The first time I read Elon Musk‘s name was in Peter Thiel’s book Zero to One. That was in 2014. Back then, not everyone in the world knew who Elon was. Sure, he was already a billionaire, already “famous” by conventional standards, but he was far from the world’s richest person, nor the most-followed account on Twitter. Today, everyone “knows” Elon Musk — but few people actually know anything more than what they read about him in the media. Whether you want to get to know the real Elon or are simply looking for some of his best lines and words of inspiration, today’s list of the best Elon Musk quotes will deliver!
Hi there! My name is Nik. I’m a writer. While I’m not the world’s biggest Elon expert, I’ve been following him for almost ten years. I read his biography, and I’ve watched many an interview and documentary to experience the man in his own words. As such, I have a good overview of what he said when and where, and today, I’d like to put that knowledge to good use.
This organized collection will highlight the 10 most inspiring lines from Elon over the years. We’ll also include his 10 smartest, most-likely-to-blow-your-mind arguments, and his 10 funniest jokes. Unlike most quote lists, we’ll provide the original source for each quote. Finally, we’ll share where you can find even more Elon Musk quotes, briefly summarize his life for you, and provide some premade, custom images you can use to share your favorite “Muskisms” to social media.
The easiest way to navigate this list is to jump to whichever section interests you the most using the table of contents below. If you want to share a quote, you can highlight it and various options will appear. Or, just skip to the images section and pick your favorite.
Now, like Elon once said when asked why he put $100+ million, most of his fortune, into a rocket company and a car company instead of sipping Mai Tais on the beach — “Needed to get going on accelerating sustainable energy & making life multi-planetary” — let’s get going!
Table of Contents
The 10 Most Inspiring Elon Musk Quotes
Elon gets his inspiration from bringing about a positive, hopeful, optimistic future for humanity. That has been his driving motivator since he was a teenager, and everything he does maps to that vision. In turn, we can get a lot of inspiration from him simply by observing him. Watching the lone warrior fight against the odds makes us want to do and be better, too.
Every now and then, however, Elon also speaks to inspiration more directly. Here are what I think to be his 10 most heartening lines.
1. “Never. I don’t ever give up. I’d have to be dead or completely incapacitated. For my part, I will never give up, and I mean never.”
2. “I think people can choose to be not ordinary. You know, they can choose to not necessarily conform to the conventions that were taught to them by their parents. So, yes, I think it’s possible for ordinary people to choose to be extraordinary.”
3. “A source of strength, hm. That’s really not how I think about things. For me it’s simply: This is something that is important to get done, and we we should just keep doing it or die trying. I don’t need a source of strength. [Quitting] is not in my nature, and I don’t care about optimism or pessimism. F*ck that, we’re gonna get it done.”
4. “You guys are the magicians of the 21st century. Don’t let anything hold you back. Imagination is the limit. Go out there and create some magic.”
5. “[Mars] would just be the greatest adventure. Ever. And very exciting. And I think we need things in life that are exciting and inspiring. It can’t just be about solving some awful problem. There have to be reasons to get up in the morning.”
6. “Take risks now. Do something bold. You won’t regret it.”
7. “When something is important enough, you do it even if the odds aren’t in your favor.”
8. “When I was a little kid, I was really scared of the dark. But then I came to understand, okay, dark just means the absence of photons in the visible wavelength — 400 to 700 nanometers. Then I thought, well, it’s really silly to be afraid of a lack of photons. Then I wasn’t afraid of the dark anymore after that.”
9. “I feel fear quite strongly. It’s not as though I just have the absence of fear. I feel it quite strongly. But there are times when something is important enough, you believe in it enough, that you do it in spite of the fear. People shouldn’t think, ‘I feel fear about this, and therefore I shouldn’t do it.’ It’s normal to feel fear. There’d have to be something mentally wrong [with you] if you didn’t feel fear. […] If you just accept the probabilities, then that diminishes fear.”
