If you’ve seen Iron Man or any of the other recent Marvel action movies, you’ve seen the moxie of Elon Musk.

The big-thinking, slightly enigmatic, wildly successful serial entrepreneur inspired the screen interpretation of Tony Stark, the wealthy genius engineer who jets around saving the world encased in a fantastical suit that imbues him with all manner of super powers.

Just like the character he inspired, Elon Musk wants to save the world. He made his fortune in the tech boom of the early 2000s, spinning up companies that got snatched up by other, bigger companies. One of his biggest earliest successes was the creation of the company that eventually became PayPal.

He’s plowing the fortune he made on those deals into his passion for changing where we can go and how we can get there. And for Musk, not even the sky is the limit.

Musk founded SpaceX in 2002 “to enable humans to become a spacefaring civilization and a multi-planet species by building a self-sustaining city on Mars.” Why does he want to put people in space? He’s concerned that we’re rapidly destroying the planet, and will eventually make it uninhabitable. Mars may be our only hope.

If the space thing doesn’t work out, he’s got another angle. Musk is also the founder of Tesla, which is working to put electric cars within reach of everyone. If he can’t get us into space, maybe the electric cars will at least slow the destruction of this planet.

When I encounter interesting and successful people, I often wonder what they were like as children. How did this fascinating person get his or her start? Was it clear from the beginning that this person was special or different?

In the case of Elon Musk the answer is yes.

He’s was a dreamer then, and he still is. When he was a child, he would frequently disappear into his own world, staring off into the distance and not communicating. His parents were concerned about the episodes until they realized he was simply imagining and creating in his own head.

He was bullied as a kid. Elon was clearly a genius as a child, and entered school early. As the youngest and smallest and smartest in his class, he was the odd man out and endured harsh bullying throughout his school career. In one particularly brutal episode, he was thrown down a flight of stairs and beaten so badly he lost consciousness.

I wonder how those bullies are doing now? Unlikely that they have achieved anything near the success of their victim.

This particular apple did not fall far from the tree. Musk comes from a long line of big thinkers, risk-takers and overachievers. His great grandmother was Canada’s first chiropractor. His grandmother and grandfather. His father was a pilot, sailor and engineer, and his mother is a nutritionist and model who at the age of 69 became the face of Cover Girl cosmetics. Musk grew up steeped in a family culture that valued adventure and exploration and challenge, and it gave him a head start in the pursuit of his own big ideas.

Some people are born with moxie. Some people are molded with moxie. In Elon’s case, both may be true.

Who do you know that was born with moxie? Did you grow up with anyone who clearly had “it” as a child and has grown up to do great things?

 

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