How Was Elon Musk So Energetic In His 20s

There’s an unexpected reason to the madness

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Steve Jurvetson Flickr

A college experience straight from Animal House

Elon transitioned smoothly into the college lifestyle at the University of Pennsylvania. It was an improvement from a grim childhood. He grew up in South Africa during the apartheid and attended a school that typified the country’s white alpha male culture; Elon, a geeky kid interested in space and computer games, was often bullied. To make matters worse, he came home to an abusive relationship with his father.

Elon’s first start-Up and mid-twenties growing pains

Elon tackled the internet first. In 1995, Elon and his brother Kimball formed a start-up called Global Link, later named Zip2. I’m sure most of you don’t remember this company, I didn’t, but Zip2 was the OG internet business directory, a digital Yellow Pages.

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The atrocious affair

In 1998, Zip2 was on the verge of a dream merger with a competitor valued at around $300 million. The companies complimented each other well and together would become the country’s top online business directory. Details on what happened next differ, but Elon turned on Zip2’s CEO Sorkin and neglected the deal.

Where did his energy come from?

Maybe Elon looks back on his twenties and cringes at the sweaty all-nighters and clashes with colleagues. Our 20s are littered with harsh lessons and painful memories. But he succeeded. He had a great idea, the stamina to lift the idea off the ground, and sold it for good money.

He’s addicted to building

He’s interested in building stuff, that’s obvious. I would take that a step further and say he’s addicted to building stuff. Zip2 was an internet company, not the most tangible service, but he built it from scratch which requires an engineer’s focus like a child hallowed to a new Lego set. Take his college video games binges and multiply it by 100 and that’s his work ethic.

An unexpected calling

There’s a philosophical parable that I couldn’t get out of my head while writing this article.

“If you take a moment to reflect on the times in your life when you’ve really been at your best — when you’ve risen to the challenges before you, finding the strength to do what might have seemed impossible — you realize that the goals you achieved were connected in some way, shape or form to the benefit of others.”

— Angela Duckworth

Interests will start you down a path, but, at some point, your calling must include other people.

The next generation of engineers

I went back and re-listened to Elon’s interview with Joe Rogan. He said something within the first 20 minutes of the podcasts that caught my attention.

Written by

Commercial real estate broker, blogger, and researcher. 27 years old. And here’s my newsletter

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