The Untold Truth Of Elon Musk

One of the most popular billionaires in terms of entertainment, Elon Musk has become a household name for creating some of the most advanced companies that have disrupted the long-standing automotive and aerospace industries. They are Tesla, with its electric vehicles, and SpaceX, a company creating rockets to blast off into space. To dream up these ideas, Musk is known for his passion and vision above all else. Musk genuinely believes that humans can one day occupy another planet and he believes he can make that dream a reality. Back on Earth, Musk is striving to use technology to improve the quality of life for everyone. "I'm just trying to get people to Mars, and enable freedom of information with Starlink, accelerate sustainable technology with Tesla, free people from the drudgery of driving," Musk told Financial Times. He also is aware that reaching the end result will involve plenty of hard work and less-than-glamorous moments along the way. "It's certainly possible that the road to hell to some degree is paved with good intentions — but the road to hell is mostly paved with bad intentions," Musk added.

The same qualities that helped Musk become a successful businessman also alienated him from others. Behind the scenes of success is a more complicated story, often with controversies that are only heightened given his global influence. Even with multiple setbacks, Musk continues to progress and reach for the stars.

Tech fans and big dreamers get ready for the untold truth of Elon Musk.

Elon Musk had an international upbringing

Elon Musk was born in 1971 in Pretoria, South Africa. His mom, Maye Musk, moved to the country from Canada when she became a professional model. While in South Africa, she met Errol Musk, who was an engineer. The couple had three children together: Elon, the oldest, Kimbal, the middle child, and Tosca, the youngest, The Guardian recapped.

Errol and Maye separated when the kids were young and all three initially stayed with their dad. "I took them all over the world," Errol told Forbes about spending time with his children. He recalled, "Elon was generally in the back seat. Kimbal, my other son who is just as energetic as Elon, would do all the guiding and navigating." He also remembered Elon having a curious mind and asking questions that Errol said "made me realize that he was a little different."

Kimbal also went in an entrepreneurship direction and focused his efforts in the farming and food industry. He co-founded Square Roots, a company creating indoor farming solutions and "enabling local food at a global scale, year round." Tosca, Elon's younger sister, went to the University of British Columbia to study film. She became an actor, writer, and director, well-known for her behind-the-scenes work on the TV series "Driven," per IMDb. Later, Tosca helped create the Passionflix platform to turn romance novels into movies, series, and short videos. Part of Tosca's mission was to "empower women through emotional strength, removing shame from female sexuality."

He has a mixed relationship with education

Elon Musk came to North America following his mom and dad's divorce, per The Guardian. He settled in Canada and started his higher education at Queen's University in Ontario to study physics. He transferred to the University of Pennsylvania and earned two bachelor's degrees, one in physics and the other in economics from the Wharton School. Musk headed to the West Coast as a Ph.D. candidate in engineering and physics at Stanford University in California, CNBC recapped.

For work experience, Musk was a summer intern at the Bank of Nova Scotia during his studies at Queen's University. Prior to starting his Ph.D. at Stanford University, Musk interned "at an energy storage start-up called Pinnacle Research Institute during the day and at the Palo Alto-based start-up Rocket Science Games at night," per CNBC.

Musk summarized his experiences with higher education in a single tweet. "I arrived in North America at 17 w $2000, a backpack & a suitcase full of books. Paid my own way thru college. Dropped out of Stanford Eng/Phys grad school w $110k in college debt." Musk dropped out to start a company with his brother Kimbal and Greg Khouri. The three guys eventually sold their business, Zip2 Corporation, which worked on internet city guides, The New York Times reported. Musk later glorified life as a college dropout. "I don't consider going to college evidence of exceptional ability," he told The Guardian. "In fact, ideally you dropped out," he added.

