The Real Iron Man

He’s the real life Tony Stark—he’s actually the inspiration behind the character. Zip2, PayPal, SolarCity, SpaceX, and now Tesla Motors… all before the age of 40. He was a multi-millionaire in his 20’s.

He’s doubled down at every milestone in his life to further the projects he believed in. He’s 42 now and according to Forbes, he’s worth an estimated 2.5 billion. I’m of course speaking of, and dedicating this post to, the very inspiring Elon Musk.

I read an article in the April 2012 issue of Forbes about Elon—here’s a small excerpt of the article by Hannah Elliott:

It’s Thursday morning in Bel Air, California, and Elon Musk, his cheeks still wet with aftershave, has retreated to the basement theater of his 20,000-square-foot French Nouveau mansion, which he’s converted into a man cave suitable for business or play.

The leather couch and coffee table inscribed with the periodic table serve as a de facto workstation, a retreat for the e-mails he shoots out past midnight and his research on such things as the Phenolic Impregnated Carbon Ablator, the “best heat shield known to man.” But rather than trudge to the office when the rest of the world is awake, the 40-year-old billionaire founder of electric carmaker Tesla and SpaceX, the first private company to put a vehicle into orbit, is teaching me how to play BioShock, an Ayn Rand–esque first-person shooter epic.

Born in South Africa, Musk grew up classically nerdy. He was much smarter than his classmates, knew it and used it as his defense. At the age of 11 he programmed his first video game. With an entrepreneurial spirit, he tried to sell it.

Elon fled South Africa to avoid being drafted into a war he didn’t believe in and fled to Canada with no money, no idea what he was going to do and really, no one to help him. He ended up going to the University of Pennsylvania, graduating and going out west to Stanford for grad school. He dropped out, as all great thinkers tend to do, and created his first startup, Zip2, with his brother Kimbal Musk. They sold that and went on to start their next project— PayPal.

After the sale of Paypal for 1.5 billion, Elon could have bought an island somewhere and sipped umbrella drinks for the rest of his life. But he wasn’t finished, not by a long shot. He then created SpaceX, which is making NASA’s rockets obsolete; and Tesla Motors—a fully-electric, high-performance line of cars that can drive over 200 miles without needing to recharge.

After the sale of PayPal for
1.5 billion, Elon could have
bought an island somewhere
and sipped umbrella drinks
for the rest of his life.

After the sale of PayPal for 1.5 billion, Elon
could have bought an island somewhere and sipped
umbrella drinks for the rest of his life.

I personally find all of the components of Elon’s life truly inspirational, especially in a world of such self-entitlement. It’s not wealth that drives people like Elon, it’s knowing that he has the ability to change the world for the better. There is no trick to fulfilling your dreams… it takes passion, hard work, and perseverance through your darkest hour—it’s not luck.

Elon is young and like all uber-successful people, he probably hasn’t found his balance between personal and work life yet, but he’s got time. For now, we should all just feel lucky the world can benefit from such a real-life Iron Man.