Elon Musk: A Story of Change

“Some people don’t like change, but you need to embrace change if the alternative is disaster.”


They say that the only constant in life is change.


If there is anyone on this planet that knows the implications of that, it is Elon Musk.


Just looking at his first line on Wikipedia tells you all that you need to know about what change means to Mr. Musk.


“A South African-born Canadian American business magnate, investor, engineer, and inventor.”


There are few people with as diverse of a citizenship background as Musk and even fewer who have experienced the level of success that he has had in so many different ventures.


But his story goes deeper than that.


Let’s take a look at Elon Musk’s story to get a better idea of what made him into the leader that he is today.


A Curious Child


Born in 1971 to a Canadian mother who was both a model and a dietician and a South African father who was an electromechanical engineer, pilot, and sailor, Elon Musk learned from a very early age that living a static life wouldn’t get him very far.


After his parents divorced in 1980, he also learned that sometimes life would change whether you’re ready for it or not.


Although Elon was intellectually curious from a young age (he loved to read, program computers, and create video games), he was also bullied severely in school.


In one instance, a group of three boys threw him down a flight of stairs and then beat him until he was unconscious.


Ready for a Change in Scenery


After finishing high school shortly before he turned 18, Elon decided that he was ready for a change of scenery.


Thus, he obtained Canadian citizenship through his mother and left South Africa to attend Queen’s University in Ontario.  


Despite being enrolled in one of the most prestigious universities in the world, Musk again felt that he was not in the right place at the right time.


So, he left.


Musk then enrolled in the University of Pennsylvania, where he went on to earn a Bachelor of Science in physics from the College of Arts and Sciences and a Bachelor of Science through the Wharton School of Business.


After a successful undergraduate career, Elon thought that graduate school was the next logical step in his career.


The result? Maybe you can guess.


After enrolling as a PhD student in Stanford University’s applied physics and materials science program, Musk felt the urge for change yet again.


So, he left. After two days.


The Beginning of a Storied Career


Leaving that PhD program turned out the be one of the best decisions that Elon Musk ever made. Instead of researching, writing, and being paid much less than he was worth, Elon and his brother set off to begin their own company.


This company was called Zip2.


A web software company that acted as a city guide, Zip2 was eventually bought out by Compaq for a cool $307 million in 1999 (Musk received $22 million for his 7% in the sale).


This was just the beginning of what would become one of the most storied careers in history.


After selling his first company, Elon then used half of the money from the sale to create an online financial service and email payment company called X.com.


Never heard of X.com?


That’s because X.com merged with a company called Confinity, and Confinity brought a little money transfer service over by the name of PayPal.


Although Musk was eventually ousted as CEO due to disagreements with the board about certain software aspects of the company, he did receive $165 million when Ebay acquired PayPal in 2002.




After selling PayPal, Elon Musk’s career exploded even further.


Acting as the current CEO of both SpaceX and Tesla, Elon Musk is on the cutting edge of technology and space travel.


He is attempting to explore Mars, building spacecrafts, and designing the automobiles of the future.


About space travel, Musk says,

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.”


What it comes down to for Elon Musk is that, while change is difficult to handle in a lot of ways, it’s the only way that people can survive and grow.


Whether it’s changing cities, countries, companies, or the way that we look at some of the biggest problems that we face, the human race would’ve become extinct already if not for our inherent ability to change and evolve.


The next time you’re facing a difficult decision or feel that you have become stuck in your path, think about this quote, “Some people don’t like change, but you need to embrace change if the alternative is disaster.”


Whether that disaster is physical or mental, have the courage to change.


You won’t regret it.


Angela Merkel: The Most Powerful Woman in the World

“Always be more than you appear, and never appear to be more than you are.”

-Angela Merkel


Angela Merkel is the most powerful woman in the world.


That’s without question.


She helped guide Germany through its reunification process after the Berlin Wall fell, has a doctorate in physical chemistry, is the longest-serving head of government in the European Union, and is currently the senior G7 leader.


Needless to say, when she talks, people listen.


Part of the reason why she got to the point in life that she did is that she lives by her words, “always be more than you appear, and never appear to be more than you are.”


To better understand the quote, let’s take a closer look at Angela Merkel’s life.


Born Into a Divided World


Born in 1954 to a German father and a Polish mother in West Germany, Angela Merkel was thrust into one of the most turbulent periods of German history.  


Shortly following the end of World War II in 1945, the Allied forces split Germany up, and East Germany belonged to the Soviet Union.


When she was three months old, Ms. Merkel’s father uprooted the family to take a pastorate at a church in East Germany, which is where Angela would spend her youth. As a student in East Germany, Angela Merkel excelled in several areas.


She became fluent in Russian, won prizes for her talents in mathematics, and went on to study (and participate in landmark projects) physics at the University of Leipzig.


Following her undergraduate career, Ms. Merkel decided to continue her work and studies at the Central Institute for Physical Chemistry of the Academy of Sciences in Berlin-Adlershof. Although the Stasi (German secret police) attempted to recruit her, Angela managed to talk her way out of working them.


After being awarded a doctorate for her thesis on quantum chemistry in 1986, Angela continued her work until 1990, when politics got the best of her.


Becoming a Leader


Despite her academic achievements, Angela Merkel wasn’t always known as a political leader. However, she couldn’t resist getting involved as she watched the Berlin Wall fall in 1990.


Friends and family were reunited, Germany was to become whole again, and democracy was taking root.


Shortly following the very first multi-party election in the East German state, Merkel’s peers agreed that she would become the deputy spokesperson for the new pre-unification government.


Later that year, Merkel stood for her first election in the 1990 federal election.


She won.


Angela Merkel was elected to the Bundestag (the representative body of the Federal Republic of Germany) for the Stralsund – Nordvorpommern – Rügen constituency.


The rest, as they say, is history.


After working her way up the ranks of German government, Merkel eventually took office as the Chancellor of Germany in 2005 following a stalemate election.


Despite some setbacks, she hasn’t looked back since.


Angela Merkel has won every election since taking power as Chancellor of Germany in 2005, and she currently holds that position to this day. She is now considered globally as the most experienced and longest-serving leader of the Western world.


Lessons to Take from Angela Merkel


During her time as Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel has made several important decisions. While several have turned out wonderful, others have been quite controversial.


Take her policy on Syrian refugees, for example.


During the height of the crisis, Merkel agreed to let unprecedented amounts of refugees into her country (often referred to as the “open-door” policy).


Although many people celebrated the move at the time, there were others who weren’t so certain that it was a great idea. Following several unfortunate incidents involving the refugees, the perception became that Angela Merkel was losing control of the country.

In fact, her decision led to her party losing several seats in the elections that followed.


However, Merkel showed the world what it means to be a leader in that she was able to admit her mistake.


“For some time, we didn’t have enough control,” she said in one of her speeches. “No one wants a repeat of last year’s situation, including me.”


When times got tough, Angela Merkel made a decision. While that decision didn’t necessarily work out the way that she hoped, she displayed the fortitude that one would expect to see in a strong leader.


She then went on to win another term as the Chancellor of Germany.


Angela Merkel has lived her life based on the words, “always be more than you appear, and never appear to be more than you are.”


It has gotten her this far, and it would serve all of us well to keep this quote in mind as we move forward in both our personal and professional lives.