Elon Musk's Biography
Rating: 10/10Author: Ashlee Vance Read The Original
I watched a one hour long documentary about Elon Musk on Youtube about a year ago so I was hesitant in buying the book. After finishing this book, I concluded that it must now be in my top 5 must reads right alongside Can't Hurt Me by David Goggins. You hear about Musk's work ethic, success and passion through the news all the time. But in his biography you get to dig much deeper and see his flaws, extreme perseverance and genius in such close detail. I was in awe, and couldn't put the book down and ended up finishing it in three days.
Elon Musk Biography Summary
Ashlee Vance the author of the book spent many occasions talking to Elon about his life in order to write this book, so it isn't some third hand account of things anyone can find online.
- The book first talks about Elon's life growing up and his early educational career. Vance throws in Elon's romantic relationships in places where it is appropriate.
- Musk was bullied during his childhood and also had an extremely difficult relationship with his father, so much so that he did not want to talk about it. Musk says, however, that he is thankful for those difficult times because it shaped him into the man he is today.
- While reading the book you realize one of Elon's greatest gifts is not his intellect (There are a lot of smart people who aren't as nearly as successful as Elon) but his energy. There are tons of examples throughout the book where you're questioning whether working that much at that high of a level is even possible.
Interesting points during college that point to future success:
- During college Elon wrote an extremely detailed and long final paper explaining the inner workings of solar power and how it is becoming a very viable market due to rapid technological improvements.
- During one summer in college, Elon interned at two silicon valley companies at the same time. He worked at an energy storage start up called Pinnacle Research Institute during the day and video game start Rocket Science Games at night. -> These are both experiences which most definitely played a role in his future success and even foreshadow the future where he continues to work at two companies at the same time.
- He took business classes in college and competed in public speaking contests.
Vance then goes into talking about Elon's creation and involvement with Zip2 and Paypal. He then talks about how SpaceX and Tesla were started which interestingly enough were both not Elon's own ideas. This was surprising to me because I always had the preconception that these companies were things Elon wanted to start since entering college.
Throughout these startup stories, you see Elon's lowest points and wonder how a man can handle so much stress at once. Running one company is enough to drive the majority of people crazy but successfully running two makes you understand why people call him the real life Iron Man.
I also noticed that Musk is a sponge when it came to absorbing knowledge. For example while creating X.com his finance startup he read books on the banking industry to learn its inner workings. He applied to same technique when trying to understand how rockets or car engines worked.
The creation of SpaceX was particularly interesting because he created the startup after being kicked out of Paypal which he was planning to stay at for the long-term and was denied by Russians for rocket parts. If either of these failures had not happened SpaceX might not have happened.
Although you are greeted by Musk's brilliance throughout the book, you also come to learn of the brilliant people that contributed to Elon's success. These people I believe do not get the credit they deserve for the creation of Tesla and SpaceX.
The book was extremely motivational, and I recommend it to anyone no matter what their profession or goals are in life.
Warning -> This book will make you want to purchase a Tesla. The book really gets you to understand how incredible of a car the Model S really is.
- Elon essentially changed the definition of what an electric car or just car for that matter is. Compared many times to the first original iphone. After that the definition of a phone completely changed.
"What Musk has developed that so many entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley lack is a meaningful worldview" .
- Silicon Valley is known for tons of people chasing the quick buck and racing for an IPO and because of this many people lost hope in technology revolutionizing the world.
"He (Elon) points out that one of the really tough things is figuring out what questions to ask"
"It was not unusual for him to read ten hours a day", said Kimbal. Elon, had in fact, churned through two sets of encyclopedias".
"Honestly, there were no signs that he was going to be a billionaire He was never in a leadership position at school said Giedon Fourie a classmate of Elons"
"If there was a way that I could not eat, so I could work more, I would not eat" -Elon
"The enormity of his work ethic at that age and his intensity jumped out"
"When Elon gets into something, he develops just this different level of interest in it than other people. That is what differentiates Elon from the rest of humanity"
"I really like computer games, but then if I made really great computer games, how much effect would that have on the world he said."
