Elon Musk has become a globally significant figure and has been involved in several enterprises, to say the least. He is the CEO and CTO of SpaceX, former CEO and product architect of Tesla, Inc., owner, chairman, and CTO of X Corp, founder of the Boring Company, cofounder of OpenAI and Neuralink, and president of the Musk Foundation—that’s quite a résumé.

Nowadays “Elon Musk” is a household name, but he has been controversial in many ways. In one way or another, he has offended people of nearly every political and social persuasion. This article isn’t about such behaviors or the things he has said. Instead, we simply wish to highlight just another American Dream, a story of perseverance and of pushing past failures to find success.

Elon Reeve Musk is the eldest of three children born to Errol Musk, a South African electromechanical engineer, and Maye Musk, a Canadian model and nutritionist. He is a citizen of South Africa, Canada, and the United States.

Musk was born in Pretoria, South Africa, and although he was born into affluence, the young Elon still had obstacles to overcome. His parents divorced while he was young, and he was bullied and often beaten up by his classmates.

But Musk was an intelligent child. He grew up reading books and learning about computers. At just 12 years old, he developed a video game called Blastar and sold it to computer magazine PC and Office Technology. Musk immigrated to Canada in 1989 to avoid mandatory military service, which would have forced him to support apartheid. He also believed that getting American citizenship would be easier if he first became a Canadian citizen.

Musk attended Queen’s University and later transferred to the University of Pennsylvania, where he studied economics and physics. In 1994, Musk attended Stanford University in California to earn a PhD but dropped out after just two days.

Kimball Musk, Elon’s younger brother, had recently graduated from Queen’s University with a business degree and had travelled to California to join him. As the world grew more interested in the internet, the brothers decided to develop a company called Zip2, an internet business directory with maps. Zip2 eventually recruited angel investors and grew into a profitable firm thanks to the brothers’ efforts. Zip2 was sold to Compaq for $307 million in 1999.

Musk subsequently went on to create his own online financial services company, X.com. His main competition was Confinity, a company formed by Peter Thiel and two others mere months after X.com was started, with headquarters in the same building. In March 2000, the two firms joined and adopted the name of Confinity’s major product, PayPal, an online money-transfer service for individuals. In October 2002, eBay, the online auction site, purchased PayPal for $1.5 billion in eBay stock. Musk, who had been the largest shareholder in PayPal with 11.7% of the company’s equity shares, found himself with over $175 million in eBay stock at the age of 31. To some, Musk had already achieved the American Dream at this point. But this dream is more about making a fortune.

Musk has been and is currently involved in multiple endeavors—too many to talk about here. To maintain focus on the American Dream, we’ll talk about his company SpaceX. The SpaceX program is perhaps one of best aspects of Musk’s American Dream.

For a brief time, Musk joined the Mars Society’s board of directors, having donated $100,000 to the organization. As part of a project to put a greenhouse on Mars and actually grow plants on the red planet, Musk and others attempted to acquire ICBMs through Russian contacts. Their efforts failed, and Musk determined that he could build affordable rockets himself. SpaceX was created for this purpose.

But the company didn’t soar to infinity and beyond right away. Their first three rocket launches failed, nearly bankrupting the company. Thankfully, on September 28, 2008, SpaceX managed a successful launch. In 2023, the company’s Dragon C2+ became the first commercial spacecraft to deliver a cargo load to the International Space Station. SpaceX continued to reach more milestones, including the creation of Starlink, a satellite internet constellation that provides internet service for over 60 countries.

Musk has signed many high-profile contracts with NASA and the US Air Force to manufacture rockets and execute military missions. Among many other thoughts, he has been vocal about his desire to work with NASA on a collaborative mission to deploy an astronaut to Mars by 2025. While he has been known for using hyperbolic language, Musk has nevertheless persevered to accomplish many of his goals and desires.

He could have settled when he found himself with $175 million at the age of 31, or he could have squandered it all like many do when met with financial fortune. Instead, Musk didn’t sit on his laurels. He invested his fortune to do more. He could have given up when SpaceX lost nearly all its money after three failed launches. Instead, he and everyone else at SpaceX carried on despite the enormous setbacks, and the company has been instrumental in advancing spaceflight technology.

Whether you love him or hate him or have no opinion of him, Elon Musk is a prime example of what can we accomplished when ambition is relentless and failure is seen as just another milestone.