The reason Elon Musk started Tesla

Still just a twenty-something, Elon Musk created a digital payment website called, per Business Insider. He merged with the company Confinity, which rebranded as PayPal in 2000, The Street recapped. Musk was briefly the CEO of the company until he was fired after returning from a work trip, per Inc. Then, Musk had even bigger plans and wanted to prove Silicon Valley could compete with traditional automakers. "We did Tesla essentially out of desperation, not because we thought it would be lucrative, but just to show that it could be done," Musk told Financial Times. Unsurprisingly, his competition criticized him for trying something outside of internet technology, "basically calling Tesla and me fools and frauds," Musk revealed. He said the companies that produced vehicles running on gasoline "were saying electric cars wouldn't work, you can't achieve the range and performance. And even if you did that, nobody would buy them."

Musk believed in electric cars so much that he initially self-funded Tesla Motors with $37 million of his own money by 2007, per Inc. Tesla released its first vehicle, the Roadster, to mostly positive reviews. Following the release of the Model S, the company rolled out its third model. In preparation for the debut of the Tesla Model 3 car, Musk felt immense pressure to deliver another hit. "This year felt like five years of aging, frankly," Musk admitted in 2018 to Vox. "The worst year of my entire career. Insanely painful," Musk revealed.

The tech titan's personality is divisive

Even early in his career, Elon Musk was known as much for his passion and technical aspirations as his personal character. "The people who know me generally have a good impression," Musk told The New Yorker in 2009. The entrepreneur then clarified, "Generally, if I didn't fire them, then they have a good impression." Reports from those close to Musk claimed that at times he could be closer to a tyrant than a humble tech nerd. In fact, one source told Vanity Fair that Musk could be perceived as a "bully" to some. The same person also claimed that Musk and other high-profile tech leaders like the oft-derided Mark Zuckerberg "all exhibit tendencies of total and complete pathological sociopathy."

When he hosted "Saturday Night Live," Musk summed up his personality during his opening monologue. "To anyone I've offended, I just want to say, I reinvented electric cars, and I'm sending people to Mars on a rocket ship. Did you think I was also gonna be a chill, normal dude?" He also revealed in the monologue that he has Asperger's syndrome and claimed he was the first host on the sketch comedy program with the syndrome. People in the medical community pointed out that the term "Asperger's" is slightly outdated and rather is considered a part of autism spectrum disorder, per WebMD. The disorder is "a complex developmental condition that involves persistent challenges in social interaction, speech and nonverbal communication, and restricted/repetitive behaviors," according to the American Psychiatric Association.

What Elon Musk thinks about the future of tech

As a main figure in the technology industry, Elon Musk has been open about thoughts on future tech. For example, he talked about the next generation of the internet, often referred to as Web3, on Twitter. He wrote, "I'm not suggesting web3 is real — seems more marketing buzzword than reality right now — just wondering what the future will be like in 10, 20 or 30 years. 2051 sounds crazy futuristic!" After he posted another tweet asking, "Has anyone seen web3? I can't find it," Twitter's founder, Jack Dorsey, replied, "It's somewhere between a and z." Musk continued to dig in on the topic when he said about Twitter's option to have NFT profile photos, "This is annoying."

Perhaps the biggest technology of Web3 is cryptocurrency. The most well-known is Bitcoin, but thanks to Musk's influence, people learned of another type of cryptocurrency called dogecoin. The cryptocurrency got its name from an internet meme and features a Shiba Inu dog as the literal face of the virtual coin, per Financial Times. "Dogecoin is the people's crypto," Musk tweeted in 2021.

He later clarified his thoughts on physical fiat currency – like the euro and U.S. dollar — versus cryptocurrency. According to Musk, "there are advantages with crypto relative to fiat in that fiat currency tends to get diluted by whatever government it is," he told Time. Thanks to his involvement with PayPal, Musk said few people know more than him about the financial system.

