When I was just a kid, growing up in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, my favorite comic book super hero was Iron Man.

Back in those days, every super hero had a "secret identity," and Iron Man's was Tony Stark, billionaire industrialist, genius inventor, and innovative entrepreneur.  Iron Man (aka Tony Stark) was recently portrayed in a number of hugely successful blockbuster movies starring Robert Downey, Jr.

The popular press has often called Elon Musk, a "real life Iron Man" because, like the fictional Tony Stark, Elon also happens to be a billionaire industrialist, genius inventor, and innovative entrepreneur.

.....AND a guy who considers a 100 hour work week, "part-time."

Now, if you don't know the name of "Elon Musk," you should, because indirectly he helps you get your Big Dogs commissions.

Y'see, Elon is a co-founder of PayPal.

Elon, contrary to what you may think, was not born with a "silver spoon" in is mouth and was not born into a wealthy family ( a la Donald Trump, etc.)  He was born into a firmly middle-class family.  But he was born with a few natural "gifts:"

  • He has the gift of raw intelligence.  His back-to-back degrees in both economics and physics attest to that.

  • He has the gift of risk-taking.  He's simply not afraid to fail.

  • He was born a workaholic.  His 100 hour work weeks are legendary, despite his 2.7 billion dollar net worth.

  • He was born a visionary.  To paraphrase John F. Kennedy:  "Elon Musk doesn't see things and ask, 'why?'  He sees things that never were and asks, 'why not!'"

Let's take a closer look at this fascinating pioneer, and see what makes him tick.  We just might learn something!

Musk was born in Pretoria, South Africa, in 1971.  After his parents divorced in 1980, Musk lived mostly with his father in locations in South Africa.  It was at this time that he began to show his burgeoning entrepreneurial spirit;  he taught himself computer programming, and at age 12 sold the computer code for a video game called Blastar for $500.

In 1992, Musk transferred to the University of Pennsylvania where he received a bachelor's degree in Physics. He stayed on a year to finish his second bachelor's degree in Economics.  He moved to California to begin a PhD in Applied Physics at Stanford in 1995 but left the program after just two days to pursue his entrepreneurial aspirations in the areas of the Internet, renewable energy, and outer space.

In 2002, he became an American citizen.


Elon began to show his REAL genius for business in 1995, when he and his brother started Zip2, a web software company. The company developed and marketed an Internet "city guide" for the newspaper publishing industry.  Compaq bought Zip2 in 1999, and Elon walked away from his first Internet deal with 22 million dollars in cash.  Not too shabby for a "job" that he had for just four years!

Now, at the ripe, "old" age of 28, and with 22 MILLION dollars in his pocket, he COULD have "retired to a private island, or traveled the world on permanent vacation" (after all, isn't that what Internet millionaires are SUPPOSED to do???).  Instead, Elon did what most truly successful people do.

He immediately started his next business venture.....


In March 1999, Musk co-founded "X.Com," an online financial services and e-mail payment company.  One year later, the company merged with Confinity which operated a "minor" (at the time) subsidiary called PayPal.  PayPal and X.com each had a person-to-person email-based payment system.  The original intent was to merge the two systems, but Musk strongly favored the PayPal brand over the X brand.

(Now, although Musk seems to have that gift of never failing, his co-founder of PayPal, Max Levchin, has not been as inherently lucky.  But, as you can see by his remarks at the right, Max DID have that other gift of the successful entrepreneur - never giving up!)

PayPal's early growth was due in large part to a successful viral growth campaign created by Musk.   It was at this time that Musk showed his talent for being "in the right place at the right time;"  in October 2002, PayPal was acquired by eBay.

THIS time Musk walked away with $165 million!

What did he do then?  Did he take six months off so he could party with fashion models in Monaco? Nope.  He started his NEXT business venture!.....


Ever, the dreamer. Musk was influenced by Isaac Asimov's science fiction masterpiece "Foundation" and views space exploration as an important step in expanding the consciousness of human life.

Thus, in June 2002, Musk founded his third company, Space Exploration Technologies - SpaceX - with $100 million of his own moneyHe could have lost it all, but in 2012 SpaceX was awarded a $1.6 billion NASA contract for 12 flights of its Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station, replacing the Space Shuttle after it retired in 2011.

Musk feels that multiplanetary life may serve as a hedge against threats to the survival of the human species. "An asteroid or a super volcano could destroy us, and we face risks the dinosaurs never saw: an engineered virus, inadvertent creation of a micro black hole, catastrophic global warming or some as-yet-unknown technology could spell the end of us. Humankind evolved over millions of years, but in the last sixty years atomic weaponry created the potential to extinguish ourselves. Sooner or later, we must expand life beyond this green and blue ball—or go extinct."

