9 Life-Changing Tips for Students from Elon Musk

Elon Musk is one of the most successful entrepreneurs in our time, but how did he get there?
Christopher McFadden

If you aspire to become the next Elon Musk, where would you start? As it turns out Musk is not very secretive about his most empowering habits. 

Here are 9 life-changing hints and tips you should nurture to at least attempt to follow in his footsteps.


What is Elon Musk's IQ?

How clever is Elon Musk? While no official figure has been released, to achieve what he has done over the last few decades indicates he is no dummy. 

elon musk as a student
Source: TED via YouTube

"Elon Musk IQ is estimated as 155, based primarily on his earlier aptitude tests, his ability to read and apply technical information, and his ability to use numbers to make process changes unique in the history of a complicated industry. Elon Musk is a beast." - iq-test..net

How did Musk make his money?

Elon Musk is one of the world's richest entrepreneurs. But how did he make his money? 

As it turns out he has had his fair share of successful startups in his time.

"[Musk] founded X.com in 1999 (which later became PayPal), SpaceX in 2002 and Tesla Motors in 2003. Musk became a multimillionaire in his late 20s when he sold his start-up company, Zip2, to a division of Compaq Computers." - biography.com.

What was Elon Musk like as a student?

According to various accounts of his time as a student, it appears none of his peers expected him to become so successful. In Elon Musk's biography by Ashlee Vance, he was actually something of a middling-student at school.

Many of his classmates thought he was "likable, quiet, [and an] unspectacular student'. 

One of them explained further, "there were four or five boys that were considered very brightest. Elon was NOT one of them." Yet another former classmate was even more critical of Musk, "honestly, there were just no signs that he was going to be a billionaire. He was never in a leadership position at school. I was rather surprised to see what happened to him."

Other friends and peers do recall the fact that he often brought model rockets to school. He would fire them off during his break times. 

He also had firm positions of various subjects; like his opposition to the use of fossil fuels. 

He has also been quoted in the past for recollecting that he would,  "rather play video games, write software, and read books than try and get an A if there's no point in getting an A".

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After school, Musk emigrated to Canada to avoid South African mandatory military service. 

musk's tips for students
Source: JD Lasica/Flickr

He later graduated with an undergraduate degree in economics. Musk then stayed on to pursue a bachelor's degree in physics.

Musk later enrolled at Standford University, California to pursue a Ph.D. in energy physics but dropped out a few days later to found Zip2 (his first venture). 

The rest, as they say, is history. 

What are some tips for students from Elon Musk?

So, without further ado, here are ten tips from Elon Musk for students. This list is far from exhaustive and is in no particular order.

1. Nothing easy is worth having

Elon Musk is renowned for the number of hours he puts into his work. Rather than the usual 40-hour weeks, most employees churn out, he regularly works 80 to 100-hour weeks.

He believes that hard work is an essential element in combating the high chance of failure for some of his more ambitious projects. This can be applied to many other areas of your life too. 

"If other people are putting in 40-hour workweeks, and you’re putting in 100-hour workweeks, even if you’re doing the same thing… you’ll achieve in four months what it takes them a year to achieve,” he has explained in the past. 

2. Learn to delegate early on

Despite his enormously long work weeks, Musk is a massive advocate for delegation. He has come to understand that he is just one man and can only do so much.

For this reason, Musk has become a master of delegation. He regularly delegates authority to members of his teams. 

Not only that, there are many talented people who might be better at something than you. Let them practice their craft and try not to micro-manage them. 

3. Don't be afraid to dream big and embrace failure

Musk has seen some amazing success in his time. From Paypal to Tesla it may seem that everything he touches turns to gold.

But that is not to say he has not had his fair share of failures. While SpaceX is making leaps and bounds today, the company has not had its own way.

A series of early rocket failures did not put him, or his team, off from refining the technology and trying again. Let failure inspire you, not crush your spirit.

4. Learn to prioritize!

Throughout your college life, and professional life thereafter, you will have many things that attempt to demand your attention and time. In order to make headway, you must develop the ability to prioritize -- Afterall why obsess over getting an A if you don't really need it?

Musk has managed to make this something of an art-form.

Emails, for example, will vary widely in their importance to you personally and professionally. Learn to filter the irrelevant from the relevant.

You can use software solutions to help you out, but even so, there will be messages and tasks that can really wait. You can also maximize your time by cutting down on your time on social media or by turning off your phone altogether.

5. Write a damn schedule and stick to it!

Not to beat a dead horse, but people like Musk will be the first to tell you to sort out a schedule for yourself ASAP. Your time is your most valuable possession and it must be used as efficiently as possible.

Set goals and then break them down into more manageable chunks, if needed. Avoid pointless meetings and conversations, for example. 

Also, cull any other activities that consume your time but do not help you make progress towards your goals. Social media or television, for example. 

6. Do not rest on your laurels

Musk, like many other high-achievers, is a lifelong learner. Try to develop a habit, and love, for reading and learning from a young age.

You don't need to stick to books in your particular discipline. In fact, it is encouraged to develop a wide diet of books to read.

By reading outside your field, you will gain an appreciation for new ideas, methods, and philosophies that can be applied to your own. It will make you better equipped to deal with the barely contained chaos of the world outside of college. 

7. Learn to be your own judge and jury

In order to become a high-achiever like Musk, you will need to learn to question yourself constantly. Could I be wrong? What am I not seeing here? Is there a better way of doing this? What mistakes did I make in the past, and what did I learn?

Musk is all about continuous improvement of the self. Study and judge yourself regularly. 

8. Be highly selective of opinions

Opinions. Everybody has them but few are worth their salt. 

If you dream big you will find many people trying to persuade you by saying how risky it is or how few ventures are successful. Don't let them discourage you.

If you know what you want, go for it. Ignore the naysayers.

9. "Stay on target!"

And finally, people like Elon Musk know the importance of staying focused. While it is relatively easy to set goals, sometimes staying focused on them can be daunting. 

Learn to figure out what you want and why. And etch the reasons into your memory, or use a myriad of aide-mémoires.

Such things will sharpen your focus and help you "stay on target". But you are only human, so give yourself a break from time to time too.

Oh, and make sure you get enough sleep

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