Inspiring Life Lesson From Elon Musk Who Sacrificed Comfort For Success

Elon Musk was just 24 years old, he co-founded a software company called Zip2. Zip2 is a web software company providing business directories and maps to media companies and local e-commerce merchants.It  provided online publishing for media companies such as Knight-Ridder.
The company quickly grew to support clients like the New York Times and Chicago Tribune, and eventually sold to Compaq for more than $300M.  By 28, he’d already made $22 million from his first company sale. He could have lived in luxury and comfort for rest of his life.

BUT, he wasn’t looking for comfort…

After Elon sold his first startup, Musk immediately used $10M from the sale of his company, X.com which was supposed to be an online financial services company. It was later merged Confinity which was led by Peter Thiel and Max Levchin. Confinity originally worked on a PDA to PDA payment system but later refocused payments via email (PayPal). which, after a quick merger, became PayPal.


Just 3 years later, in 2002, PayPal was sold to eBay for $1.5 billion, netting Musk around $175 million, as he was still the company’s largest shareholder. If $22 million wasn’t enough to support a comfortable life… another $175 million at age 31 certainly would have helped.

AGAIN,  he was just getting started…

Even before PayPal was sold, Musk had already founded SpaceX with $100 million of his own money. He didn’t he want to ride off into the sunset on a tropical island somewhere in the ocean?

He had a larger vision of building products that changed the landscape of the universe forever. A comfortable life wasn’t going to do that for him. The kind of legacy he was after would require some work.

The vision behind SpaceX was simple: by using new technologies and approaches, Musk could cut the costs of space travel by orders of magnitude, and in the process revitalize space exploration. Of course, such a super-ambitious goal didn’t come without setbacks. By 2008, SpaceX was – according to some – days from going broke, before being “saved’ by a $1.6 billion contract from NASA.

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He started to learn about aerospace from Jim Cantrell in 2002 by borrowing books on the field and then asking questions. Jim Cantrell, who was an aerospace consultant at the time, became SpaceX’s first VP of business development and Musk’s industry mentor when the company launched in 2002.He tapped into Jim Cantrell’s network to meet other experts. His propulsion expert is Tom Mueller.

It appears that Elon Musk believes that the great challenges are all engineering challenges, and has not relied on business experts or dealmakers to close deals. Both space and solar are fields which rely heavily on engineering to make breakthroughs, and if those breakthroughs are made, then it moves closer to
becoming viable as a business.

Love and a stalwart vision got him through those days…

Today, SpaceX has achieved a long list of firsts in the space industry. It’s the only private company to dock at the international space station, as well as the only private company to return a spacecraft from low orbit. It has also created some of the most powerful space rockets in the world. Being a pioneer in space travel is hard, it’s uncomfortable, but it’s just a part-time job for Elon Musk.

“He’s used a billion dollars to do what NASA couldn’t do with $27 billion,” Cantrell says. “Boy, it’s inspiring.”

Possibility took precedence over comfort…

In 2004, while heading up SpaceX, Elon Musk led the first institutional round of financing for a new electric car company called Tesla. He wasn’t the founder, but he believed strongly in Tesla’s ability to revolutionize the car industry and provide the first mass-produced the electric car. When the company fell on hard times in the 2008 financial crisis and, like SpaceX, came within days of failing… he took over as CEO.


Elon has always been passionate about making the world a better place, always thinking 10 years into the future on how we can have better life on earth. This idealism sprung him to come on. He also had a vision for electric cars that would redefine how an electric car should be.

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tesla-motor-elon-muskSince doubling as CEO of SpaceX and Tesla, Elon Musk has – in historical fashion – disrupted the (electric) car industry, creating innovations in battery range and safety, recharge times, charging stations and more. Along the way, he’s built the company to a $20+ billion valuation, and he’s been recognized as one of the greatest pioneers of the modern world, and even… the modern universe.

Comfort and sleep can wait when you are moving all of the humanity forward…


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