There's a name for the feeling that it all turned out like it should have: narrative bias.
But the thing about charting a career — especially one as remarkable as that of Elon Musk — is that you can never know the results of a decision before you make it.
That's why we thought it would be useful to pinpoint the moments when the billionaire found himself at a crossroads and see which path he chose.
Here are nine of those critical turning points.1988: Moving from South Africa to North America for college.
Musk grew up Pretoria, a suburb of Johannesburg in South Africa. He stayed there until he was 17, when he was faced with the decision of whether to attend compulsory military service.
He chose to leave, heading to Canada to attend Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario.
"I think South Africa is a great country," he says of his homeland. However, "if you wanted to be close to the cutting edge, particularly in technology, you came to North America."
From there he got even closer to the center of business, transferring to the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, earning degrees in physics and business.
1995: Dropping out of Stanford University to "build the internet."
After graduating from Penn, Musk was going to get thrown out of the country unless he got himself sorted out. So he did what anybody does in that situation — he studied applied physics at Stanford.
But he soon realized that the academic life wasn't what he wanted.
"It got to the start of the quarter at Stanford, so I had to make a decision, and I decided to go on deferment," he tells Foundation. "I figured if I start a company and it doesn't work, then I can always go back and graduate school. So I talked to the chairman of the department and he let me go on deferment. I said I'd probably be back in six months, and he said he was probably never going to hear from me again. And he was correct. I've never spoken to him since."
1995: Starting Zip2, his first company.
Musk joined up with his brother Kimbal and Greg Kouri, a mutual friend who has since died.
They began Zip2, a startup that helped provide online publishing for Knight-Ridder and other print publications.
"The initial idea was to create software that would help bring the media companies online," he says. "So we helped, in a small way, bring companies like The New York Times, and so forth, online. They weren't always online; people don't realize that."
Zip2 sold to AltaVista for $307 million in 1999.
Suddenly, Musk was rich.
1999: Immediately founding another company, X.com.
Musk got rich with the Zip2 acquisition.
But he wanted to have a bigger impact.
So he started in on another idea: taking financial services online in ways that banks wouldn't imagine possible.
"The banks are terrible at innovation, and financial services is a huge sector, so I thought, 'There should be something here,'" he tells Inc.
The idea resonated. Sequoia Capital led a $25 million dollar investment round on X.com.
See the rest of the story at Business Insider
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