10. “I think it’s very difficult to start companies and quite painful. There’s a friend of mine who’s got a good phrase for doing a startup: ‘It’s like eating glass and staring into the abyss.’ If you’re sort of wired to do it, then you should do it, but not otherwise. If you need inspiring words, don’t do it.”
- This one I pieced together from an interview and his message to SpaceX employees after the third Falcon launch failure.
- From an interview at SpaceX.
- Talking to Lex Fridman on his podcast.
- From his commencement speech at Caltech in 2012.
- Talking to Vanity Fair in 2014.
- From his USC commencement speech in 2014.
- On 60 Minutes in 2012.
- From a documentary I can’t locate in full.
- In a 2016 interview with Y Combinator.
- To students of Draper University at a Tesla factory tour.
Bonus: For more Elon motivation, watch this video. There are thousands of them out there, so don’t get lost for too long, but that one really blew my socks off.
The 10 Smartest, Most-Likely-to-Blow-Your-Mind Elon Musk Quotes
No matter how inspiring you might be, you don’t become the world’s richest man simply by being someone others find encouraging. You have to change the world. From electric cars to sustainable energy to reusable rockets, sustainable AI, brain interfaces, high-speed transportation, and even a walking, learning-capable robot, Elon continues to do so in more ways than one.
As a shy kid with Asperger’s Syndrome, Elon devoured books about science and philosophy as a teenager. He also holds degrees in economics and physics. Most of his ideas that seem genius to you and me, however, he simply discovered while doing an incredible amount of work in a wide-ranging area of disciplines. Here are the 10 Elon quotes most likely to blow your mind:
11. “Well, I do think there’s a good framework for thinking. It is physics. You know, the sort of first principles reasoning. What I mean by that is boil things down to their fundamental truths and reason up from there, as opposed to reasoning by analogy. Through most of our life, we get through life by reasoning by analogy, which essentially means copying what other people do with slight variations. And you have to do that. Otherwise, mentally, you wouldn’t be able to get through the day. But when you want to do something new, you have to apply the physics approach.”
12. “If somebody is doing something that is useful to the rest of society, I think that’s a good thing. It doesn’t have to change the world. If you make something that has high value to people, and frankly even if it’s a little game or, you know, some improvement in photo-sharing — if it has a small amount of good for a large number of people, I think that’s fine. Having something that makes a big difference but affects a small to moderate number of people is great, as is something that makes an even smaller difference but affects a vast number of people. Stuff doesn’t need to change the world to be good.”
13. “I think most people can learn a lot more than they think they can. They sell themselves short without trying. One bit of advice: It is important to view knowledge as sort of a semantic tree — make sure you understand the fundamental principles, i.e. the trunk and big branches, before you get into the leaves/details, or there is nothing for them to hang on to.”
14. “Somebody could say — and in fact people do — that battery packs are really expensive, and that’s just the way they will always be, because that’s the way they have been in the past. Well, no, that’s pretty dumb. Because if you applied that reasoning to anything new, then you wouldn’t be able to ever get to that new thing. […] For batteries, they would say, ‘historically, it has cost $600 per kilowatt-hour, and so it’s not going to be much better than that in the future.’ So first principles would be to say, ‘What are the material constituents of the batteries? What is the spot market value of the material constituents? It’s got cobalt, nickel, aluminum, carbon, some polymers for separation, and a steel can.’ So break that down on a material basis and say, ‘If we bought that on the London Metal Exchange, what would each of those things cost? Oh, jeez, it’s like $80 per kilowatt-hour.’ So, clearly, you just need to think of clever ways to take those materials and combine them into the shape of a battery cell, and you can have batteries that are much, much cheaper than anyone realizes.”
15. “It’s very important to actively seek out and listen very carefully to negative feedback. This is something that people tend to avoid because it’s painful, but I think this is a very common mistake. To not actively seek out and listen to negative feedback. […] When friends get a product, I say, ‘Look, don’t tell me what you like. Tell me what you don’t like.’ Because otherwise your friend is not going to tell you what he doesn’t like. You really need to sort of coax negative feedback. If somebody’s your friend or at least not your enemy, and they’re giving you negative feedback, then they may be wrong, but it’s coming from a good place.”
