Elon Musk tells USC business graduates: Just work 'super' hard

'Work super hard' Elon Musk tells USC graduates. That's all there is to it?

What’s the secret to the kind of success that creates worldwide fame and brings in billions of dollars? “Work super hard!” Elon Musk told graduating seniors at USC.

What about entrepreneurial genius? An uncanny ability to ferret out and master new technologies and projects? Nah. Just keep your nose to the grindstone.

Musk kept his advice for the 2014 graduating class of the Marshall School of Business and Leventhal School of Accounting brief and to the point: Surround yourself with good people, he said. Focus on the fundamentals. And, perhaps most telling of all, considering the source: Take risks.

“Do something bold,” he said.

Bold is Musk’s middle name.  The serial entrepreneur co-founded PayPal and currently serves as the chief executive of Palo Alto-based Tesla Motors Corp. and Hawthorne rocket maker SpaceX. He is also the chairman of SolarCity Corp. in San Mateo.

But his beginnings were threadbare. He recalled founding a company years ago with his brother Kimbal (although Musk never specified the company, he was referring to web software company Zip2, which was later sold to Compaq).

"My brother and I rented a small office. We slept on a couch and showered at the YMCA," he said.

They could only afford one computer, he said. "The website was up during the day, and I was coding at night, seven days a week."

Hard work, good people, fundamentals. For Musk, it’s the formula for success. But you have to be willing to take Musk-size risks. He, for one, believes “you won’t regret it.”

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