Most of us have seen several photos of Elon Musk’s childhood and teenage life where he is seen sharing photos with all his siblings including his mother Maye Musk. But there is one important person that is missing in all these photos. It is Elon Musk’s father Errol Musk. Musk shares a very complicated and uneasy relationship with his father. Musk once even described his father as a ‘evil person.’ Undoubtedly, Errol Musk has had a very deep influence on his son’s life. This is the story of how he helped in shaping the destiny of a man who today is the richest man in the world.
Errol Musk was born in South Africa’s capital city Pretoria. He belonged to a family that was famous for its intellectual capabilities. Musk’s family members and ancestors had a long history of excelling in studies and academics and Errol Musk was not proving to be an exception. He proudly carried his family heritage and later went on to become a pretty successful engineer.
Errol’s future wife Maye Musk also lived in Pretoria. Their lives crossed each other while studying in a college. Errol was swayed by Maye’s stunning and gorgeous looks. Blessed with good looks, Maye was pursued by many other guys during the college days. But it was Errol who with his obsessive passion managed to stole her heart. People say that Errol and Maye’s whirlwind romance had become talk of the town in the university campus.
Recounting Errol’s obsessive love for her, Maye told Elon’s biographer Ashlee Vance “he simply never stopped proposing.”
Interestingly, very much like his father, Elon also proved to be an obsessive lover when he grew up. Elon showed the same relentless obsession while pursuing her first wife Justine during his college days in Canada. It was like Elon had decided to walk on his father’s footsteps when it came to romance & love.
Justin had explicitly mentioned biographer Vance about Elon’s non-stop phone calls and how he pursued her like a crazy lover.
“You always knew it was Elon because the phone would never stopped ringing. The man never takes no for an answer. You can’t blow him off. I do think him of as the Terminator. He locks his gaze on to something and says, ‘it shall be mine.’ Bit by bit, he won me over.”
After years of dating, Errol and Maye finally decided to tie the knot and became husband and wife. Elon was born only nine months after their marriage.
Although back then neither Errol nor Maye could have ever predicated that one day their son would become a famous billionaire, they were amazed by their new born son’s unique and amazing qualities. At a very young age, Elon had started asking deep philosophical questions to his parents. Errol shared one such anecdote with South African radio station 702’s the Money Show with Bruce Whitfield.
Errol’s Radio interview excerpts
“He has always been a very deep thinker. When he was very small, for example, he would ask me: “where is the whole world?” Good question. It is a very good question. I’m talking about when he was three or four”
Elon Musk’s family lived a pretty comfortable life in Pretoria. Financially, the family was pretty much sound and self-sufficient. Elon and his brother got pretty much whatever they wanted. This was all thanks to Errol Musk’s highly successful engineering company and his thriving real estate business. Since Errol achieved lot of success in the professional career, the young Elon saw his father as sort of a role model. In the later years, Elon went on to describe his father as a person with high IQ and someone who achieved great success in the electrical and mechanical engineering.
Errol made every effort to pass on his high IQ and his expertise skills to his sons. At a very young age, he started giving them practical knowledge about civil engineering. He taught them about how to lay the house foundation, laying bricks, install plumbing and putting electrical wires.
It was also Errol who introduced his young son to computers. This one decision by Errol went on to change his son’s life forever and possibly laid the foundation of his son’s future success. Elon became so excited and passionate about computers that he insisted about learning this technology. Impressed by his son’s passion for learning computers, Errol secured Elon’s admission in a computer course at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. This despite the fact that Elon was only 11 years old back then. According to people close to Musk’s family, Errol had used his engineering connections to get his son admission in the Witwatersrand University.
As soon as Elon started attending this computer crash course, he immediately started making impression on his professors. Errol gave a detailed account about how one of the professors was deeply impressed by Elon’ computer skills.
With that discounted computer, Elon became a self-taught computer programmer. He learnt several computer programmes by himself. His incredible passion for computers had started reflecting on his grades. While briefly attending the University of Pretoria, he notched up an A+ on a aptitude test for programming and operating a computer. According to Elon’s mother, the university management was so surprised by Elon’s excellent grade that they compelled him to take a retest.
While the young Elon had started taking solace in his passion for computers, his personal life had already started disintegrating. And this was largely thanks to his father Errol. Errol’s increasingly erratic behavior had started taking toll on his marriage. And Errol and Maye eventually got divorced in 1979, when Elon was still very young. Maye blamed Errol’s abusive behavior for breaking their marriage.
After the divorce, Maye and her children faced great financial difficulties. As a single mother, she even struggled to fulfil the basic necessities for her children. Their financial situation became so desperate that one day when one of her children spilled milk on the floor, Maye couldn’t help but cry as she could not afford another milk carton. To ease off their financial problems, Maye started doing multiple jobs and began to cut down on their daily expenses. From buying second hand clothes to cooking cheap nutritious meals, Musk’s family had started living a life that was far cry from their once comfortable life.
