The secret that made Elon Musk rich

The secret that made Elon Musk rich

Elon Musk has not only built successful businesses, he’s crafted an entire public persona.

The Tesla CEO’s posts on X create big waves — from stock prices to economic predictions. And while he might seem quirky and opinionated, there’s a clever strategy behind his celebrity status — and he cultivated it very deliberately.

Early on in creating SpaceX (which he started in 2002), Musk wisely realized that he’d need a lot of resources to get his rockets to space, according to a 2012 Esquire profile. Though his earlier startup, PayPal, sold to eBay for $1.5 billion, he wasn’t near the celebrity he is today back in the early 2000s.

“Nobody will sell me any parts if they don’t know who I am,” Musk is reported to have told his mother, as an explanation for why he was chasing celebrity status.

This plan has worked out fairly well for Musk. He’s now a bonafide celebrity and SpaceX has even partnered with NASA over the years. And these achievements aren’t even counting his Tesla success and Twitter takeover (now known as X).

Musk is now the world’s second-richest person, garnering himself a $180 billion net worth, according to Forbes. If he hadn’t bet on himself early on, he may not have gotten here. Here’s how you can do the same to grow your own wealth.

Read books

Musk has a secret weapon for building successful businesses. And it’s not financial savvy or his engineering prowess.

“Whenever anybody asks Elon how he learned to build rockets, he says, ‘I read books,’” Jim Cantrell, a founding member of SpaceX, told Esquire.

Musk would read Cantrell’s old college textbooks on rocketry and propulsion to learn about how to build a rocket company. When Cantrell saw how much he read, he realized that Musk was “the smartest guy” he’d ever met. This convinced the then-aerospace consultant to join SpaceX — even though he’d never heard of Musk before.

But Musk had started reading space books way before he met Cantrell. Rolling Stone reports that he’s still inspired by his favorite book as a 10-year-old: “Foundation,” Isaac Asimov’s science fiction trilogy.

Musk isn’t the only one who believes in the usefulness of reading when building your wealth. Bill Gates wrote in a LinkedIn post that he wishes he read more as a young man. And legendary investor Warren Buffett is reported to have told a hedge fund manager that he believes that learning through reading is akin to compound interest on your investments.

Have a vision

Though many 10-year-old boys are fascinated by space, Musk has never stopped trying to get there.

“If you want what he wants, life can be very exciting — that’s how he seduces people, I think: He taps into a shared dream,” Musk’s first wife, Justine, told Esquire in 2012.

This obsession with his dream no doubt contributed to the end of their marriage (he didn’t even bother to tell Justine that he’d started SpaceX). But it has been a huge boon to his career. Esquire reports that his long-term dream to “make humanity interplanetary” is how he’s been able to recruit brilliant, driven people to work for and invest in SpaceX and turn it into a NASA partner.

Creating a vision of what you want out of life is important when it comes to your financial goals, too. What does your dream retirement look like? Do you plan to travel or are you more of a homebody? Do you want to support your family through major milestones like college and buying a home or do you hope to leave them an inheritance someday?

Once you have a vision of your ideal retirement, you can build an investment strategy around that. Naturally, you’ll also want to consider factors like how close you are to retirement and your own personal risk tolerance. But having a vision for your post-work years is one of the best ways to get yourself on board for the sacrifices you’ll need to make today to ensure you get the other-wordly future you’re dreaming of.

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