What Is Elon Musk’s IQ and Is the Fact He Is Smart, the Sole Factor in His Success?

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There is no debating the fact that Elon Musk is both highly intelligent and an incredibly successful businessman. Although Amber Heard’s ex-boyfriend has not been tested, his IQ is estimated and generally accepted to be around 155.

This is based on early aptitude tests, his ability to understand and apply complicated technical information, and the way he uses information to make changes that are unique in complex industries.

Elon Musk smoked a marijuana joint while recording the 'Joe Rogan Experience' podcastElon Musk smoked a marijuana joint while recording the ‘Joe Rogan Experience’ podcast on September 7, 2018

As a reference, the average IQ by definition is 100 with most people falling between 85 and 115. Around 98% of the population is below 130 with notable intellects such as Einstein and Hawking having had IQs of around 160.

But was it just Musk’s intelligence that got him to the top of multiple industries? Or are other factors at play?

How did Elon Musk get where he is today?

The NY Times described Elon Musk as “the most successful and important entrepreneur in the world”. He is the founder, CEO, CTO, and chief designer for Space X; the CEO and product architect at Tesla, Inc; the founder of The Boring Company and the co-founder of Neuralink and OpenAI; and the creator of Solar City, a solar energy company that is now a Tesla subsidiary.

He is possibly the only person who has started four billion-dollar companies – PayPal, Space X, Tesla, and Solar City. How did this happen and what qualities helped him achieve everything he has done?

Iconic mural of David Attenborough and Elon Musk appears in ShoreditchIconic mural of David Attenborough and Elon Musk appears in Shoreditch, to celebrate the launch of Mindspace Shoreditch – a new upscale and inspiring coworking space in London, England, on June 28, 2018

In an interview with Rolling Stone magazine, Musk revealed he was a smart and curious child who was left alone with minimal supervision.

“I just had a housekeeper who was there to make sure I didn’t break anything. She wasn’t, like, watching me. I was off making explosives and reading books and building rockets and doing things that could have gotten me killed. I was raised by books. Books, and then my parents.”

Musk’s high IQ was evident from the start. At 17 he went to university and got two bachelor’s degrees, in economics and physics. He won a scholarship to Stanford to get a Ph.D. in Energy Physics.

But this was where other facets of his personality started to change things for him. After two days at university, Musk asked for a deferment.

He wanted to start a software company called Zip2 with his brother Kimbal. Expecting the company to fail, Musk had planned on continuing his Ph.D. after. However, it didn’t fail and was so successful it ended up being sold for $340 million.

With the money from Zip2, Musk realized he no longer needed to study when he could instead, channel his intellect and IQ into subjects that fascinated him. He started X.com, which then acquired what became PayPal.

Maye Musk and her son Elon Musk attend the 2017 Vanity Fair Oscar PartyMaye Musk and her son Elon Musk attend the 2017 Vanity Fair Oscar Party hosted by Graydon Carter at Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts on February 26, 2017, in Beverly Hills, California

When that was sold to eBay for $1.5 billion in 2002, he was finally able to follow his interests. That year he founded Space X and two years later, he joined Tesla Motors, Inc. Two years after that, in 2006 he helped create the solar energy company SolarCity.

In May 2018, Elon Musk and Claire Elise Boucher, a Canadian musician known professionally as Grimes, made their red carpet debut together as a couple at the Met Gala.

Grimes and Elon Musk attend “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion & the Catholic Imagination”, the 2018 Costume Institute Benefit at Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 7, 2018, in New York City

She wore a Tesla logo collar with a dress that the couple designed together over a dinner date. According to Us Weekly, they commissioned a team to create her futuristic ensemble.

What makes Musk different, is it purely his IQ, or is he more of a businessman?

It’s clear that Elon Musk both has a high IQ and is great at business. An article in Science News for Students describes IQ tests as being able to predict “how well people will do in particular situations, such as thinking abstractly in science, engineering or art. Or leading teams of people. [E]xtra categories include ambition, persistence, opportunity, the ability to think clearly.”

This obviously isn’t guaranteed. There are plenty of people with high IQs who have not found success. Being smart means things are easier but nothing is a given.

Talulah Riley and Elon Musk attend the 2012 Environmental Media AwardsTalulah Riley and Elon Musk attend the 2012 Environmental Media Awards at Warner Bros. Studios on September 29, 2012, in Burbank, California

What he also has going for him is an ambition to change the world, the ability to see things in a way that others don’t, and a drive to learn.

It is telling that Musk doesn’t describe himself as a businessman or entrepreneur. He describes himself as a “technologist”, an engineer, and inventor. He invests in and develops billion-dollar industries to make things better for other people.

His IQ is a tool he uses to achieve more altruistic and ambitious goals. In Rolling Stone, he said, “I try to do useful things… And useful means it is of value to the rest of society.” He then added, “I think we should try to make the future better.”

Again, having lofty ideals and a high IQ doesn’t necessarily equate to the levels of success that Musk has achieved. His brother Kimbal, with whom he started his first company, helps explain one aspect that sets Musk apart.

His vision and ability to see things clearly. “He’s able to see things more clearly in a way that no one else I know of can understand. There’s a thing in chess where you can see 12 moves ahead if you’re a grandmaster. And in any particular situation, Elon can see things 12 moves ahead.”

SpaceX's first Falcon Heavy rocketSpaceX’s first Falcon Heavy rocket took off on its inaugural test launch from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 3:45 p.m. EST (2045 GMT) on February 6, 2018

This ability to see clearly and identify future needs has been noted by many. Warren Buffet’s right-hand man, the investor Charlie Munger, has occasionally been critical and has publicly discussed Musk’s “daredevil business lifestyle”.

The famously risk-averse Munger has, however, admitted in interviews that “Musk has made a career out of building businesses that provide services which many people never thought were possible,” and adding, “Elon Musk is a man that’s heralding the cause of bringing humanity into the future.”

One of the SpaceX founding members is Jim Cantrell. When asked about Musk’s intelligence and IQ he replied, “There is no doubt in my mind that intelligence is only a fraction of the ingredients needed to be successful.

This picture captures the moment internet tycoon Elon Musk's private rocket successfully blasted into outer space – after three aborted missionsThis picture captures the moment internet tycoon Elon Musk’s private rocket successfully blasted into outer space – after three aborted missions

In fact, I would say that intelligence is more of a tool that enables you to be successful rather than an ingredient itself. When [Musk] came to me in 2001, he knew nothing of rockets or space exploration but he was deeply passionate about them.

But because he was intelligent, he knew that he needed rockets to launch probes into space. Once he understood the space market a bit better, he saw that there was also an enormous opportunity to disrupt the launch vehicle market.”

So Elon Musk’s high IQ and business smarts are just a couple factors in his success

It could be argued that Musk’s high IQ enables him to utilize other personality aspects and these all combined to create the remarkable success he has achieved. There is no doubt he is smart and that keen intelligence allows him to identify opportunities that others can’t.

He takes what many see as risks but are arguably the result of his ability to spot ways to achieve his lofty ambitions of making the world a better place.

Musk is driven, passionate about what he does and his intelligence combines with this drive. It is this blend of abilities that has led to his remarkable achievements.

As Cantrell says, looking back, “Elon did succeed in the end and it was because he never counted himself out. He never gave up. He kept going.” Musk’s high IQ and his desire to change the world are potent forces indeed.

Credit: Andres Otero / WENN / Joe Newman / PinPep / Apega / SpaceX / Cover Images

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