Elon Musk Disagrees with Billionaire Peter Thiel on the Key to Success

The two billionaires, who co-founded PayPal, do not have the same approach when it comes to the mindset that can lead to success.

They are both billionaires and masters of Silicon Valley. 

They both lived in South Africa. One was born there while the other arrived there as a child.

They worked together for many years, but have a love-hate relationship. Some say they are polar opposites.

The first is Elon Musk and the second is Peter Thiel. 

The two billionaires merged their respective companies in the 2000s to create a major financial services group. Musk had co-created X.com, an online bank, and Thiel cofounded Confinity Inc, a software company which developed an easy payment system. In March 2000, they created PayPal and Musk was appointed CEO.


But the relationship turned extremely sour when Thiel, according to Max Chafkin’s 2021 biography — ‘The Contrarian: Peter Thiel and Silicon Valley’s Pursuit of Power’ — plotted a coup to oust Musk, when the Tesla CEO was on his honeymoon.

The episode left wounds in their relationship which have still not completely healed. Summarizing the two men, Chafkin wrote: “Whereas Thiel could be comically secretive, even among close friends, Musk was incapable of censoring himself.” He continued: “Whereas Thiel tended to think in terms of limiting risk, Musk was perpetually going for broke.”

It turns out the two former tech brothers also differ on the mindset needed to succeed in life. This is what Musk has just suggested in the context of a comment to a message posted on Twitter by a user. The user outlined the importance that Thiel places on one’s confidence in getting things done. He provided two quotes from Thiel on the subject.

“If you think you’re going to win, it doesn’t mean you’re going to win. If you think you’re going to lose, you will lose,” Thiel reportedly said. “If you think you’re going to get an At on the test, you won’t always get an A+. If you think you’re going to get an F, you’ll always get an F.”

Basically, Thiel seems to believe that if you don’t believe in success, failure becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you expect to fail, you will fail. It is the opposite when you believe you can achieve something. The fact that you believe in your goal will push you to make the effort and obtain a better result.

SpaceX, Tesla

Musk seems to strongly disagree. For the CEO of Tesla  (TSLA) – Get Free Report, success sometimes may seem very unlikely, but at the same time, we can still work hard and deploy all our energy to give it our best shot. Being realistic about the chance of success does not necessarily predetermine the final outcome and does not always put us in a path to failure, assures Musk.

To support his point, he draws on his own experience with Tesla and SpaceX, the two companies he co-founded and founded respectively. He says he thought he had very little chance of succeeding.

“I thought both SpaceX and Tesla each had less th[a]n a 10% chance of success,” Musk replied.

Created in 2003, Tesla has become the world leader in electric vehicles and has a market value of $613 billion as of time of this writing. The Austin, Texas-based automaker made more money last year than legacy carmakers General Motors  (GM) – Get Free Report and Ford  (F) – Get Free Report combined.

As for SpaceX, the company is about to launch its first flight to orbit the Earth. It is valued at around $137 billion.

Ironically, Thiel had invested $20 million in SpaceX when the company was struggling in 2008. That money helped keep SpaceX afloat. The rocket and satellite company said in mid-March that it is almost ready for the first orbital test flight of the Starship, the rocket with which Musk wants to conquer Mars.

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