Recently I’ve been reading about Elon Musk, a man most easily introduced (and admired) by the qualities he shares with the fictional celebrity Iron Man/Tony Stark: he’s a billionaire, he’s a technological genius, and he has a vision of saving humanity. The first two aspects place him securely in the same league as Bill Gates and Steve Jobs; but the magnitude of his dreams sets him apart, raises him into the realm of larger-than-life.
The story alone of how he made his wealth is enough material for a fascinating biography. At age twelve, in the eighties, he programmed his own computer game and sold it to a magazine for a profit. After earning degrees in economics and physics and being admitted to Stanford University, he pursued entrepreneurship and rode the dot-com wave. The second company he founded eventually became PayPal.
PayPal was bought by eBay in 2002, and this is the point of his life I’d like to frame as the turning point. Bill Gates started and ended his career with computers and software, taking up philanthropy only in his retirement. Steve Jobs arguably went further, inventing new product categories and transforming consumer tech industries before his premature death. And Elon Musk could have continued doing similar work—after eBay bought PayPal, he could have started searching for the next Internet-enabled commercial breakthrough, the next useful, popular, satisfying product. But he had grander plans. Instead of simply creating what will benefit us here and now, he looked forward to the future, and founded SpaceX.