Elon Musk says that being bullied in South Africa probably helped motivate him to achieve success in life.
Responding to questions on the Full Send Podcast about whether he had ever been in fights, Musk said that although he never started any, he was regularly in fights he didn’t want to be in.
Musk initially avoids the term “bully” and instead explains that most of his youth was punctuated with extreme violence from “maybe 6 to 16-ish”.
“I’ve been in real hard-core street fights,” Musk said. “I got beaten up real badly in a few of them, actually.”
“I grew up in South Africa. It’s a very violent place.”
Asked if that motivated him to become what he is, Musk said it could have played a role.
“It’ll certainly toughen you up, that’s for sure,” he said.
Musk said he was bookish and “kind of a nerd, basically” — more interested in reading and computers than sports.
He was the youngest in his grade and small relative to his peers until he was around 15.
“Around age 16 is when they stopped trying to beat me up because it didn’t work out well for them. They tried, and I knocked a guy out,” said Musk.
Musk said knocking someone out is easy when you’re fighting without gloves.
“One hard punch in the face, you’ll knock a guy out.”
Musk’s history with violent bullying in South Africa is well documented.
In his younger years, he attended Waterkloof House Preparatory School and Hatfield Primary School.
He then went to Bryanston High School before transferring to Pretoria Boys High after a particularly violent encounter with bullies when he was 12.
Musk would have been in Grade 8 at the time — then called Standard 6 or Form 1.
Musk’s father, Errol, told BizNews in 2015 that Bryanston High bullies had injured Elon so severely that he did not recognise his own son as he lay in hospital.
He spent two weeks in Sandton Clinic, and neither the school nor the police was interested in taking the matter further.
“I laid a charge of assault, but the Randburg police declined to prosecute, saying it was just ‘skoolseuns wat rondspeel’ (Afrikaans: schoolboy high jinks). The school itself was non-commital,” Errol Musk stated.
Based on Elon Musk’s comments on Full Send, he was bullied throughout primary and high school, and it didn’t suddenly stop after moving to Boys High.
Only once he got big enough to knock out one of his attackers did they leave him alone.
“People who are worried about words [hurting you] have never been punched in the face,” Musk said.
“If you’ve been punched in the face, real hard, around the nose… man, you’ll take any words rather than that.”