16. “I think it’s very important to have a feedback loop, where you’re constantly thinking about what you’ve done and how you could be doing it better. I think that’s the single best piece of advice: constantly think about how you could be doing things better and questioning yourself.”
17. “I read a quote from Arthur C. Clark which said that ‘A sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.’ And that’s really true. If you go back say, 300 years, the things we take for granted today, you’d be burned at the stake for. Being able to fly. That’s crazy. Being able to see over long distances, being able to communicate, having, effectively, with the Internet, a group mind of sorts, and having access to all the world’s information instantly from almost anywhere on the earth. This is stuff that would be considered magic in times past. In fact, I think it actually goes beyond that, because there are many things that we take for granted today that weren’t even imagined in times past. That weren’t even in the realm of magic. So it actually goes beyond that. So I thought, well, if I can do some of those things – if I can advance technology, then that’s like magic, and that would be really cool.”
18. “A good sign as to whether there’s free speech is: Is someone you don’t like allowed to say something you don’t like? If that is the case, then we have free speech. And it’s damn annoying when someone you don’t like says something you don’t like. [But] that is a sign of a healthy, functioning, free speech situation.”
19. “One of the really tough things is figuring out what questions to ask. Once you figure out the question, then the answer is relatively easy. I came to the conclusion that really we should aspire to increase the scope and scale of human consciousness in order to better understand what questions to ask. The only thing that makes sense to do is strive for greater collective enlightenment.”
20. “Always take the position that you are to some degree wrong, and your goal is to be less wrong over time. One of the biggest mistakes people generally make, and I’m guilty of it too, is wishful thinking. You want something to be true, even if it isn’t true. And so you ignore the real truth because of what you want to be true. This is a very difficult trap to avoid. [So] just take that approach, that you’re always to some degree wrong, and your goal is to be less wrong.”
- In source with head of TED, Chris Anderson, in 2013.
- Pieced together from two sections of the Y Combinator interview (one and two).
- In a Reddit AMA.
- Talking to Kevin Rose.
- Also from the Kevin Rose interview.
- Talking to Lance Ulanoff for Mashable.
- From the Caltech commencement speech.
- Live at TED 2022.
- As quoted in his biography.
- During the World Government Summit in 2017.
Bonus: If you’re looking for more smart ideas from the man and want to get deeper into his thinking process, here are 3 of my favorite interviews with him (one short, one medium, one long) that’ll get you the most bang for your buck — or smarts for your time, in this case:
- How to Build the Future (with Sam Altman for Y Combinator) (19:32)
- Elon Musk talks Twitter, Tesla and how his brain works — live at TED2022 (54:45)
- Elon Musk: SpaceX, Mars, Tesla Autopilot, Self-Driving, Robotics, and AI | Lex Fridman Podcast #252 (2:31:47)
The 10 Funniest Elon Musk Quotes
For all his serious, civilization-affecting activities, Elon seems to still have plenty of fun along the way. Unlike most other billionaires, business magnates, politicians, and otherwise influential figures, however, he actually shares his joy with us. He doesn’t take himself too seriously. He is notorious for posting memes on Twitter, cracking jokes, and often following through on what at first seems like a prank announcement.
From labeling Tesla’s car model lineup with letters spelling “S3XY” to selling flamethrowers, “boring hats,” and burned hair to repainting the sign on Twitter’s headquarters to look like it spells “Titter,” Elon’s antics have made for many laughs over the years. At times, they’ve also gotten him into trouble. In any case, here are Elon’s 10 funniest tweets and jokes:
21. After his acquisition of Twitter to prioritize free speech on the platform again: “Next I’m buying Coca-Cola to put the cocaine back in.”
22. “I would like to die on Mars — just not on impact.”