"He wasn't just sniffing out trends, and he wasn't consumed by the idea of getting rich. "He's been in the pursuit of a master plan all along."
"Starting Zip2 and watching it grow imbued Musk with self-confidence"
"We all worked twenty hours a day, and he (Elon) worked twenty-three hours".
"Money is not his motivation, and, quite frankly, I think it just happens for him, Justine said. It's just there. He knows he can generate it"
"Musk had reverted to his childhood state as a devourer of information and had emerged from this meditative process with the realization that rockets could and should be made much cheaper than the Russians were offering."
"Elon had pretty good patience...What Musk would not tolerate were excuses or the lack of a clear plan of attact"
"When Hollman visited the doctor, he discovered that Musk had already agreed to pay for the surgery. "Elon can be very demanding, but he'll make sure the obstacles in your way are removed""
"He (Elon) always communicated the importance of being lean and of success, but it was never 'if we fail, we're done for'. He was very optimistic."
- This was right after the failed launch of a rocket which was crucial to the early survival of SpaceX.
"instead of doing the fashionable Silicon Valley thing of "pivoting" toward a new idea or plan, Musk would dig in deeper."
"If you put a number on the projector that does not make sense, he will spot it. He (Elon) doesn't miss details".
"He (Elon) has to understand that you're as crazy as he is. This ethos filtered through the entire company, and everyone quickly understood Musk meant business".
This was during the time where both Tesla and SpaceX were on the very brink of bankruptcy.
- "I will spend my last dollar on these companies. If we have to move into Justine's parents' basement, we'll do it".
- "One day there were fifty articles about how Tesla will die"
- "He looked like death itself, Riley said. 'I remember thinking this guy (Elon) would have a heart attack and die. He seemed like a man on the brink. In the middle of the night, Musk would have niightmares and yell out. He was in physical pain' Riley said
- "I felt like a pile of shit. I didn't think we would overcome it. I thought things were probably fucking doomed" - Elon
- "The deal ended up closing on Christmas Eve, hour before Tesla would have gone bankrupt"
"He has the ability to work harder and endure more stress than anyone I've ever met" Gracias said. What he went through in 2008 would have broken anyone else. He didn't just survive. He kept working and stayed focused. The harder it get the better he gets."
"He interviewed almost every one of spaceX's first one thousand hires, including the janitors and technicians, and has continued to interview the engineers as the company's workforce swelled."
"Musk managed to conjure up that Steve Jobs like zeal among his troops. 'His vision is so clear,' Singh said."
"I thought at first that he was challenging me to see if I knew my stuff, said Kevin Brogan, one of the early engineers. 'Then i realized he was trying to learn things. He. would quiz you until he learned ninety percent of what you know."
"One of my favorite things about Elon is his ability to make enormous decisions very quickly". quickly."
"Having two companies invloved is better for the advancement of human spaceflight" - Elon
- After Boeing secured a huge space deal with the US government.
"The mantra was that one great engineer will replace three medium ones"
"Like Steve Jobs before him, Musk is able to think up things that consumers did not even know they wanted-the door handles, the giant touch-screen"
The Unified Field Theory of Musk -> "Each one of his businesses is interconnected in the short term and the long term. Tesla makes battery packs that SolarCity can then sell to end customers. SolarCity supplies Tesla's charging stations with solar panels, helping tTesla to provide free recharging to its drivers. Newly minted model S owners regularly opt to begin living the Musk Lifestyle and outfit their homes with solar panels."
"Musk speaks about the cars, solar panels, and batteries with such passion that it's easy to forget they are more or less sideline projects."
"Described Musk as an upgraded mix of the two (Bill Gates and Steve Jobs)"
"I've learned that your intuition about things you don't know bout isn't very good, Page said. The way Elon talks about this is that you always need to start with the first principles of a problem. What are the physics of it? How much time will it take? How much will it cost? How much cheaper can I make it?"
"Suffering, though, has always been Musk's thing. The kids at school tortured him. His father played brutal mind games. Musk then abused himself by working inhumane hours and forever pushing his businesses to the edge".
"Musk may well have so far as to give people hope and to have renewed their faith in what technology can do for mankind"