Elon Musk On Living Off A Dollar A Day And What It Taught Him About Success

He forced himself to live off oranges and hot dogs for a month.

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Today Elon Musk's fortune continues along a sky-high trajectory. His current net worth is USD11.6 Billion. But there was a time when he faced a challenge to see if he had what it took to follow his dreams.

The challenge that Musk faced was if he could live off a dollar a day!

Back when he was a student of Queen's University in Ontario, Musk forced himself to live mainly off hot dogs and oranges. But it wasn't because of poverty or some extreme circumstances.

It was an experiment to see if he had what it takes to lead a life as an entrepreneur, Musk recently told astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson in the latest episode of Tyson's StarTalk Radio podcast.

Elon Musk in his early twenties.


As they discuss Musk's early years, Musk explains his fascination as a freshman with how he could help shape the future of humanity through the Internet, energy efficiency, and space exploration.

When Tyson jokes that most undergraduates are mostly focused on how they are going to get a job after graduation, Musk says that concerned him, as well.

Musk's plan was always to go to the US (which he did, eventually), and so he imagined what it would be like as a 20-something in the US foregoing a job to start his own technology business.

"I mean, in America it's pretty easy to keep yourself alive. So my threshold for existing was pretty low. I figured I could be in some cheap apartment with my computer and be okay, and not starve."

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So what did he do?

He decided to see if a USD30 food budget could get him through a month. He bought mostly hot dogs and oranges in bulk, and would occasionally switch it up with some pasta and jarred tomato sauce. His experiment was successful. He pulled it off.

And what did it teach him?

It gave him the assurance that he didn't need a comfortable salary to survive, allowing him the freedom to pursue his loftier goals.

"So I was like, 'Oh, okay. If I can live for a dollar a day - at least from a food cost standpoint - it's pretty easy to earn USD30 dollars in a month, so I'll probably be ok," Musk says.

In the year 1995, Musk founded the Zip2 software company, which was acquired by Compaq for USD307 million – plus millions in stock options – in 1999. He then went on to found Tesla Motors, which builds electric cars and SpaceX, which aims to make space travel more affordable and is a proponent for the colonisation on Mars.