23. On wrecking his McLaren F1 with Peter Thiel in the passenger seat: “We’re driving up Sand Hill Road, and Peter says: ‘So, what can this do?’ And then, probably number one on the list of famous last words, I said: ‘Watch this.’”
24. While entering Twitter HQ after acquiring the company, holding a sink: “Let that sink in!”
25. After almost dying from a misdiagnosed type of malaria, which he acquired on his first vacation, a trip to Africa, in years: “That’s my lesson for taking a vacation: Vacations will kill you.”
26. “If there’s ever a scandal about me, please call it Elongate.”
27. “I put the art in fart.”
28. For the chemistry nerds: “Technically, alcohol is a solution.”
29. When asked why so many of the SpaceX rocket launches happen at night: “It’s much easier to do the CGI that way.”
30. On the need to go to Mars and beyond: “We can’t be one of those lame one-planet civilizations!”
- His most liked tweet.
- At South by Southwest in 2013.
- In a PandoDaily interview in 2012.
- On Twitter.
- As quoted in his biography.
- Another tweet.
- Also Twitter.
- Aaaaand Twitter.
Bonus: If you want more fun Elon, here’s him hosting Meme Review PewDiePie-style, and here’s a collection of all his appearances in TV shows, cartoons, and Hollywood movies.
More Elon Musk Quotes
The more famous someone becomes, the more people love to put words in their mouth. That’s why there’s a plethora of fake Albert Einstein, Mother Teresa, and, well, Elon Musk quotes. Therefore, it’s always best to verify your quotes and stick to their sources. When it comes to Elon, those can be his Twitter account and in-person interviews.
But the best bulk source for more Elon quotes, in my opinion, is Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future*, the only authorized biography of Elon so far, based on more than 30 hours of interviews with him directly and over 200 people who know him. The book is from 2015, and there’s a new biography by famed biographer Walter Isaacson coming out in September 2023, but until then, this one’s a great account of the early Tesla and SpaceX days — and Elon’s early life, of course.
Here’s a short overview of the book and two snazzy buttons to either buy the book (and support us with a small commission at no extra charge to you) or read our free, four-minute summary.
“If the rules are such that you can’t make progress, then you have to fight the rules.” — Elon Musk
The Book in One Sentence
Elon Musk is the first official biography of the creator of SolarCity, SpaceX and Tesla, based on over 30 hours of conversation time between author Ashlee Vance and Musk himself, highlighting his complicated childhood, the way he makes decisions and navigates the world, and how he managed to disrupt multiple industries, all with the goal of saving humanity.
Why should you read it?
Whether you’re a casual observer, hesitant skeptic, or diehard Elon fan, this book provides a great, mostly objective description of his life. It’s easy to judge someone based on a headline some reporter wrote to get clicks and make money. Truly getting to know someone takes work. At the same time, spending a few hours reading a book isn’t that much effort. After reading this book, you’ll know and understand Elon Musk better than 99% of all people on the planet — and there’s a big chance you’ll learn something new for your own journey along the way.
- Answering questions is easy, asking the right questions is what’s hard.
- Use a success-through-determination approach to accomplish your goals.
- Unify all of your work under the roof of one giant goal to have a bigger impact on the world.
If you want to learn more, you can read our free, four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself:
The Best Elon Musk Quotes for Sharing on Social Media
As mentioned in the intro, you can use the “highlight and share” feature to post any quote on this page to your socials. We’ve also made some custom images for you to easily tap and share. Some are optimized for Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, while others follow Instagram’s classic square format or Pinterest’s more vertical layout.
Elon is obsessed with truth. It’s important to him to understand the world as it truly is and for people to know what his real motives are. He’s also skeptical of the advent of AI. He believes it’s an important and inevitable technology, but also that it must be realized in the right way. As such, we’ve decided to not use AI-generated background images this time. Instead, we stuck with real pictures of Elon Musk, the human being — we hope you’ll enjoy and he won’t mind. Happy sharing!
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Who Is Elon Musk? (His Life in 500 Words)
Born in Pretoria, South Africa, in 1971, Elon grew up in a large family of constant travelers. His dad was an engineer and pilot and had a small plane. Elon was a shy and introverted kid, often bullied in school. He usually preferred books and video games to people, and he even sold a game he programmed at age 12 for $500. Elon’s parents divorced when he was nine. After mostly living with his father until he was of age, he became estranged from him and moved to Canada with his brother Kimbal. Initially, they made ends meet working odd jobs, as lumberjacks, for example.
Elon’s goal was always to reach and live in the US, the land of opportunity. He knew it would be easier to get a visa in Canada, and he was right. After attending university for a bit in Ontario, he switched to University of Pennsylvania and attained Bachelor degrees in both physics and economics. Instead of continuing in academia, however, Elon dropped out of his PhD program to start an early internet company with Kimbal. Zip2 brought businesses online and helped newspapers host city guides on the web. They sold the business for $300 million at the height of the dot-com boom.
After that, Elon founded X.com, a payments service which competed and later merged with PayPal. The latter was sold to Ebay for $1.5 billion. Musk then started SpaceX, a reusable-rocket company, and, after getting it off the ground, became Tesla’s CEO in 2008. The early days of those companies were brutal. On the outside, Elon looked wealthy. But of his $180 million fortune, not a single cent was left after funding these ventures. He even had to borrow money for rent.
Between funding issues that almost bankrupted both companies several times, four failed rocket launches before one finally worked, short sellers trying to manipulate Tesla’s stock, and three years of “production hell,” during which Elon slept on the floor in the Tesla factory as they desperately tried to ramp up Model 3 output to mass scale, his path to success has been anything but easy. Fortunately, today, 15 years after becoming Tesla’s CEO, Elon is still mainly known for being head of the electric car manufacturer. However, he has also started a slew of other ventures since.
From OpenAI (a non-profit to further controlled AI development) to Starlink (hardware for remote internet access from anywhere), Neuralink (a direct brain-to-computer interface system), and single-handedly buying Twitter, it’s hard to keep track of everything Elon does — and, as in his illustrious and wandering life path, there’s a lesson in that we can take away: Study widely, dive into anything you’re interested in, and never stop learning.
If Elon can teach himself how to program computer games, how to build rockets, and how to get a factory to churn out 100,000+ cars per month, there’s almost nothing you can’t learn either. We hope our list of quotes will inspire you to go after something you’re passionate about or, if you’re already doing that, give it even a little more effort than you already have been.
That’s it! That concludes our list of the 30 best quotes from Elon Musk. What do you think? Did we make some good picks? Or is there something you’re missing? In either case, tweet us your favorite Elon quote, and we’ll continue to occasionally update this list as Elon says more inspiring, smart, and funny things — which I’m sure he’ll keep doing regardless of what anyone thinks of him — and if nothing else, that’s a quality worth emulating.
Other Quote Lists
Looking for more quotes from interesting people and lines from great books? Here are all quote lists we’ve hand-selected for you so far:
- The 30 Best & Most Popular Yoda Quotes
- The Catcher in the Rye Quotes: The 44 Best & Most Important Quotes From J. D. Salinger’s Masterpiece
- The 44 Best & Most Important Stoic Quotes From Seneca, Marcus Aurelius & Co.
- 414 Short Inspirational Quotes to Motivate You Right Now (2023)
- The 44 Best & Most Important Quotes From Marcus Aurelius
- The 30 Smartest, Funniest, and Most Inspiring Elon Musk Quotes
- The 21 Best & Most Underrated Dumbledore Quotes
- The 33 Best, Most Important, and Most Inspiring Quotes From Bruce Lee
- The 45 Best Brené Brown Quotes About Courage, Shame & Vulnerability
- Brave New World Quotes: The 50 Best & Most Important Lines From Aldous Huxley’s Masterpiece
- 1984 Quotes: The 30 Best & Most Important Lines From George Orwell’s Masterpiece
Last Updated on May 25, 2023