The past few weeks I’ve been listening to the Elon Musk biography during my commute to and from work. It’s the first biography I’ve ever read or listened to, so I have nothing to compare it to, but I wanted to share with you, dear reader, my overall impression of both the book, and the man it describes.
The book itself is long but easy enough to get through. It’s served in small segments corresponding to specific times in Elon’s life, both personal and professional, and often intertwined. You get a sense of what he was like as a child growing up in South Africa, what his family was like, his ascent through silicon valley, the risks, the ups and downs, his romantic relationships, his relationship with his children, you’re reminded of notable events like the time he smoked weed on Joe Rogan, you see a glimpse into his work ethic, his quirks, his demons, and just about anything else you could probably think of.
I would say you get a pretty comprehensive view of the life of Elon Musk, but for me, what I found interesting was the way the book left me with both a question, and an insight. I’m sure Elon would be the first person to admit he’s a flawed human being. During his SNL monologue, he admitted as much by saying he’s not a normal dude. But whereas most of us only see the silly, sometimes goofy side of Elon, the book reveals Elon the builder.
It shows to what lengths he’ll go to achieve success. The genius of his hunches and the drive to do whatever it takes to succeed. He refers to the culture inside his companies as hard core, and no one comes close to being as hard core as Elon.
At times he expects people to perform the impossible, often leading to remarkable outcomes that wouldn’t have been fathomable for anyone else, though not always. What he has accomplished hasn’t been without collateral damage. People he’s hurt or disappointed along the way. He certainly has an ego, and humble isn’t a word you’d use to describe him, but I wouldn’t call him reckless. At times he may appear that way, moments where he gets close to the line, but he never quite steps over it, or hasn’t so far in my humble opinion.
So what’s the question I was left with? I asked myself could there be a better way? While Elon’s methods have definitely led to results, amazing and other worldly results, would it have been possible for him to have accomplished even more using a different approach? Could he have kept some good people to stick around longer by motivating them in different ways? I have no idea.
As for the insight I gained from the book, it’s that what you do for your work matters. If you don’t think your work is important, it’s a lot more difficult to be hard core. You’re willing to put up with a lot more pain and suffering if you believe what you’re working on is solving one of the most important problems in the world. For Elon, that’s to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy with Tesla, to enable the colonization of Mars and make humanity a multi-planetary species through Space X, along with all the other problems he’s working on solving.
The one thing Elon’s not working on? Creating a new form of money that will help reduce the role of government and help increase the amount of economic freedom in the world. This is what we’re building at eCash.