During the Covid-19 pandemic, Elon Musk, the world's richest man, saw his fortune increase by 924 percent. His meteoric rise has prompted comparisons to Steve Jobs, Henry Ford, and Bill Gates, among other visionary corporate leaders. Musk developed a strong work ethic (he is reported to work up to 120 hours per week) and a tenacious, single-minded vision after an often-traumatic childhood.
Musk graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Physics, as well as a Bachelor of Arts in Economics from the Wharton School. The two majors indicate the trajectory of Musk’s career, but it was actually physics that made the deepest impression. “(Physics is) a good framework for thinking,” he would later say. “Boil things down to their fundamental truths and reason up from there.”
Musk travelled to California at the age of 24 to obtain a Ph.D. in applied physics at Stanford University. Musk, though, had entrepreneurial fantasies dancing in his head as the Internet exploded and Silicon Valley boomed. He only lasted two days in the Ph.D. program.
During his appearance on the TV show Saturday Night Live in May last year, Musk disclosed he has Asperger's syndrome, which is a mild form of autism spectrum disorder. "I'm actually making history tonight as the first person with Asperger's to host SNL. Or at least the first person to admit it," he said. How does neurodevelopment condition manifest itself? "I don't always have a lot of intonation or variation in how I speak, which I'm told makes for great comedy," Musk said.
But when asked what advice he would give to students in high school or college who want to make it big and have a great impact on the world on the Lex Fridman Podcast, Elon Musk had five things to say.
Elon Musk on Lex Fridman's podcast
Musk's first piece of advice was for individuals to "attempt to be useful."
"Do activities that benefit your fellow humans and the globe," the billionaire advised Fridman. "It's difficult to be beneficial, really difficult," he added.
Musk remarked in the podcast that if someone lives a productive life, it is a "life worth having lived."
Contribute to society
The second piece of advice he gave in the podcast was that people should give back more than they take in.
He advised Fridman to "try to have a positive nett contribution to society." "That's a goal worth pursuing."
"I have a lot of respect for someone who puts in an honest day's work," Musk stated on the show.
Don't try to be a leader
Musk also cautioned young people against attempting to be a leader solely for the sake of being a leader.
He told Fridman, "A lot of the time, the individuals you want as leaders are the people who don't want to be leaders."
Read books and absorb information
Musk told Fridman on the podcast that as a kid, he studied the encyclopedia cover to cover.
He said, "I would advise them to read a lot of literature." It is important to try to absorb as much material as possible while also developing a decent general knowledge base so you can get a basic sense of the knowledge environment.
Talk to people
His final main piece of advice which he said in the podcast was for young people to talk to other people.
"Talk to people from different walks of life, and different industries, and professions and skills," he told Fridman. "Learn as much as possible.
And there you have it - five easy steps to success!