In September 2009, SpaceX's Falcon 1 rocket became the first privately funded liquid-fuelled vehicle to put a satellite into Earth orbit.  And on May 25, 2012, the SpaceX Dragon vehicle made history as the first commercial company to launch and dock a vehicle to the International Space Station.

Tesla Motors

Tesla Motors first gained world-wide attention following their production of the Tesla Roadster, the first fully electric sports car.  Musk assumed leadership of the company in 2008 as CEO and product architect, positions he still holds today.  The company is named after electrical engineer and physicist Nikola Tesla.  Interestingly the Tesla Roadster uses an AC motor descended directly from Tesla's original 1882 design!  The Tesla Roadster, the company's first vehicle, is the first production automobile to use lithium-ion battery cells and the first production all-electric vehicle with a range greater than 200 miles per charge.

Amazingly, Musk's Roadster can accelerate from zero to 60 mph in under 4 seconds and has a top speed of 125 mph!

Several mainstream publications have compared Elon Musk with Henry Ford for his work on advanced vehicle powertrains.

Musk's annual salary at Tesla is just one dollar, and similar to Steve Jobs and others, the remainder of his compensation is in the form of stock and performance-based bonuses.  Sounds like a good deal to me;  he is reported to have a 32% stake in Tesla, which is valued at 18 billion dollars.


Musk provided the initial concept for SolarCity, which was then co-founded in 2006 by his cousins Lyndon and Peter Rive.  Musk remains the largest shareholder, and SolarCity is now the largest provider of solar power systems in the United States.

The underlying motivation for funding both SolarCity and Tesla is to help combat global warming.  On June 17, 2014, Musk committed to building a Solar City advanced production facility in Buffalo, NY that would triple the size of the largest solar plant in the United States. Musk stated the plant will be "one of the single largest solar panel production plants in the world," and it will be followed by one or more even bigger facilities in subsequent years.

Personal life

In spite of the fact that Elon has a few bucks (sic), he sounds like a real fun guy;  the kinda guy I'd like to sit down with and have a good cigar and a glass of 18 year old scotch.  Some of the things he does to "fill the hours" include:

Musk has described himself as a workaholic and has said he can work up to 100 hours per week running Tesla Motors and SpaceX. The SpaceX factory was used as a filming location for the movie sequel "Iron Man 2" and Musk has a small part in the movie.

The 1994 model Dassault Falcon 900 aircraft used in the 2005 film "Thank You for Smoking" is registered to Musk, and Musk had a cameo as the pilot of his plane, opening the door for Robert Duvall and escorting Aaron Eckhart aboard.

Musk owns the Lotus Esprit from the James Bond film "The Spy Who Loved Me."  He plans to convert it into the fully functional car-submarine from the film!

Awards and recognition
(You gotta be kiddin' me.  I'm almost embarassed to say I share the same planet with this guy!)

  • Listed as one of Time's 100 people who most affected the world in 2010.
  • The world governing body for aerospace records, Fédération Aéronautique Internationale, presented Musk in 2010 with the highest award in air and space, the FAI Gold Space Medal, for designing the first privately developed rocket to reach orbit.
  • Named as one of the 75 most influential people of the 21st century by Esquire magazine.
  • In June 2011, Musk was awarded the $500,000 Heinlein Prize for Advances in Space Commercialization
  • In February 2011, Forbes listed Musk as one of "America's 20 Most Powerful CEOs 40 And Under".
  • Recognized as a Living Legend in Aviation in 2010 by the Kitty Hawk Foundation for creating the successor to the Space Shuttle.
  • American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics George Low award for the most outstanding contribution in the field of space transportation in 2007/2008.
  • National Space Society's Von Braun Trophy in 2008/2009, given for leadership of the most significant achievement in space.
  • The Aviation Week 2008 Laureate for the most significant achievement worldwide in the space industry.
  • R&D Magazine Innovator of the Year for 2007 for SpaceX, Tesla and SolarCity.
  • Automotive Executive of the Year (worldwide) in 2010 for demonstrating technology leadership and innovation via Tesla Motors.
  • Inc Magazine Entrepreneur of the Year award for 2007.
  • Global Green 2006 product design award for his design of the Tesla Roadster, presented by Mikhail Gorbachev.
  • In 2010, Musk was elected to the board of trustees of the California Institute of Technology.
  • In 2011, Musk was honored as a Legendary Leader at the Churchill Club Awards.
  • In 2012, Musk was awarded with the Royal Aeronautical Society's highest award – a Gold Medal.
  • Musk was the 2012 recipient of Smithsonian magazine's American Ingenuity Award in the Technology category.
  • In 2013, Musk was named the Fortune Businessperson of the year.

Thanks for listening, fellow Big Dogs!  I trust you got some valuable pointers from a real over-achiever.  And now I'd like to leave you with some words from the Big Dog himself:

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