Advice for Young People: Elon Musk

By | April 13, 2024

[April 13, 2024] A simple question haunts me about receiving advice from rich people – Is their advice actually useful?  Elon Musk, a businessman and investor, is one of the wealthiest men in the world and is known to be highly successful in those areas he chooses to operate.

Musk was interviewed by Lex Fridman, who asked him what advice he would give to young people.  I found the interview worthy enough to highlight (YouTube video here, 8:18 minutes).  Lex and Musk speak in an informal, off-the-cuff manner, and with that comes much wordiness.  I’ve cleaned up much of it by paraphrasing while still trying to give enough to show the flavor of the interview.

Lex:  What advice would you give to young people who want to do something big in this world to have a big positive impact?

Musk: Try to be useful.  You do things that are useful to your fellow human beings.  It’s very hard to be useful.  Are you contributing more than you consume?  Try to have a positive net contribution to society.  I think that’s the thing to aim for.  Not to try to be sort of a leader for the sake of being a leader.  Often, people you want as leaders are people who don’t want to be leaders.  If you live a useful life, that is a good life, a life worth having lived.  I would encourage people to use the mental tools of physics and apply them broadly in life.  They’re the best tools.

 Lex:  When you think about education and self-education, what do you recommend?  So there’s the university, there is self-study, there is a hands-on sort of company or a place or a set of people that do the thing you’re passionate about and join them as early as possible.  There’s taking a road trip across Europe for a few years and writing some poetry.  Which trajectory do you suggest for learning how to become useful?

MuskI encourage people to read a lot of books.  Basically, try to ingest as much information as possible and develop good general knowledge so you at least have a rough lay of the knowledge landscape.  Try to learn a little bit about a lot of things.  You might not know what you’re really interested in now.  How would you know what interests you if you at least aren’t looking at the entire landscape?  Talk to people from different walks of life and different industries and professions and skills and occupations.  Just try to learn as much as possible.  Man’s search for meaning.  I encourage people to read broadly in many different subject areas.  Then, try to find something where there’s an overlap between your talents and your interests.  You may be good at doing something but don’t like it.  You want to try to find a thing where you have a good combination of the things you’re inherently good at, but you also like doing it.  

 Lex:  Is reading a super-fast shortcut to figure out where you are both good at it and it will have a positive impact?

Musk:  You’ve got to learn about things somehow.  So, reading a broad range of things.  As a kid, I read through the encyclopedia, and that was pretty helpful.  There were things there I didn’t even know existed.  I recommend reading the condensed version of the Encyclopedia Britannica.  You can skip subjects if you know you’re not interested after reading a few paragraphs, then jump to the next one.  I certainly have a lot of respect for someone who puts in an honest day’s work to do useful things.  Don’t have a zero-sum mindset.  Have a grow-the-pie mindset.  Some very smart people take the attitude that doing things seems morally questionable; it’s often because they have, at a base, a sort of axiomatic level, a zero-sum mindset.  They often don’t realize it.  They think the only way to get ahead is by taking things from others.  But this is false because the [economic] pie has grown dramatically over time.  Be careful not to act from a zero-sum mindset where the only way to get ahead is to take things from others, which may result in you trying to take things from others that are not good.  It’s much better to work on adding to the economic pie.  Create more than you consume.  That’s a big deal.


Please read my books:

  1. “55 Rules for a Good Life,” on Amazon (link here).
  2. “Our Longest Year in Iraq,” on Amazon (link here).
Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I provide one article every day. My writings are influenced by great thinkers such as Friedrich Nietzsche, Karl Jung, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Jean Piaget, Erich Neumann, and Jordan Peterson, whose insight and brilliance have gotten millions worldwide to think about improving ourselves. Thank you for reading my blog.

23 thoughts on “Advice for Young People: Elon Musk

  1. Bill Sanders, Jr.

    I like the fact that you are giving us the recommendations/advice from those who are successful. We need these building blocks.

    1. Forrest Gump

      Yes, and I hope that gen. Satterfield continues doing so.

  2. Greg Heyman

    Gen. Satterfield, very good article and I like the fact that you are starting along this path to find advice for young men (and women too). But I can see your point to help young men, esp. in a society today that ignores young men and calls the evil for a perceived fault. I can only hope and pray that we come to our senses and stop harming young men.

    1. Eddie Gilliam

      Great comment. We must do a better job on helping our youth. The are not the future. They are the now.

  3. Tom Bushmaster

    “You want to try to find a thing where you have a good combination of the things you’re inherently good at, but you also like doing it. ” – Elon Musk.
    This is what JT Peterson referred to as following your destiny. And, I do think Peterson and Musk are correct. Find your mission in life (don’t worry if you don’t know it today) and pursue that mission with all your might. But don’t forget about your family, community, and God. That is the way to be a successful human, there is no other path for most of us.

  4. Veronica Stillman

    Elon Musk is doing more than giving advice on what to read but he is also giving us an idea of his personal philosophy.

  5. The Toad

    In the name of reading books to improve you as a person, let us not forget this article by Gen. Satterfield.
    “Books That Helped Me Become a Better Man”
    Manhood is not a new idea, but it is one that our modern society incorrectly labels toxic. Now, if you know me and read this blog, you will predict with 100% accuracy that I reject the toxicity label because it is simply false, and obviously so. The toxic label is false, and manhood is something to strive to achieve to be a better man, for it is a noble goal. I believe what we men read is a start in understanding manhood.

    1. Joe Omerrod

      YES! That was one of Gen. Satterfield’s more enlightening articles on what to read.

  6. Big Al

    Small minds are concerned with the extraordinary, great minds with the ordinary. Blaise Pascal
    Good idea to read quotes from smart folks. Brainy Quotes is one of my favorite sites to do so.
    Go there and learn.
    That is what humans do best…. copy what works, and discard what fails. But learn from failure.

  7. H. M. Longstreet

    Always listen to the advice of those who succeed in life. You don’t have to follow their path, but it is a great idea to at least know their path.

  8. JT Patterson

    Thanks Gen. Satterfield. Nice interview and appreciate you transcribing and paraphrasing it for us. And the bold wording for the key points. Interesting!

  9. Max Foster

    Gen. Satterfield is starting a new feature of “advice for young men.” I can see in this article and others like his “a short story” that he is beginning to build upon that as a foundation. Not many will see this, so I’m pointing it out. This is how intellectuals think and operate. For those new to this website, you will find that these articles are not standalones. They are all interconnected. Some are obvious like those that have Part 1, 2,3, etc. Others not so obvious. So, if you can, give Gen.S. some examples of what you would like to see written about and perhaps he will do so. Good luck and be sure to read his books. The best one is “55 Rules for a Good Life.”

  10. aiken

    Thank you Gen. Satterfield for also highlighting the key points that Musk makes. I hope that those who are young are paying attention to his advice. And, while it might be a good idea to read the encyclopedia, there are other ways to get a general set of information to study. I hope that his point about reading is taken seriously. 📖

    1. Rev. Michael Cain

      aiken, true enough. THe Bible is probably better than any other text to read and you can, with some help, gain more understanding of people by reading it.

    2. Pastor John 🙏

      Indeed, the BIBLE is the better choice.

      1. Eddie Gilliam

        Pastor John
        You’re so right about the Bible is the best choice. I will be preaching Sunday night at 830pm topic will be choices matter.


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