I’m not usually a huge fan of biographies written by journalists. My main problem with them is that the intention of a biography is often to sell a lot of copies, whereas autobiographies are often written by incredible people as a way to share their story (they’re usually plenty rich by that point anyway). Nonetheless my desperation to learn more about Elon Musk and his life’s work pulled me towards this book.
The vast majority of this book is terrific, factual and paints Elon with opinions from all sides. Our author had terrific access to Elon and his personal network which really enhanced the detail of his story. I’ll spare you the rest of the details, but it was a well done piece of journalism.
My favorite things about Elon Musk:
Risk – Elon Musk bet the entirety of his personal wealth to invest in and keep both Tesla and SpaceX alive. Usually CEO’s shut the company down when they can’t get enough investor money to keep operating. Elon on multiple occasions doubled down and bet his net worth on himself and his team. That tolerance for risk in pursuit of what you feel must be done is incredibly inspiring.
Solving the biggest problems – There was a quote in the book from Musk about how unfortunate it was that the majority of smart people pursued riches through the internet. By this he meant most of us are just trying to get paid, and see venture capital and internet applications as the sole road to success. Now this really stuck me because I work in electronic trading software. We don’t even kid ourselves about ‘improving’ the lives of people, we just compete with other equally smart people to make ourselves money. There’s probably enough brainpower in finance and trading cure cancer. Instead we write programs to try and bankrupt our friends in the capital markets.
Musk is attacking space travel (colonization of mars is his goal) and energy (removing fossil fuels) as his two goals. When you think about it, the big problems that humanity faces should really be the only problems anyone is focusing on. I’ve always loved the idea of alternate energy and this book has inspired me to study more and try to build things that will help. My solar panel project (updates to come on that!) is a direct derivative of this book.
Tenacious – This is my new favorite word, and one that describes Elon Musk so well. Elon believes in working as hard as humanly possible to achieve goals. The only way to beat everyone is to out work them. Tenacity is his one trait I most admire.
By the way, the other week Elon’s company SpaceX successfully re-landed first stage of the rocket the launched to deliver satellites to space. That’s the big piece that we’ve all seen just fall into the ocean as garbage on every single other launch in history. This is huge for the world because it brings us a step closer to multiple launches per day (reusing rockets) and thus a step closer to affordable space travel. Incredible.
You know what was more discussed on social media that day? That Steve Harvey guy apparently announced the wrong Miss America winner or something. Humanity needs briliant risk takers like Elon Musk to advance (and possibly save) the human race, but I’m not so certain we all deserve them.
Verdict: Definitely read this one.