The billionaire loves Twitter

Elon Musk is more active on social media than many of his fellow billionaires. Musk prefers to use Twitter and has developed quite an active fanbase. As of March 2022, he had over 77 million followers on his Twitter account, which made him the 11th most followed person on the platform, according to Social Blade. "I find it entertaining," Musk told Vox about tweeting. The entrepreneur discusses more topics than just business, and he lets out his personal brand of humor. For example, Musk once joked he was going to release an album. Similar to his other tweets, it can be difficult to discern what is real or not on Musk's feed. "As is obvious from my tweets, they're humor that I find funny, but not many other people find funny," Musk told Time

Musk explained he is more focused on entertainment than trying to advertise for his companies. He also admitted that while it may appear he dedicates a lot of his free time to Twitter, in reality, he's only using the site for about 10 to 15 minutes each day. "I tweet interesting things pretty much as they come to me, and probably with not much of a filter," he told Vox. "Some people use their hair to express themselves. I use Twitter," Musk concluded.

His love of Twitter once backfired. In 2018, the SEC charged him with fraud because of "a series of false and misleading tweets about a potential transaction to take Tesla private."

Elon Musk started controversy in sketch comedy

"Saturday Night Live" hosts are often celebrities or other well-known faces in entertainment. A few times, the show has expanded its host search with mixed results. For example, Donald Trump hosted the show in 2015. The show once again made waves when it announced in 2021 that Elon Musk would host. In preparation, Musk asked on Twitter, "Throwing out some skit ideas for SNL. What should I do?" One of his own suggestions was "Irony Man — defeats villains using the power of irony."

Some members of the cast were excited. "I'm gonna ask him for a Tesla," Pete Davidson said on "Late Night with Seth Meyers." In the week leading up to the show, Musk had dinner with a few of the show's players and he told Page Six, "[The] 'SNL' cast and writers have been awesome so far!" Michael Che, who works on the "Weekend Update" segment of "SNL," revealed on Power 105.1 FM's "The Breakfast Club" that he was having a positive experience with Musk. "It's fun. It's exciting working with the richest man in the world," he said. Che also praised the sketch comedy show for stirring up some controversy because to him, "I like when the show kinda has that edge." Other cast members were less than happy to have the billionaire hanging around the set. Like when Bowen Yang and Aidy Bryant both went on social media to announce their frustration with Musk as the host, via The New York Times.

The issues with his businesses

Though Tesla is working on next-generation technologies, the company has faced several controversies. For example, a Tesla that was used by the G7 taxi firm in Paris caused a fatal crash that killed one and injured 20 in the European city. Initially, some believed the Tesla malfunctioned because the driver claimed the car "had accelerated on its own and that its brakes had not worked," Reuters recapped. "There are no elements that would lead one to believe it was tied to a technical problem," the French transportation minister explained, via The Guardian. Still, as a result, G7 removed all Tesla Model 3 vehicles from its fleet.

The future possibilities of Tesla's vision don't always match the stark reality of the operations. Like when the company was sued for trying to suppress workers from unionizing by threatening the employees financially, The New York Times reported. In May of 2020, Musk resumed in-person Tesla operations because he felt pandemic restrictions were "dumb," per The New York Times. As a result, PlainSite tweeted that at least 400 workers at the Tesla production plant in Fremont, California, tested positive for COVID-19.

For all his appearances in the news, Musk has built a mixed relationship with different publications. For example, Vanity Fair reached out to the entrepreneur for a 2020 article and he responded with, "Vanity Fair sucks." According to a source, Musk no longer works with a public relations specialist and instead, "Elon is his own communications director now."

Inside Elon Musk's love life

While attending school at Queen's University in Canada, Elon Musk met Justine Wilson, a novelist. She told Marie Claire that Musk "noticed me from across the common room and decided he wanted to meet me." The two married in 2000 and by 2008, Musk filed for divorce. "Six weeks later, he texted me to say he was engaged to a gorgeous British actress in her early 20s who had moved to Los Angeles to be with him," Wilson told Marie Claire about Musk. His new fiancée was Talulah Riley, an actor known for her role on the HBO series "Westworld." The two married and divorced twice before Musk moved on to Johnny Depp's ex-wife Amber Heard, Page Six recapped. After about a year together with Heard, Musk paired up with the Canadian musician Grimes, whose real name is Claire Boucher. The romance was quick and very public, like when the two attended the Met Gala together. 

