How Elon Musk Conquered an Abusive Childhood to Become The Richest Man in The World

In 2021, Elon Musk overtook Amazon‘s Jeff Bezos to become the richest person on the face of planet earth. It is not news that the eccentric South African billionaire is set for a long reign at the top given the ambitious and futuristic plans that he has for his billion-dollar enterprises. What, however, makes all these new development quite impressive was the adversity that the world’s richest man had to face on his way to the top.

Once your atypical nerdish genius, Musk had to cope with the bullies who found him an easy target for their dangerous pranks at school. At home, the young boy had no respite either as he had to deal with an absentee father who was equally verbally abusive. Such circumstances are enough to quench anybody’s zest for life but Musk held on to his dreams and today, he is living them.

Elon Musk’s Childhood Was Marked By Abuse

Elon Musk may be the eccentric tech billionaire with a jet-setting life but that doesn’t mean that all is well in his kingdom. He still holds the deep scars of childhood which, in his own words, was “miserable”, “terrible”, “horrible” and “excruciating”. As a little boy growing up in Pretoria, South Africa, the young Elon was naturally introverted. He loved reading books and comics. He also fancied computers and technology and was a typical nerd. Such disposition made him an easy target for bullies in his Pretoria Boys High School.

They regularly threw taunts and other cruel words at him. They also abused him physically and beat him up on several occasions. On one of those occasions, he suffered a jagged septum. On yet another, the fallout was so serious that he had to be hospitalized. Musk should have gotten some respite from his predicament by returning to love and warmth at home. This was, however, not the case and the main culprit was his father, Errol.

A successful consulting engineer and property developer, Errol and Musk’s mother Maye had divorced when he (Elon) was just nine years old. The young boy, alongside his two siblings; Kimbal and Tosca, choose to stay with his father and it was a decision that he would come to regret.

According to Elon, his father was an absentee parent who derided his scientific brilliance. He reportedly told him that he was an idiot and that he would never amount to anything. Such verbal abuse made for a very painful and isolated childhood and Elon Musk took solace in his studies. He loved technology and physics and had an imagination that admitted little/no impossibilities. This made him excel in his academics at school. He also took to computer programming and by the age of 12 sold the code for his own video game to a computer industry publication.

He Moved To Canada at The Age of 17 in Search of Better Opportunities

By the time that Elon Musk was to graduate high school, he knew that he had to leave South Africa in order to escape the toxic situation at home and in school. His quest for an environment that offered endless possibilities and opportunities was also an added incentive and so, he moved out to Canada in hopes of ultimately making it to the U.S.

In Canada, Musk spent his first few months working odd jobs, such as cutting wood and cleaning boilers. He then enrolled for undergraduate studies at Queen’s University, Ontario. He spent two years studying at the institution before getting a transfer to the University of Pennsylvania. In Pennsylvania, Musk completed two degrees; in economics and physics before enrolling at Stanford University for his Ph.D. He, however, abandoned the program just after two days to delve into the exciting world of Silicon Valley.

Musk Founded His First Company in 1995 and Sold It Off Four Years Later

Joining hands with his younger brother Kimbal, Elon Musk’s first creation was a software company called Zip2 that helped newspapers to develop online city guides. The project, which commenced in 1995, gulped initial seed money of about $28,000 and Musk poured all of his energies into making it a success. He deprived himself of decent accommodation in the process. He also had to sleep in the office whilst taking his showers at the local YMCA.

Thankfully, all this hard work was not in vain as Zip2 grew to be profitable. It was patronized by reputable newspapers, such as the New York Times and Chicago Tribune. The company was later sold off about four years after its creation for the sum of $307 million. Musk’s personal share was $22 million and this made him a multimillionaire.

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His PayPal Stock Made Him a Billionaire in 2002

Following the sale of Zip2 in 1999, Elon Musk got back to work and founded an online banking system known as The service equally took with the market before it was eventually merged with another company that became PayPal. PayPal would grow to become one of the largest processors of online payments in the world and so by 2002, the company was sold off to eBay for $1.5 billion in stock.

Being the largest shareholder, Musk got about $165 million from the deal and went on to become a billionaire. With the money that he made from the PayPal deal, Elon Musk decided to bring to life his dream of space exploration. The South African had always aspired to make space travel open to private citizens in the hopes that mankind would one day colonize Mars. To this end, he incorporated a space exploration technologies company, known as SpaceX, in 2002.

Musk Has Founded Other Billion Dollar Enterprises such as Tesla

Musk’s SpaceX remains in existence to date and has gone on to make distinguished strides. They are the first private company to send a spacecraft to the International Space Station. They are also the first private company to send astronauts to that same location. SpaceX has also recorded other firsts that even NASA has yet to achieve and this has seen its value skyrocket.

Today, the company is valued at $46 billion and this has had a positive impact on Elon Musk’s net worth seeing as he owns a 21% share. From a net worth of $1 billion following the sale of PayPal in 2002, the South African-born tech entrepreneur amassed $13.3 billion in 2015. He then experienced an exponential leap to become the richest man in the world in 2021 with $182.9 billion to this name.

Of course, not all of Elon Musk’s wealth is from SpaceX. He also owes his fortune to other billion-dollar companies that he has co-founded/founded such as Tesla, SolarCity, and Neura Link. SolarCity is the largest provider of solar power in the U.S. while Neura Link is a neuro-technology start-up company that aims to integrate the human brain with Artificial Intelligence. Tesla, on the other hand, is the world’s largest manufacturer of electric and clean energy vehicles and is valued at $34.3 billion.

Musk’s Father Has Rejected His Son’s Allegations and Has Stated That He is Only Throwing a Tantrum

In the spirit of fair hearing, several journalists have sought out the senior Musk to get his opinion on his son’s allegations and the man has maintained that he did not abuse his son. On the contrary, he maintains that he used his earnings to provide a life of luxury for Elon and his siblings.

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According to Errol, his children had access to thoroughbred horses and motorbikes as teenagers. He also regularly drove them to school in a convertible Rolls Royce Corniche. They, therefore, had an essentially luxurious life which, in his own words, may explain why Elon is acting like a spoilt child.

Errol Musk further revealed that he encouraged his son’s love for computers and even took him to his first computer course. After then, he also brought out the money with which he used to purchase a computer for his son. The engineer admits that he made mistakes by causing the breakdown of his marriage but rejects all other accusations leveled by his son. According to him, his son only made such allegations as a result of his emotionally-fragile state.

Key Takeaways

  • Elon Musk is the richest man in the world with a net worth of $182. 9 billion.
  • He is the founder of four multibillion-dollar companies, including Tesla and SpaceX.
  • Elon originally grew up in South Africa and suffered a childhood peppered with physical abuse at school and verbal abuse from his dad at home.
  • He immigrated to Canada at the age of 17 and spent two years studying in Ontario. He subsequently transferred to and completed dual degrees in Economics and Physics at the University of Pennsylvania.
  • Musk launched his first company, an online city guide known as Zip2, in 1994. He later sold it in 1999, making $22 million in the process. He has since gone on to found/co-found other billion-dollar companies such as PayPal, SpaceX, and Tesla.
Ngozika Agu
Ngozika can turn any personal finance or entertainment information into an exciting, delightful and compelling article that informs and educates, she can quickly turn random letters into epic stories that not only entertain but also inspires or motivates


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