Elon Musk's Ex-Wife on What She Learned Living With an Extreme Entrepreneurial Success
Insanity and godlike genetics. Those are the qualities needed to achieve extreme success, à la Bill Gates, Richard Branson, Steve Jobs or Elon Musk.
That’s according to the intimate perspective of Justine Musk, who was, of course, Elon’s wife.
Elon Musk is a co-founder of online payment processing system PayPal, the founder and CEO of both spacecraft company SpaceX and electric vehicle manufacturing company Tesla Motors and the chairman of solar power company SolarCity. He is, categorically, a super success.
Those who have achieved “extreme success,” says Justine, who divorced Elon in 2008, live differently than most others. “These people tend to be freaks and misfits who were forced to experience the world in an unusually challenging way,” she writes in response to a question on the user-generated response platform Quora. “They don't think the way other people think. They see things from angles that unlock new ideas and insights. Other people consider them to be somewhat insane.”
Related: Great Entrepreneur, Lousy Lover?
Justine met Elon as students at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, and married in 2000. They lost their first child to sudden infant death syndrome and then went on to have a set of twins and a set of triplets -- all boys.
As her husband achieved astronomical success, Justine, who is a writer, watched herself slowly take a back seat to his work. She watched herself become a trophy wife, she revealed in Marie Claire in 2010.
Marital woes aside, Justine walked away with a courtside view of success that many don’t get to see. One of her key takeaways is that you shouldn’t pursue something simply because you want to become great. “Pursue something because it fascinates you, because the pursuit itself engages and compels you. Extreme people combine brilliance and talent with an *insane* work ethic, so if the work itself doesn't drive you, you will burn out or fall by the wayside or your extreme competitors will crush you and make you cry.”
Once you have found a topic that compels you, then find a problem. And in your obsessive pursuit to solve that problem, don’t expect to have role models. You will be forging your own path, she says.
Forging that path is not all mental; taking care of your body is key. “It helps to have superhuman energy and stamina. If you are not blessed with godlike genetics, then make it a point to get into the best shape possible,” says Justine. “Keep your body sharp to keep your mind sharp. It pays off.”
Six weeks after after they separated, Elon texted Justine to let her know that he was now engaged to be married to a young, British actress named Talulah Riley. He and Riley would go on to divorce, remarry, and divorce again.
While insanity and superhuman levels of energy are required to achieve extreme levels of success, wisdom in the world of love is, apparently, not.Related: Secrets to Being Both an Executive and a Mom
Catherine Clifford is senior entrepreneurship writer at CNBC. She was formerly a senior writer at Entrepreneur.com, the small business reporter at CNNMoney and an assistant in the New York bureau for CNN. Clifford attended Columbia University where she earned a bachelor's degree. She lives in Brooklyn, N.Y. You can follow her on Twitter at @CatClifford.