falls, failures and troubles. But he managed to reach the top because he always believed: “If something is important enough you should try, even if the probable outcome is failure.”

Here we’ll dive into the lows of this real-life Tony Stark’s Iron Man:

Bullied in the past

Source: Upriser

Musk was born in South Africa with his father being an engineer and his mother a model. Called a bookworm, he got buried in books and computers. He has never been a sociable person who loves expanding his relationships and network. Younger and weaker than other students, Musk easily became a target for bullies. His childhood was a series of long days in extreme pain. In one incident, Musk was even thrown down the stairs, beaten until he lost consciousness and had to be hospitalized. Until now, the serious injuries still cause him to find breathing difficult.

Attempted to enter Netscape

Source: CNET

Musk once applied for a position at Netscape, which was not widely known to everybody. However, he didn’t get a response from the company due to his lack of background in computer science. The only degrees he had at that time were in economics and physics from Wharton School. Musk even went to Netscape office, but ended up returning home as he was too embarrassed to talk to anyone. Afterwards, Musk decided to pursue his own idea and from there he built Zip2, a web software company providing online business details. Had he not been too shy at that time or had Netscape given him a try, both Musk and Netscape’s future could have been much different. If he wasn’t too shy at the time, or Netscape was one of the leading technology companies at the time, and Elon Musk missed the opportunity because of his “shyness”.

Dispute over Zip2

Source: Pinterest

Zip2 – the company founded by Elon Musk and his brother, Kimbal Musk, worked very well under the leadership of Elon Musk as CEO. However, the Board of Directors, in order to prepare for a long-term development strategy, decided to remove Musk Elon Musk as the CEO of his own company. The board thought that didn’t does not have the necessary operational qualifications, alongside with his inexperience. Musk kept his shares, and received $22 million when the company was sold to Compaq

Expelled from Paypal

Source: Associated Press

Elon Musk founded X.com, an online payment company, which later became Paypal. In April 2020, he became the CEO of the company. Not long after, Elon Musk argued with the CTO (Chief Technology Officer) over which operating system to develop products on, Windows or Unix. The disagreement led to him being stripped of his position as CEO of Paypal, while on a honeymoon with his wife.

Near-death experience

Source: Getty Images

During a vacation in his hometown of South Africa, he experienced a near-death experience. He suffered from cerebral malaria, a complication of malaria caused by Plasmodium Falciparum malaria, which has a mortality rate of up to 20% even with treatment. It took him six months to recover and the man lost 45 lbs during that time. Elon Musk often asserts that the near-death moment helped him regain focus and energy. This experience has certainly not affected Elon Musk’s spirit and sense of humour. In his Google+ profile, he wrote: Bragging rights: Not dead yet. He even joked once that: “That’s my lesson for taking a vacation: vacation will kill you”.

The sudden death of his son

Source: Next Biography

Watching your child die is probably the worst thing anyone can do. Elon Musk welcomed his first son with longtime girlfriend and first wife, Justine Wilson, in May 2002. They named their son Nevada Alexander. But the baby died of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) at just 10 weeks old. When the paramedics arrived, the child was brain dead from lack of oxygen for too long. Elon Musk has never mentioned this sad incident.

Failures in Russia

Source: Phys.org

In 2001, Elon Musk came up with the idea for “Mars Oasis”, a project to grow plants on Martian soil. He, along with a few others, went to Moscow in search of Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs), capable of delivering packages into space. They went to several companies, but were turned down. After 6 months, he returned to Russia for a similar project. This time, they were offered an $8 million project deal for a rocket, a number that Elon Musk deemed too expensive. On the flight back from Moscow, Elon Musk thought about creating his own company to build affordable rockets. And so, SpaceX was born.

SpaceX Crisis

Source: News In 24

In June 2002, Elon Musk founded SpaceX, with the goal to reduce the cost of space transportation and actualize Mars colonization. He has invested a lot of the money he gets from Paypal revenue into SpaceX. The company’s first three rocket launches failed, sparking skepticism among many investors. They only had enough money left for one more launch and they were almost on the verge of bankruptcy, which was a very stressful time for Elon Musk. The fourth rocket launch was a huge success, and as a result, SpaceX received a contract from NASA for $1.6 billion. SpaceX has successfully sent rockets into space at a third of the cost of any other company in the industry. Elon Musk bet it all on SpaceX, and luckily for him, it worked out perfectly.

Tesla Crisis

Source: Forbes

Elon Musk founded Tesla Motors, a company that makes affordable electric cars, in 2003. The Roadster, Tesla’s first electric car, was a high-performance but not very economical. The launch was delayed and the company faced serious financial problems, close to the point of shutting down.

Elon Musk himself once admitted that 2008 was the worst year of his life. The car cost almost twice as much as expected, thus leading to a budget shortfall. Then, Elon Musk must make a crucial decision: either put all his savings in the company, or watch his company disappear. Elon Musk doesn’t see the latter as an option, and so he bets everything. This time, luck smiled on Musk when the car received excellent reviews for performance.

Empty-handed

Source: Getty Images

After pouring all his money into Tesla and SpaceX, Elon Musk was running dry, living on personal loans since October 2009. Even the company has not turned a significant profit and has to borrow $465 million from the US Department of Energy. Before that, Tesla survived mainly on Musk’s personal investments, and this is no longer possible. The divorce with his wife even made things worse. Then, Tesla became Elon Musk’s savior, making up for all the crises and giving him $6.7 million in stock options.

The first person to own a fortune of $300 billion

Source: Next Big Future

At the end of October 2021, billionaire Elon Musk’s fortune exceeded $300 billion, making him the first person in the world to have exceeded this milestone.

The figure reached $302 billion on October 28, 2021, after the stock price of Tesla skyrocketed. His fortune is higher than the annual GDP of some countries like Finland and Chile, surpassing the market value of Netflix and PayPal – the company he co-founded.

The bottom lines

Elon Musk is probably an expert at failing successfully. Failure doesn’t seem to bother him; instead, it’s more of a necessity. In his words, he expresses: “Failure is an option here. If things are not failing, you are not innovating enough.”

Elon Musk effectively manages his three companies, five children, and even still has time to continue thinking about the future. With a billionaire as passionate and innovative as Musk, only time will tell what plans he’s having for the future.

H/T: Your Story

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