Ultimately, the relationship became less serious. "Grimes and I are, I'd say, probably semi-separated. Her work has her being in different places a lot vs. my work," Musk told Time. He explained Grimes was often on the road or in Los Angeles to support her music career while Musk spent a lot of time in less exciting locations. "I'm human and all; I'm not a robot, but this place is basically a techno monastery," Musk admitted about working at his remote SpaceX facility in Boca Chica, Texas.

Life as a dad for the SpaceX CEO

Elon Musk and his wife Justine Wilson welcomed their first child together in 2002, Nevada Alexander Musk. Sadly, their son died at just 10 weeks old. A few years later, the couple had twin boys together, named Xavier and Griffin. Then, in 2006, Musk and Wilson had triplets together — three more sons, whom they named Kai, Saxon, and Damian, Page Six recapped.

When asked about having so many children, Musk said he felt partly like it was his duty to humanity. In his opinion, "You should have, on average, 2.1 kids per woman," Musk told The New Yorker. Even more, he believed that well-educated and smart members of society definitely need to procreate "so we don't devolve into a not very literate, theocratic, and unenlightened future." 

Musk smashed his proposed average number of children when he had his sixth son in 2020, this time, with Grimes. Musk shared a photo on Twitter of the newborn with tattoos photoshopped on his face. The couple named him X Æ A-Xii. Musk explained to The New York Times that the name is pronounced "just like the letter X. AE is pronounced 'ash', as in Old English. A-12 is also pronounced just like it reads. Refers to the Archangel-12 C.I.A. reconnaissance plane." As far as fatherhood duties, Musk revealed that Grimes did a lot of heavy lifting in caring for their new baby "X." According to the entrepreneur, "Well, babies are just eating and pooping machines, you know?"

Why is Elon Musk obsessed with tunnels?

While Elon Musk is glancing up at the stars with the possibility of space travel, he is also looking down — way down. "Traffic is driving me nuts. Am going to build a tunnel boring machine and just start digging ...," he posted on Twitter in 2016. Given Musk's grand aspirations in many different fields, he decided to actually follow through with his plan to ease his frustration. As a result, Musk founded The Boring Company. One of his first projects was to create tunnels underneath Los Angeles to help alleviate the city's famous traffic jams. Musk once referred to the project as a "weird little Disney ride in the middle of LA," per CNN. After at least $10 million invested in the project, Musk finally completed his tunnel. Following his test ride in the underground path, Musk said, "It was an epiphany, it's going to damn well work."

Expanding outside of Los Angeles, Musk created a workable tunnel under Las Vegas. The system involved Tesla cars operating autonomously and acting like a taxi taking passengers from one end of the tunnel to another. While the idea sounds nice in theory, the operations received mixed reviews in practice. Ironically, some users still experienced traffic jams in the tunnels, per Curbed.

Still, some cities believe the idea could be a viable solution. Fort Lauderdale, Florida, worked with The Boring Company on a contract to build a three-mile-long tunnel stretching from the city to the beach, the Observer reported.

Exploring space with the entrepeneur

At the start of the new millennium, Elon Musk started to get serious about his out-of-this-world aspirations. He founded the Space Exploration Technology Corp., or SpaceX, in 2002. According to his company's mission, Musk is dreaming about a future full of possibilities that are better than the present. "And I can't think of anything more exciting than going out there and being among the stars," Musk said. Specifically, Musk wants humans to one day travel to and perhaps live on Mars thanks in part to SpaceX.

"The likelihood of humanity gaining a true understanding of the universe is greater if we expand the scope and scale of civilization, and have more time to think about it," Musk told The New Yorker about potential colonization off-Earth. The first step in his grand plan was creating next-generation rockets. In 2012, SpaceX successfully delivered cargo to outer space on its Dragon spacecraft. Less than a decade later, SpaceX was continuing to grow in success and influence. The company launched 26 missions in 2020, including twice sending astronauts to the International Space Station, according to Space.

