Elon Musk may be a seriously successful business owner, as well as one of the richest people in the world, but at one time he was just a kid like the rest of us.

Or maybe not quite like the rest of us.

Musk, who grew up in South Africa, read voraciously as a child. (He was even known to close out the local library, often finishing as many as two books in a single weekend.) But when he wasn't reading, he could be found leading his brother Kimbal and their cousins on "adventures," as detailed in the new book, Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future, by Bloomberg Businessweek journalist Ashlee Vance. 

Vance, who conducted more than 300 interviews and clocked over 50 hours with Musk himself, cites several instances of how the entrepreneur used to save up money to pursue his big dreams. For example, as a child, he and his brother and cousins used to market Easter eggs that they'd decorated themselves to their affluent neighbors--selling them at well over 100 percent of their store value. Musk would also make his own rocket kits by creating chemical compounds and putting them inside canisters, according to Vance, since South Africa wouldn't sell the (then) popular Estes rocket kits at the time.

Later on, when Musk fled the country for Canada to avoid military duty at the age of 18, he became something of a dilettante, working a series of odd jobs to make ends meet: He farmed in the little-known town of Waldeck, cut logs in Vancouver, and, for a brief stint, he even cleaned out the boiler room of a local lumber mill, earning $18 an hour for tireless grunt work that required him to wear a hazmat suit. 

Musk's wealth has certainly accrued since his days spent dabbling in hourly wage jobs--or half-heartedly decorating Easter eggs--but it's doubtless that same spirit that has helped him get to where he is today. 

Published on: May 19, 2015