Business Opinion

Elon Musk: Ruthless, Respectable, Fascinating

My take on his interesting autobiography.

Being a lover of people’s stories made it practically impossible for me to resist purchasing Elon Musk’s biography, when I saw it by happenstance.

What an interesting guy. His kind of brilliance borders on insanity, and he is sane enough to know it. That is why he once hired a friend to travel with, observe, and tell Musk if he thought Musk was starting to go mad. Brilliant; talk about self-awareness.

Like Albert Einstein, Musk has said that, when in deep thought, he goes into a type of trance and sees complex problems detailed in long, 3-D threads, so to speak.

And, like so many really smart people, he barely sleeps.

An Interesting Early Life

Musk was born in South Africa, but his family hails from Canada. His father was a pilot and an explorer, of sorts. His mother, Maye Musk, is beautiful; a model since the age of 15 and, at 70 years old, appeared in the Beyoncé video “Haunted.” His parents divorced, he and his brother chose to live with their father and, other than to say it was not good, Musk chooses not to talk about it.

At the age of 18, Elon bought a one-way ticket to Canada. When he got there, he went to a phone booth and started calling long-lost relatives for a place to stay. He found a cousin’s couch to sleep on. After a few months, he called his brother, who was still in South Africa, to join him. They never went back to South Africa.

When he and his brother were young and living in Canada they would gather, with friends, at a diner and talk about seemingly outlandish things; like making electric cars, building rocket ships, and going to Mars. They would also make a list of all the important people living in Canada that they would like to meet. Then, outlandishly or maybe brazenly, they would call these people of importance and invite them to lunch.

During one such call the invitee, a successful banker, was intrigued by the young men’s hutzpah and accepted the lunch invitation. And, as to be expected, the banker quickly realized the young men’s potential and hired Elon to work at his bank where, at a young age, he effected positive change to some of the bank’s procedures.

This job led to the meeting of his first wife, Justine Wilson Musk. After a 5-year courtship, during which they both pursued their separate careers, they married. In 2002, their first son died of CIDS at 10 weeks. They later had a set of twins, followed by a set of triplets. Years later, the two would divorce and Justine, a notable author, chronologically wrote about it in her blog. Today, Elon has married, divorced, and remarried his 2nd wife, Tallulah, an actress.

Business of the Future

In this book, you learn about the business of Space Travel. Even though moon travel is no longer the topic of curiosity and conversation, there is a vast amount of launches and robotic work being done in space. Every month, governments and large corporations launch rockets and satellites into space, paying billions of dollars for the service. It is a huge industry that America has been trailing behind in. Until Elon came along, Russia was leading in the production of rockets and their parts.

Elon Musk is arguably one of the most important scientists of our time. He is not afraid to go toe to toe with NASA, Russia, Big Oil, and the auto industry. He is so smart and quick thinking that his frustration with bureaucracy, business as usual, and slow thinking people often make him appear arrogant and brash in his style of outspoken criticism. In a senate hearing, he called a NASA scientist stupid.  

Musk sees problems as opportunities and looks creatively at solving them. The Tesla electric car solves the problem of diminishing oil resources and carbon emissions. With Space X, he is planning for a time when Earth, after suffering from climate change and having been stripped of its natural resources, is no longer inhabitable.

Ruthless and Respectable

If you work for Musk, you better be able to work long hours and think outside the box. If he asks you to find a better way of doing something or find a better cost on a part, and you come back saying it can’t be done, he will fire you on the spot, make a mockery of you in front of your peers, and do it himself. And the kicker: he always does. 

His lack of need for sleep, innovative approach to the world’s problems, and “can do” attitude make him a tireless, ruthless, impatient, and effective boss.

It also makes him revered and respected by even the people he has publicly berated or fired.

I’m not the only person awed by Musk. His Tesla company stock prices are through the roof. Space X has yet to go public and, if Musk has his way, it never will.

After reading his biography and learning about his businesses, I think, when buying my next car, I will shop a Tesla model that can be purchased with the click of a mouse on their website’s shopping cart.

I mean after all, who doesn’t want an automobile (with a higher mortality rate than Covid-19) that has the highest safety standard rating, goes from 0 to 60 mph in 5.6 seconds, never requires an oil change, solves an environmental problem, and has been built with the owner and inventor walking around the production floor?

I’m sold.