Part of Musk's fascination with space started as a young boy when he fell in love with the classic science fiction novel "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy." His obsession with the red planet and space travel also earned Musk the nickname King of Mars. "Sure, I mean, emperor, come on," Musk told The New York Times about another possible title.

Elon Musk's thoughts on his competition

As one of the wealthiest people in the world, Elon Musk is familiar with other members of the billionaire club and has some strong words to say about these other well-known names — for example, his younger counterpart Mark Zuckerberg. "I'm more concerned about the fact that Facebook, now Meta, has an equity structure that makes it such that his great-great-­grandchildren will still control the company," Musk told Time about Zuckerberg. In Musk's opinion, Meta's "share structures that give super-voting rights should be removed."

Musk's biggest competition in business is definitely Jeff Bezos. The founder of Amazon also created Blue Origin, a company dedicated to private spaceflight. In 2021, Bezos joined the crew for the company's first test flight to outer space. Musk believes he is better at Bezos when it comes to technology and science, though he confessed Bezos has "reasonably good engineering aptitude," per Financial Times. Musk also said of his rival, "He does not seem to be willing to spend mental energy getting into the details of engineering." According to the Tesla founder, "The devil's in the details." Musk also criticized Bezos' personality and believed he "does take himself a bit too seriously." For business, Musk admitted that competition for his space company is a good thing, but he couldn't say something positive about Bezos without taking another opportunity to take a dig at his rival. According to Musk, he believed Bezos "should spend more time at Blue Origin and less time in the hot tub."

The charitable side of the Tesla CEO

With so much money in his bank account, Elon Musk has been known to be generous in terms of helping charitable causes. At the end of 2021, he made a monster donation to an undisclosed charity, which received Tesla shares worth more than $5.7 billion, Reuters reported. This was part of a grand total of $16.4 billion that Musk sold of Tesla shares. While it was nice that a large chunk went to a good cause, the move also came with some financial gain. Musk revealed on Twitter that he would need to pay excess taxes of around $11 billion dollars if he didn't sell off some of his shares.

The donation was by far the biggest single gift by Musk in his philanthropic career. Up to that point, he reportedly donated $280 million of his lifetime earnings to charities, per Forbes. A lot of Musk's money went towards projects in math and science, like the XPRIZE Foundation. The organization holds competitions for teams with big ideas. The first-ever prize of $10 million went to the best team for innovations in private spaceflight. Musk went even bigger and sponsored a competition to see who could create technology to best remove excess carbon from the atmosphere. According to Forbes, Musk contributed half of the $100 million in total prize money for the XPRIZE, a competition that runs until 2025. As for more traditional charities, "Musk gave $55 million to St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital."

Here's how much Elon Musk is really worth

Elon Musk has accrued enough money for both Earth and other planets if he so chooses. As the founder and CEO of Tesla, Musk had a 17% percent stake in his company as of February 2022, per CNBC, which also made him the majority shareholder. Adding in Musk's other business ventures, the entrepreneur was worth an estimated $208 billion in March 2022, according to Bloomberg. While that amount made him the richest person in the world at the time, it could be minuscule compared to his potential earnings. As the founder of SpaceX, Musk is the majority shareholder, owning more than half of the company, which could be insanely lucrative in the future. More than just rockets, SpaceX is also interested in the communication sector by sending satellites into orbit. If it all plays out for SpaceX as planned, Musk could more than quadruple his net worth and become the first-ever trillionaire, according to Barron's.

With some of his money, Musk has collected an impressive assortment of cars, per Business Insider. Yes, some of them are Teslas, but he hasn't been shy about buying non-electric vehicles. Like when he paid $866,000 for the Lotus Sub that was featured in the James Bond film "The Spy Who Loved Me," Jalopnik reported.

Still, Musk doesn't think that money can buy everything. For example, he believed President Vladimir Putin of Russia "is significantly richer than me. I can't invade countries and stuff," Musk told Time.