Long before reaching billionaire status, Elon Musk challenged himself to live off $1 a day for a month.
He was a teenager wondering whether or not he had what it takes to be an entrepreneur and figured he could get a good idea of the answer after completing (or failing) this $1-a-day experiment.
As he explained to astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson in an episode of Tyson’s StarTalk Radio podcast, “So I was like, ‘Oh, ok. If I can live for a dollar a day — at least from a food cost standpoint — it’s pretty easy to earn $30 dollars in a month, so I’ll probably be OK.”
He passed his own test, living mainly off hot dogs and oranges for 30 days.
For the month of January, I decided to put Musk’s “training diet” to the test to see how much it really toughens you up, and on a broader scale, to see if I could make it as a bootstrapping entrepreneur.
I increased the amount I could spend to $2 a day to account for inflation, and I found out that the challenge was more than possible with strategic bulk shopping, a commitment to eating the same foods day in and day out (pasta and bananas were some of my staples), and a healthy dose of will power and self control.
It showed me that I don’t need as much money as I may have thought to survive — and if I ever want to pursue an entrepreneurial or otherwise cash-strapped path, it gave me the confidence that I could probably make it work with a friend’s couch to sleep on and a tight food budget.
Perhaps more profound, I learned in a very real way that if you put your mind to it — if you truly commit to doing something — you can do pretty much anything.
Going into the challenge, I didn’t have high expectations. I reasoned that it was probably impossible, but I would give it a shot, last a couple weeks, and write about failing. After doing the maths and realising just how far you can stretch $2, my perspective on the challenge changed drastically. While it certainly would not be a glamorous way to eat for a month, it was more than possible. In that moment, I committed to finishing out the month.
Mentally committing was a huge turning point. Once I settled it in my mind that I was going to endure the 31 days, it wasn’t a question of “Will I fail or succeed?” — it was a question of “How exactly am I going to make this work?”
I can’t promise the challenge will lead to billionaire status or successful entrepreneurial endeavours — nor do I recommend this nutrient-starved lifestyle (and neither does Musk). But in my experience, it changed my perspective on what truly is possible.
As Tyson said after Musk described completing his experiment: “Not to put words in your mouth, but that’s a starting point to launch anywhere you want to go.”
“Yeah. Absolutely,” Musk replied.
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