As Musk struggled to cope with his new life, he started missing his father. Not only because he was missing his once comfortable and carefree life but he actually cared for his father. He felt sorry that his father was living a lonely life. It was as if Elon felt a deep connection with his father. Eventually after couple of years, Elon decided to shift to Johannesburg to live with his father. However, this decision backfired as Elon got exposed to his father’s dark and evil side. Although Elon’s mother had accused Errol of being downright abusive during their marriage, Elon had somehow remained immune to his dad’s dark side. But Elon was left shocked when he finally got exposed to his father’s dark nature.
Recounting his father’s abusive behavior, Elon told Rolling Stone
“He was such a terrible human being. You have no idea. My dad will have a carefully thought-out plan of evil. He will plan evil. Almost every crime you can possibly think of he has done.”
Elon never gave any explicit details about his father’s abusive behavior. But many distributing facts about Errol’s personal life are already out in the public domain. By Errol’s own admission, he had once shot and killed three people who were trying to break into his home. But despite committing a heinous crime, Errol was pardoned on the grounds of self-defense.
Another controversial aspect of Errol’s personal life is that he also had a child with his own step-daughter Jana Bezuidenhout, who was born from another marriage. Errol tried to justify this unusual romantic relationship by arguing that his step-daughter had turned to him for solace after she broke up with her boyfriend. And the child was conceived as they both failed to control their strong sexual urge.
Although Elon himself admitted that his father was never personally violent towards him, Errol’s abusive habits and disturbing personal life nonetheless left deep scars on him. When Elon grew up and become a famous personality, he rarely spoke anything good about his father during public interviews.
Distributed by his constant negative portrayal and taunts, Errol once hit back at Elon and made many unflattering comments about his son.
Speaking to Daily Mail, Errol said “Elon needs to grow up. He needs to get over himself. I am not going to hit back. I’m going to wait until he comes to his senses. He’s having a tantrum, like a spoilt child.”
Elon also contradicted and flatly denied Errol’s claim of becoming incredibly rich after divorcing his mother. Errol had once claimed to The Business Insider that he owned half of an emerald mine in Zambia. In another interview, Errol claimed “we had so much money that we couldn’t even close our safe”
However, Musk once took to Twitter to bust these claims. Not only he denied Errol’s claim of becoming rich but also explicitly said that after divorcing his mother his father never helped him financially to build his career.
“He didn’t own an emerald mine & I worked my way through college, ending up with $100,000 in student debt and couldn’t afford second computer at his first company Zip2”
Elon further claimed that when he left South Africa and migrated to North Africa, he had just $2000 in his pocket.
Elon was only 17 years old when he arrived at his mother’s birthplace Canada. Although their life in Canada was better off, it was still very much a humble life. For a brief time, the Musk family lived in a rented home at 4000 Yong St. in Toronto. According to Maye, they lived a very modest life in this rented home and Musk had to sleep on the couch.
Although settled in Canada, Musk always dreamt of settling down in the United States, a land of great technological innovations. Musk always knew that U.S. is the place where he can fulfil his entrepreneurial ambitions. Although Musk always had high expectations from himself, his father did not.
By Elon’s own account, while leaving for Canada his father categorically told him that he’d be back in South Africa within three months and he was an idiot. Today that idiot man has become the world’s richest man. That same idiot man went on to found two of the most innovative and successful companies of modern times – Tesla and SpaceX.
Today many experts claim that Musk’s urge to become a savior and solve the profound problems confronting humanity has a deep connection with painful experiences he experienced during his childhood life. His parent’s broken marriage and his father’s abusive behavior may have helped in nurturing deep-seated desire in Musk to become a saviour for humanity.
The famous magazine Rolling Stone perfectly summed up this connection in the following words:
The Rolling Stone wrote: “Somewhere in this trauma bond is the key to Musk’s worldview – creation against destruction, of being useful versus harmful or defending the world against evil.”
Today even his father, who once called his son idiot and terrorized him with his abusive behavior, believes that Elon will manage to pull off one of his greatest ambitions: to take mankind to planet Mars.
When question about his son Elon’s mars mission, Errol said the following words:
He is indeed going to Mars. I don’t think there is any doubt in it whatsoever.”
Today even though Errol may believe in Elon’s abilities, it is unlikely that Elon will ever take his own father to Mars. Their relation continues to remain strained as before. But there is no denying that Errol has a left a deep influence on his son’s life. Today Elon may hate his father. But deep down even Elon will have to unwillingly accept that his father played an instrumental role in shaping his destiny.