In the collective imagination, Elon Musk appears as the limitless visionary, the real-life Tony Stark. However, the trajectory of this technological titan is far from being a bed of roses. In fact, Musk has had to overcome countless personal and professional obstacles before becoming the space, automotive, and technology entrepreneur we know today. But what is behind the man who promises to colonize Mars, who wants to reinvent social networks with his visionary X (formerly Twitter) or who wants to lead the disruption of artificial intelligence? How was the character forged of someone who, despite his failures, has continued to pursue utopia?
Thanks to the recent biography written by Walter Isaacson, we can better understand the man behind the myth. Because Musk’s childhood was as diverse as it was complex, marked by unusual circumstances. For example, at age 12, his parents sent him to an extreme survival camp known as Veldskool, a sort of paramilitarized Lord of the Flies that encouraged bullying and fighting for basic resources, such as food and water. . Kimbal, his younger brother, reveals how the biggest and most robust boys worked hard to subjugate the weakest ones. Musk, then a short and emotionally inexperienced young man, not only learned the lessons of scarcity, but also took two beatings that caused him to lose almost five kilos.
Elon Musk’s princess
But that veldskool also offered musk a kind of spiritual enlightenment, especially during his second stay. That year, a larger, judo-trained Musk discovered that physical imposition could become a kind of protective shield against future intimidation. That visceral lesson would become deeply ingrained in his psyche, preparing him for the more abstract battles he would have to fight in the business world.
The circumstances around the Musk family were equally complex. Raised in a violent South Africa, where armed attacks were common, the family had German shepherd dogs trained to attack. An incident with one of these canes left a literal and emotional scar on Elon, a six-year-old boy who refused to punish the dog even after it bit him on the back. This act of compassion cost the animal its life, which was euthanized after the incident, leaving Elon with a deep distrust of authorities and his sense of justice.
The picture would be even more complicated with the influence of his father, Errol Musk. Described as a charismatic but deeply damaging individual, his relationship with Elon was strained, to say the least. Not only did Errol take sides with Elon’s aggressors, but he also insulted and belittled his own son. All of this paternal dynamic left emotional scars that, according to some testimonies in his biography, still continue to affect Musk’s behavior and decisions to this day.
The first Saturday Night Live host with Asperger’s
Added to all this is another limitation that he did not make public until 2022, during his participation in the well-known American comedy program Saturday Night Live. “I’m making history tonight as the first person with Asperger’s to host the show… or at least the first to admit it,” she said then, to the amazement of the entire audience. A neurodevelopmental disorder that is part of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and that usually limits those who suffer from it socially.
In his biography, Musk also mentions the disease, which causes him to be “terrible at picking up on social cues.” Something truly paradoxical, since Elon Musk has declared on countless occasions that his main motivation in life is to save Humanity… What seems to be left over from the equation are humans.
And, perhaps, in that pulse between his love and his dislike for people lies the key to his extravagant personality. Because Elon Musk is much more than a visionary; He is a man forged in the crucible of failure and adversity, a man who has learned to turn weaknesses into strengths and obstacles into springboards to achieve higher goals. And that may be his great legacy, his most valuable lesson: failure is not the end of the game, but rather another page in the book.