Elon Musk

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

📚 GoodReads Info 📚

Overall Link to heading

An eye-opening book that gives an inside glimpse of Elon’s brilliant, Asperger’s-afflicted mind, teeming with original ideas yet occasionally temperamental, a driven visionary who’s often impatient, an innovative businessman who can be a challenging friend, and a relentless force for humanity’s advancement while often seeming indifferent to those outside his close-knit circle.

Those within his inner circle—friends, family, or long-time colleagues—understand how he operates. They know when to push back and when to let things slide. The book highlights several instances where he acknowledges his mistakes and moves on without dwelling. I sometimes jest that if Elon had copies of himself working for him, he’d repeatedly fire himself.

I’ve admired Elon for a long time, and my admiration persists. He is a source of inspiration and ambition, constantly pushing the boundaries of what’s possible. His contributions to humanity, technology, science, engineering, and climate change are unparalleled. However, he might be the first to admit that his monumental achievements sometimes come at the cost of empathy and rationality. Life is a series of decisions and trade-offs, and personalities are no exception.

Many criticize Elon, but rarely is this criticism constructive feedback. While I’ve never worked directly with him, I wanted to share my thoughts. If I ever had the opportunity, my primary suggestion for Elon is to celebrate and reward those around him more frequently. If he were as eager to promote or give bonuses as he is to fire people, there would be a more apparent balance. The book does mention promotions of deserving individuals when its in the business’ best interest, but moments of genuine appreciation and celebration seemed sparse.

Previously, I romanticized the notion of working alongside him. However, this book clarified that our work ethics might clash. While I’m devoted to mission-driven tasks and long hours, I prioritize my sleep and morning workouts. Elon’s sporadic demands, like late-night calls expecting results by dawn, aren’t feasible for me. My routine is fixed: go to bed at 10, wake up at 6, work out, and then work from 9 am to 10 pm. Elon, if you’re reading this and that sounds reasonable, just holler.

Having read this book immediately after Satya’s “Hit Refresh”, it was fascinating two see how polarizing their leadership approaches are. Satya and Elon are two of the world’s top 10 leaders driving technological innovation, but their approaches could be farther away from each other. Satya continually emphasizes the importance of empathy and how he treats his work family as a second family to his own, caring for every individual around him. Elon, on the other hand, is a talent magnet to hire people to whom he can delegate work, but has no empathy the moment they stop performing. Elon’s approach resonates more with me, but I’m cognizant of the fact that I have more to learn from Satya’s leadership style.

One other observation I had from the book was that while Elon now juggles multiple projects, he wasn’t always so diversified. During his time at Zip2 and PayPal, each was his sole focus. Ventures like SpaceX, Tesla, The Boring Company, and Neuralink evolved over decades. This trajectory underscores several points:

  1. It’s challenging to kickstart multiple projects simultaneously, but it’s feasible over time.
  2. While wealth doesn’t simplify managing numerous projects, it certainly enables it.
  3. Elon has a trusted team to handle daily operations, but he remains integral to decision-making.
  4. He may take occasional breaks, but there’s no sign of him slowing down.

In conclusion, as the world’s wealthiest and, in my view, most influential builder and technologist, Elon faces immense scrutiny. Many have achieved far less and faced far fewer critiques. I genuinely believe he’s doing the best he can, given the magnitude of his contributions.


The Elon Musk Formula Link to heading

  1. Question every requirement. Each should come with the name of the person who made it. You should never accept that a requirement came from a department, such as from “the legal department” or “the safety department.” You need to know the name of the real person who made that requirement. Then you should question it, no matter how smart that person is. Requirements from smart people are the most dangerous, because people are less likely to question them. Always do so, even if the requirement came from me. Then make the requirements less dumb.
  2. Delete any part or process you can. You may have to add them back later. In fact, if you do not end up adding back at least 10% of them, then you didn’t delete enough.
  3. Simplify and optimize. This should come after step two. Common mistake is to simplify and optimize a part or a process that should not exist.
  4. Accelerate cycle time. Every process can be speeded up. But only do this after you have followed the first three steps. In the Tesla factory, I mistakenly spent a lot of time accelerating processes that I later realized should have been deleted.
  5. Automate. That comes last. The big mistake in Nevada and at Fremont was that I began by trying to automate every step. We should have waited until all the requirements had been questioned, parts and processes deleted, and the bugs were shaken out.

Favorite Quotes Link to heading

“Technology does not automatically progress,” Musk said. “This flight was a great example of how progress requires human agency.”

“The experience became a lesson that would become part of Musk’s production algorithm. Always wait until the end of designing a process—after you have questioned all the requirements and deleted unnecessary parts—before you introduce automation.”

“That’s the difference between you and me,” he said. “I just assume that there will be nannies.” Then he rocked his arms and said, “Baby.” He was already a strong believer in having kids.”

“ The brothers had split their 12 percent ownership stake 60–40, so Elon at age twenty-seven walked away with $22 million and Kimbal with $15 million. Elon was astonished when the check arrived at his apartment. “My bank account went from, like, $5,000 to $22,005,000,” he says.”

Elon’s Personality Traits Link to heading

  • Empathy did not come naturally as a child, and that hasn’t changed
  • Has a tendency to call people stupid
  • “Live dangerously but carefully”
  • Expects from others what he expects of himself
  • All senses turn off when he thinks deeply about something
  • Has an ability to attract people that works on most people (e.g. not Max Levchin)
  • What he lacks in empathy he makes up for in intensity
  • Has good intuition of how to go from product to production
  • Uses darkness as a gateway to silly humor

Elon’s Key Life Decisions Link to heading

  • Moved in with his father in his teens because he thought his father was lonely
  • Read Nietzsche as a child, which led to existential despair instead of reflection
  • Went to Queens instead of Waterloo simply to have a social life
  • Did not pursue a phd because the internet bubble was happening (his professor predicted he would never come back)
  • Prefers being a CEO over a CTO because that’s how you make product decisions
  • Regrets buying Twitter

Relationships & Interactions Link to heading

  • Eberheart (other Tesla founder) has very similar personality traits to Elon, which is why they couldn’t work together
  • Larry stopped talking to Elon after he recruited Ilya Sutskever away from Google to OpenAI
  • Karpathy was an OpenAI co-founder, but recruited by Elon to lead AI at Tesla
  • Musk’s relationship with Gates is almost childish, but centered around a multi-billion dollar Tesla short
  • Believes that having children should be a social duty

Work Ethic & Management Style Link to heading

  • There were only 100 people when SpaceX launched & landed its first rocket
  • Musk said his honor was more important than PayPal and wanted to be the public face of the company
  • Cuts timelines by telling people to “just do it”
  • Has OCD w.r.t to both design & engineering, unlike Jobs who was just on the design side
  • Shows team how to take risk by doing it with them
  • Believes small group of high-quality generalists are better than a large group of average engineers

Anecdotes & Personal Stories Link to heading

  • Elon showed a lot of emotion when his first-born passed away
  • I knew 2008 was hard for Elon, but this book is what really made it clear
  • This book reiterates how real the PayPal mafia is
  • The chapter about him being addicted to mobile games was hilarious
  • SpaceX donated more than 80MM worth of equipment to Ukraine to give them internet access; that is the best type of donation in my opinion
  • Elon and his brother only owned 12% of Zip2 only owned 12% (with his brother) of the 300MM company they sold to compaq at the time
  • Almost had Tesla and SpaceX go bankrupt at the same time; saved by Peter Thiel’s 20MM lifeline from founders fund.