Elon Musk’s mother, Maye shared that Elon was horrifically bullied in school. To comfort him, Maye assured her son that she, too, got picked on as a child and that her twin sister often shielded her from classmates’ barbs.
Elon was a quiet, introverted child. In fact, Maye said that Elon’s introversion led her to believe for some time that he might be deaf. Maye Musk told Esquire magazine writer Tom Junod that Elon was “the youngest and smallest guy in his school” and that he was picked on all the time. Musk’s brother, Kimbal, concurred by saying “Kids gave Elon a very hard time.”
“”It’s pretty rough in South Africa,” he says. “If you’re getting bullied, you still have to go to school. You just have to get up in the morning and go. He hated it so much.” Elon suffered very badly at the hands of cruel children while growing up in South Africa.
Musk was severely bullied throughout his childhood, and was once hospitalized when a group of boys threw him down a flight of stairs, and then beat him until he blacked out.
Musk’s first wife, Justine, says, “I don’t think people understand how tough he had it growing up. He was a really lonely kid.”
Junod says that Musk survived the bullying by retreating to his family to comfort himself.
A sort of mental escape was provided to him by his family. The Musks talked about themselves as a special family — one that could do great things.
He grew up in South Africa without ever really considering himself South African. Like the rest of his family, he was just passing through. The Musks were a race nearly as much as they were a family, with a specialized awareness of themselves as wanderers and adventurers. Every Musk is able to tell the story of forebears whose accomplishments serve as an inspiration and whose energy endures as an inheritance — a grandfather who won a race from Cape Town to Algiers; a great-grandmother who was the first female chiropractor in Canada; grandparents who were the first to fly from South Africa to Australia in a single-engine plane. “Without sounding patronizing, it does seem that our family is different from other people,” says Elon’s sister, Tosca Musk. “We risk more.”
Elon also found tremendous solace and escape in the form of computers and business.
“He was on computers as soon as they were available to us,” his sister Tosca says. By the time Musk was 17, he’d already tried to start his own business, a videogame arcade near his high school.
“We had a lease, we had suppliers, but we were actually stopped,” Kimbal says. “We got stopped by the city. We couldn’t get a variance. Our parents had no idea.”
Soon enough, computers and business became Elon’s life. He started an Internet company. Eventually, it merged with PayPal. Then PayPal went public in 2001, and Musk netted 70 million.
…and he obviously didn’t stop there.
Elon’s ability to overcome relentless and cruel bullying is an inspiration.