The riddle Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla and SpaceX uses during job interviews


He’s the guy developing electric cars, has a private space shuttle company, helped create PayPal and was the inspiration for “genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist” Tony Stark from the Iron Man and Avengers movies. To top it all off – Elon Musk also did a cameo appearance in Iron Man 2 – there’s a few clips on Youtube.

There’s an upcoming biography on Elon Musk which describes how he handles job interviews. Musk appears disinterested and may not pay any attention to the potential job applicant at the start of the interview. Once the interview progresses along, Musk asks a riddle –

“You’re standing on the surface of the Earth. You walk one mile south, one mile west and one mile north. You end up exactly where you started. Where are you?”

Some thinking space is left here for you to ponder.





My initial thought was it depends on where you start and I ended up with the answer North West or West. However I forgot about the last part of the riddle – you end up where you start.

The answer to the riddle is actually you are either standing at the North Pole or conversely at the South Pole instead.

Here’s a diagram to represent the scenario – the blue dot represents the starting point of the journey, a person standing on the North Pole. It’s followed by 1) moving south, 2) moving west and then 3) heading north and back to the original starting location. The red circle with stick arms represents a person.


Did you know that when you’re standing at the North Pole*, rugged up in arctic gear and holding a compass in one hand – that all directions point to South? 🙂

*If you were willing enough to stand on unstable ice.

Worthy reading and initial source:

Essa 🙂




Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

8 thoughts on “The riddle Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla and SpaceX uses during job interviews

  1. Mark G May 15, 2015 at 1:21 am Reply

    I first learned this through the classic riddle “You’re in a hut where all the walls are facing south. A bear walks by the window, what colour is it?” Not sure how the hut got there though. Must be some kind of Fortress of Solitude.

    • Essa May 17, 2015 at 5:46 pm Reply

      I’ve never heard of that riddle before – what colour is the bear?


      • Mr X May 26, 2015 at 6:37 pm

        The bear is white, because it’s a polar bear.

      • Essa May 26, 2015 at 8:15 pm

        Thanks Mr X!


  2. turkus2 May 15, 2015 at 12:47 pm Reply

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but the only answer is the North Pole – since you can’t walk “a mile south” initially if you’re standing on the South Pole.


    • Essa May 17, 2015 at 5:52 pm Reply

      I’m pretty sure you’re right – if you are at the South Pole, then all directions on your compass should point North.

      The rules of the universe don’t always seem to apply to riddles – such as attempting to stand at the North Pole when there’s water and nothing to stand on for most of the year.


  3. lucidsystems May 22, 2015 at 9:16 pm Reply

    There is more than one answer.

    One which is possible is if you are not quite on the south pole. You could walk one mile south so that the circumference of the earth is reduced to just one mile. Then you will walk around the earth (east / west) back to the same point ; finally you walk north again which takes you back to the same spot at which you started.

    • Essa May 22, 2015 at 9:31 pm Reply

      Thanks lucidsystems for the explanation about the south pole!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: