File Name: Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future
Author : Ashlee Vance (Goodreads Author)
ISBN : 9780062301239
Format : Hardcover 400 pages
Genre : Biography, Nonfiction, Business, Science, Technology,
Rating: it was amazing
Elon Musk is not exactly a name that rolls easily off the tongue, like say Tony Stark, the fictional person to whom he is most often compared, or even Steve Jobs, a real-world visionary, whose mantle Musk now wears. There is no question that Musk is a special individual, someone with BIG dreams and the drive, talent, and money to make them happen. But, like Jobs, and Stark for that matter, he might be an acquired taste on a personal level. In Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future biographer Ashlee Vance gives us a picture of both the dreams and the man, peering back to where Musk began, describing his journey from then to now, looking at how he is impacting the world today, and gazing ahead to where he wants to go. It is a pretty impressive vista. Here is what it says on the SpaceX website
SpaceX designs, manufactures and launches advanced rockets and spacecraft. The company was founded in 2002 to revolutionize space technology, with the ultimate goal of enabling people to live on other planets.It might have seemed like visiting another planet when Musk split his home country of South Africa as a teen and headed to North America, anything to get away from an abusive upbringing. He seemed to been blessed not only with exceptional analytical capabilities, and probably an eidetic memory, but an impressively immense set of cojones. He was able to talk his way into whatever he needed and deftly talk his way out of trouble as well. Sometimes that entailed a bit of truth-bending, but whatever.
The interview, he or she is told, could last anywhere from thirty seconds to fifteen minutes. Elon will likely keep on writing e-mails and working during the initial part of the interview and not speak much. Don’t panic. That’s normal. Eventually, he will turn around in his chair to face you. Even then, though, he might not make actual eye contact with you or fully acknowledge your presence. Don’t panic. That’s normal. In due course, he will speak to you.Musk has an amazing capacity for work, putting in monstrous hours as a matter of course. But then he expects the same from those who work for him.
The rank and file employees…revere his drive and respect how demanding he can be. They also think he can be hard to the point of mean and come off as capricious. The employees want to be close to Musk, but they also fear that he’ll suddenly change his mind about something and that every interaction with him is an opportunity to be fired. “Elon’s worst trait by far, in my opinion, is a complete lack of loyalty or human connection,” said one former employee. “Many of us worked tirelessly for him for years and were tossed to the curb like a piece of litter without a second thought. Maybe it was calculated to keep the rest of the workforce on their toes and scared: maybe he was just able to detach from human connection to a remarkable degree. What was clear is that people who worked for him were like ammunition: used for a specific purpose until exhausted and discarded.”Musk even fired his loyal assistant, Mary Beth Brown, who had been with him for twelve years, after she asked for a raise. What a guy.
Rating: really liked it
Yes I am still crushing on Elon Musk. I'm counting on him to deliver on his promise of building a city on Mars. The time has come for us to destroy yet another planet.
Rating: it was amazing
Excellent and inspiring. This book brought up one key question: do you have to be a bit reckless to be good? Musk was reckless in two areas: in the risks he took, and the way that he manages his companies.
As for the first, the number of near-death experiences that Tesla, SpaceX and earlier companies went through is almost a running joke throughout this story. The Falcon 1 failed three times, exhausting the company's funds, before achieving a successful fourth flight. Tesla avoided bankruptcy by taking on a NASA-approved loan from SpaceX plus a last-minute acquisition of a company Musk invested in pulled through, and avoided being derailed by a predatory investor by a bluff on the order of $40 million. Combine these with the many situations where it didn't look like Tesla was going to build anything substantial, plus the negative media attention—the fact that Musk continued to persevere and pull through at times where most normal people would have given up is crazy.
This risk undoubtedly took a toll on his life and relationships, through three divorces and the insane sleep deprivation he and the others on the team go through. It brings up the question—when you're doing things as big as this, how reckless do you have to be? Should you have a breaking point? Does the sustainable, get-eight-hours-of-sleep-and-exercise approach really work? Or is the right thing to do actually to push through, get four hours of sleep, and get shit done? Are those that prefer the 'sustainable' option the ones that don't succeed as much, and the reckless ones the ones that actually make progress?
As for the second, the way that he manages his companies, he was reckless in what he demanded from people. The most notable story is of SpaceX, where employees worked on a crappy atoll in the Marshall Islands for months to deliver the Falcon 1 rocket launches. In a Jobs-like fashion, his outward personality is cold, demanding, and fearful: employees are on edge all the time and have to have answers. If someone is the bottleneck on a project, there's immense pressure on them to deliver. And you never want to be the deliverer of bad news—and if you are, you better have a solution to back it up:
The savvy engineers knew better than to go into a meeting and deliver bad news without some sort of alternative plan at the ready. “One of the scariest meetings was when we needed to ask Elon for an extra two weeks and more money to build out another version of the Model S,” Javidan said. “We put together a plan, stating how long things would take and what they would cost. We told him that if he wanted the car in thirty days it would require hiring some new people, and we presented him with a stack of resumes. You don’t tell Elon you can’t do something. That will get you kicked out of the room. You need everything lined up. (Loc 4277)
People who have spent significant time with Musk will attest to his abilities to absorb incredible quantities of information with near-flawless recall. It’s one of his most impressive and intimidating skills and seems to work just as well in the present day as it did when he was a child vacuuming books into his brain. After a couple of years running SpaceX, Musk had turned into an aerospace expert on a level that few technology CEOs ever approach in their respective fields. (Loc 3421)
Rating: liked it
I like the can-do attitude Vance took with hounding Musk and wearing him down till he agreed to cooperate with this biography. I also appreciated all the "Holy crap, Musk is CRAZY. CRAZY like a fox," moments I had while reading this. The only thing that keeps this from being a 4-star book is that the reporting and writing leans too heavily on idolatry. There were passages where I literally cringed at how much of a fanboy Vance sounded like.
Rating: it was amazing
Space. Renewable Energy. Internet.
This is a man after my own heart. Out of all the super entrepreneurs and technological legends of the modern era, Musk ticks all the boxes on my dreams and passions, particularly space. Space has always been the frontier that intrigues me the most; for a single man to dream of colonising Mars and actually doing all he can to make that a reality is just simply astounding.
And then of course, there is Tesla. Aside from the clean energy technology which I am a huge proponent of, how an electric car can become one of the most desirable and good-looking cars in the world is another example of the visionary genius that Musk is.
As with all ideas that are so progressive in nature, the trials and tribulations faced by Musk were so daunting that most would've called it quits. His indomitable will and spirit, however, sets him apart from the ordinary. He is very demanding on himself, being extremely hands-on, and also of his employees. Then again, how else are you going to change the world by compromising on the high standards that one sets for oneself.
Notwithstanding his crazy but awesome ideas (first, the Hyperloop and now, Neuralink) the one thing that differentiates him from most current entrepreneurs is that he really seeks to change the world. He is not in it just for short term gain, which is what a lot of businesses are doing right now. A simple case in point is Tesla's open source patent.
I'll stop gushing about Musk now and talk a bit about the biography itself. The conversational tone employed by the author translated well into audio, and the narrator did a good enough job that it didn't sound monotonous. The biography was written from extensive interviews conducted with a plethora of his ex-employees, and the people closest to Musk. This enabled a more independent and less biased insight from one which was self-penned (not that I believe Musk will ever have the time to do so). The biography was also quite educational; while I still do not know how to build a rocket or an electric car now I've gained a better understanding of certain technical aspects of these items and how they work.
Whether you're a fan of Musk, or just intrigued by his ideas and achievements, or even if you only just desired the Tesla badly, this is a recommended read.
This review can also be found at Booknest
Rating: it was amazing
Let me offer this thought: SpaceX is the coolest and most exciting company in the world at this moment in time.
Yes, Tesla is also extremely cool. And inspiring. But nothing can beat that feeling of power, wonder and deep inspiration that SpaceX will give you as soon as you start to understand what that company is actually doing.
As Vance says, "SpaceX IS Elon Musk".
So who is this man? How is it humanly possible to achieve what he has achieved? What else can he achieve in the future? Will he become the richest man on Earth? Or on Mars?
Not only this book is written in a very passionate and engaging way. I also find that it is a very important book for anyone who is at least a little curious about our present and our future.
In fact, I believe Ashlee Vance’s portrait of Elon Musk is a necessary read for anyone, because of the effect that his companies are having on the automotive, the clean energy, and the space industries. If these companies are not changing the future, at the very least they are accelerating our pace towards it.
Vance starts out in a ballsy way, stating that he won't budge: he will write whatever he wants, however he wants it. As I got to the end of the book, I had a strong feeling that this is not exactly the case, and that a lot has been left out. However, the information that is in the book is absolutely fascinating. It is the first biography I've ever read that I would categorize as a real "page-turner".
The "missing facts" that stand out the most in my opinion are:
1) Childhood troubles. Musk keeps referring to a very painful and troubled childhood, but in the book all we get is some bullying and social awkwardness. Plus, a father who was "psychologically" abusive. There are many unanswered questions there, and I think Vance chose to be respectful and not dig too deeply.
2) The miraculous last-minute save of both Tesla and SpaceX in 2008: not enough details. Something crucial seems to be missing. Whether it is a few private donors who poured in extra millions, or some other turn of fate. I don't know if Vance knows what is missing there, but something is missing.
Overall, Elon Musk comes across as a normal human being with exceptional ambition, exceptional luck, exceptional physical energy, exceptional intelligence and exceptional confidence in his vision.
He is an inspiration for many, and beyond Elon Musk, his companies and his vision are a huge inspiration.
Did you notice how the most popular fictional depictions of the future (YA, etc.) in this day and age are pessimistic, dystopian, self-hating like teenagers? Well, Elon Musk is offering us a window into a future that is the exact opposite of that. Very similar to Arthur Clarke, my favorite author, another optimistic visionary. Musk's vision of the future is so bright that reminds me of the golden age of science fiction, when Clarke and Asimov were writing, when people had the courage to dream beautiful, positive dreams about the future.
It sounds like an advertisement for a soap, but yes ----- with Musk, the future is bright again.
Finally, I have a comment about "being a nerd": in the first part of the book, the kid Elon Musk is called a "nerd" about a million times. Why is it that in America (and in South Africa, as it seems) a very smart kid who is into reading a lot instead of playing sports, invariably, is called a "nerd"? The fact that this word DOES NOT EXIST and cannot be translated into many European languages tells us something about America. I think Isaac Asimov was onto somehting when he said: "The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that 'my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.”
my wonderful blog is here
Btw, great to find out that Robert Zubrin was a big influence on Musk. He is the head of the Mars Society, a man who has been thinking about going to Mars much longer than Elon Musk has. I read Zubrin's "The case for Mars" many years ago, and I was utterly fascinated by it.
Rating: it was amazing
Предупреждавам, че това ревю ще бъде лично и доста дълго, за което не се извинявам. Просто информирам. За да разберете всепоглъщащата ми възхита към личността на Илън Мъск се налага да вкарам поне малко контекст преди да пристъпя към анализ на безспорните достойнства на книгата. Когато бях малка не мечтаех да бъда принцеса, балерина, певица или някаква друга подобна Дисни лигавщина. Исках да правя компютърни игри. И хич не ме интересуваше колко сложно реално е това. На по-късен етап пътищата ми с тази мечта се разделиха, след като хвърлих поглед на учебниците по висша математика и основи на програмирането, но това не ми пречи и до днес да бъда запленена от света на информационните технологии и иновациите, които променят света буквално всеки ден.
Ужасно обичам да чета биографии на луди учени, абсолютни иноватори и изобщо хора, които имат откачени идеи и не се страхуват да ги преследват до край, независимо от препятствията по пътя и присмеха на обикновените хора. Първата ми среща с подобна книга беше автобиографията на Ричард Брансън "Как изгубих наивността си". Ще си призная, че до онзи момент не бях чувала абсолютно нищо за него, но след като затворих последната страница вече му бях безпаметен фен и мога да говоря по темата с часове. Точно като Мъск Брансън навлиза без колебание в мощни и закостенели индустрии като гражданска авиация, железопътен транспорт и космически полети, изправяйки се срещу монополистите в бранша и революционализирайки целия отрасъл без да му мигне окото.
Истинската ми страст обаче си оставаха предприемачите от Силициевата долина (компютърните игри, нали помните?), но исках да науча повече за имена различни от изтърканите от употреба икони Стив Джобс и Бил Гейтс. Ето защо бях изключително развълнувана, че открих и преведох (съвсем буквално) по целия път до издаването му сборника статии на "Форбс" за третата вълна интернет милиардери "Една успешна идея е достатъчна". Синтезираните истории на успеха на създателите на Napster, Facebook, WhatsApp, Snapchat, Instagram, PayPal, Tesla Motors и много други само изостриха апетита ми към подобен род вдъхновяващи четива. Мъск беше сред тези супергерои на новото време, но 20-тина страници няма как да обхванат дори една микроскопична част от неговия ненормално як живот, дело и личност. Апетайзърът беше превъзходен и крачката до основното блюдо се оказа неизбежна.
Изключително съм щастлива, че биографията на Илън Мъск е на българския пазар, защото хора като него се раждат много рядко и е абсолютно задължително да бъдат познати на възможно най-широк кръг читатели. Няма да преразказвам книгата, тя просто трябва да се прочете, но ще ви дам малко мотивация да посегнете към нея, в случай че не сте абсолютен Мъск ултрас, какъвто съм аз. Той е човекът, който още на 10-тина годишна възраст е прочел пълното издание на енциклопедия "Британика" и може да цитира всякакви факти от него наизуст. Той е един от основателите на "интернет банката" PayPal, благодарение на която в момента милиони хора извършват онлайн плащания за секунди при максимално ниво на сигурност. Той е визионерът, който си е поставил за цел да освободи хората от тежката петролна зависимост и ще вкара електромобила в масово производство като го направи същевременно сигурна и невероятно секси кола. Не вярвате? Ето ви снимка на Tesla Roadster, който вече е в продажба и се е превърнал в символ на стил, висок обществен статус и грижа за опазване на природата.
Мъск не спира до тук. Неговата мисия в живота е да осигури на човечеството възможност да колонизира други планети, защото е убеден, че ресурсите на Земята се изчерпват с бясно темпо и един ден оцеляването на нашата раса ще зависи от способността ни да живеем на Марс. Звучи ви като научна фантастика? Ще ви споделя само, че неговата компания SpaceX е първата частна корпорация, която е официален доставчик на НАСА и е осъществила скачване с международната космическа станция. SpaceX работи усилено над създаването на ракети за многократна употреба. Представете си каква революция за космическия бизнес би било подобно постижение! То ще доведе до драстично намаляване на цените на космическите полети, пестене на ресурси и време, както и частично решение на немалкия проблем с космическия боклук.
И това не е всичко. Мъск е един от основните инвеститори в компанията за соларни панели SolarCity, както и в още няколко начинания, за които дори няма да започна да ви разказвам. Самата му личност е екстремна, брутално твърда и безкомпромисна, но такъв трябва да бъдеш, за да заведеш една цяла раса на друга планета. Един от най-близките сътрудници на Мъск споделя в книгата, че той имал навика да ти отправя един интенизвен, леко налудничав поглед, след който абсолютно вярваш, че ей сега ще стъпим на Марс. Аз вярвам, а вие?
Rating: it was amazing
There are few people outside of the fiction world that I truly admire, but barring some unseen or future tragedy, I think Musk might well be on the way to becoming my hero.
If I didn't know any better, I might be looking at all his stated claims and seeing all the echoes of Asimov and Heinlein being dragged out of the page and brought to life.
Skip the whole Iron Man image for a second.
Let's talk about Ayn Rand.
Musk is John Galt. As in Atlas Shrugged.
Sure, he's also Dagney, too, or perhaps more like Dagney in that he's unwilling to let humanity roll around in the mud despite all the backstabbing and idiocracy, in that he hasn't said, "enough is enough". But the day is young. Wait until we get to Mars. Wait until we really take the man of genius and effort for granted. And THEN we'll see what we'll miss once it is taken away.
Ahhh, I don't want to see this man out of classic SF heroes become anything other than his stated goals.
I'll be honest here. He's giving me real hope for humanity. Maybe optimism *isn't* unfounded after all.
This biography tells me one hell of a great narrative. Is it life imitating art? The best ideals from the grandmasters? Who knows. But right now, I have real hope. I'm holding on to it for my very soul. :)
Let's MAKE the future we wanted. Let's NOT let anything stand in our way!
Rating: it was amazing
Илон Мъск е хомункулус. Извънземните му (буквално) идеи те карат да си мислиш, че си попаднал в някоя футуристична алтернативна вселена и просто бъдещето е СЕГА. Като гигантски скок във времето. Сякаш летиш на нещо със space warp двигател.
Винаги съм се питала какво отличава успешните идеи от по-малко успешните. Във всяка област – изкуство, кино, литература… ракети, електрически коли. Добре, признавам, че за последните не съм се замисляла особено, но чуденето ми е било принципно. Как става така, че има идеи, които доста бързо се сриват и потъват в забвение (и скептиците ехидничат), а има други, които се настаняват във въображението и карат мозъка да щрака до възпаление. Знаете, онова усещане, когато мислиш толкова много, че имаш чувството, че главата ти гори отвътре. Понякога съм смятала, че става така просто защото е заложено на хората инстинктивно да разпознават истински добрите идеи и да им отдават заслуженото. Да познават, че по някакъв начин придвижват човечеството напред. Историята на Мъск и неговите едно, две, три… Х начинания са пример за обратното. За това как като вярваш в нещо и имаш цел, трябва да я следваш, дори да знаеш, че шансовете за успех са минимални (звучи безумно клиширано, но може би защото е истина. Какво по-голямо клише от истината). А, и да си малко смахнат.
Илон Мъск вярва в разни неща. Вярва, че ресурсите на Земята са на привършване и един ден човечеството трябва да си търси друго място за живеене. Първо си мисли, че едни мишки на Марс не са лоши за начало, после достига до идеята, че ще се наложи хората да се превърнат в междупланетарен вид, за да ги (ни) има изобщо. Тъй че Илон се залавя да строи ракети. Никой не му вярва и всички смятат, че е луд. Илон изстрелва първите си три ракети и те гръмват. Всички се подхилкват, че някакъв си милионер от Силициевата долина не може да се заема с начинания, дето правителствата ги умеят на твърде високи цени и твърде неефективно от години. Четвъртата ракета на Илон не избухва. Вече никой не му се смее. SpaceX понатрила носове и излетяла.
На някакъв купон като млад Илон се запознал с момиче и първото, което ѝ казал, било „Аз често мисля за електрически коли. Ти мислиш ли за електрически коли?“ И понеже Илон тъй и не спрял да мисли за електрически коли, решил да започне сам да си ги произвежда. Пак защото вярвал – че са по-ефективни, че с тях не се харчи гориво, което и без това един ден ще го няма и мамка му, тогава вече ще е малко късно да се чудим какво да правим. Tesla Motors вдигнала почти 100 км/ч (за 2,5 секунди впрочем) и оставила да ѝ дишат праха.
Илон смята и че е хубаво да се ползва енергията на слънцето, която е огромна и залива Земята, очевидно нахалост. Поради тази причина работи и със SolarCity (която между другото е създадена от братовчедите му – the Force is strong with this family). Илон също така вярва и в други неща – като например пътуване на големи разстояния с огромна скорост във вакуумна тръба, „космически интернет“ и приятелски настроен изкуствен интелект, който не е способен да навреди на хората.
Зад всички тези неща – някои изключително успешни, някои в зародиш, има малко повече от медиен шум и чист късмет. Може би просто генетичният код на Илон Мъск е написан така, че да притежава не само нужните умения и интелект, но и желязна ръка, висок праг на емоционална болка, мулешко упорство и способност да се дистанцира от отделните индивиди, когато на карта е съдбата на цялото човечество. След прочита на книгата изгледах няколко интервюта с него. В едно го питат какво толкова има в него, че е успял на така много фронтове. Той леко притеснено и почти извинително смотолеви ‘Well, I work a lot’. В друго интервю обяснява как се е налагало да работи по 80-100 часа на седмица, всеки ден. Знаете ли колко е това? По 11-14 часа работа на ден. В едно от интервютата хлапето, което задаваше въпросите, го гледаше леко зяпнало и все забравяше да си затвори устата. Май и аз бях така.
Честно казано, преди да започна да чета книгата на Ашли Ванс, не бях чувала за никакъв Илон Мъск. По време на целия прочит обаче обяснявах на който имаше желание да ме слуша къде е тестовата площадка за изстрелване на SpaceX, че се работи върху ракети, които ще се връщат обратно на Земята и ще кацат, вместо да се изгубват из космоса или къде е разположен литиево-йонният акумулатор на Tesla роудстъра. Разбирам защо за много хора Мъск е нещо като бог. Не знам дали скоро ще колонизираме Марс и дали въобще трябва или е хубаво да се опитаме да си спасим Земята, но определено Илон Мъск ме вдъхнови да мисля по-мащабно. Един малък Falcon за Мъск, един голям пример за човечеството.
Rating: really liked it
Billionaire Elon Musk is a businessman, engineer, and inventor with a radical vision for the future of mankind. In fact Musk wants nothing less than to establish a human colony on Mars.....with a view toward exploring Jupiter's moon Europa someday.
Musk fears there will be another mass extinction event - like the asteroid that destroyed 75% of Earth's species at the Cretaceous-Paleogene Boundary 65 million years ago - and he wants people to have somewhere to go. I agree with Musk that Earth is likely to become inhospitable to humans someday, but I fear we'll ruin the planet ourselves - with over-exploitation, pollution, war, and disease. (And then we'd probably do the same thing to Mars. I'm a skeptic.)
In any case, Musk puts his money where his mouth is. In 2002 the audacious entrepeneur founded the rocket company SpaceX. SpaceX is already launching satellites for several countries, and carrying supplies to the International Space Station. In the future, Musk wants rockets to bring people, equipment, and provisions to the red planet.....ideally in the next 50 to 100 years.
SpaceX is just one of Musk's far-sighted enterprises. In this book Ashlee Vance explores Musk's various business ventures, and provides insight into the developer's character and personal life.
Musk was born in Pretoria, South Africa in 1971. He had a difficult childhood, being viciously bullied at school and tormented by his father, Errol. The book has few details about Errol's behavior (no one will talk about it), but it's revealing that grandpa Musk isn't allowed to meet Elon's five sons.
As a youngster Elon devoured books, and - with his photographic memory - recalled everything he read. Elon was also an inventive child who built rockets and created video games. When he was 17-years-old Elon moved to his mother's home country, Canada.....and the penniless teen bunked with relatives, did odd jobs, and went to school. Eventually, Elon ended up at the University of Pennsylvania, where he majored in economics and physics. Musk then moved to California and entered the business world.
Vance did extensive research and describes Musk's business projects in elaborate detail, including: how they started; financing; development; failures; successes; leadership; personnel; buy-outs; etc. Musk's trajectory didn't go straight from start-up to billionaire. Far from it. In fact the developer nearly went bankrupt several times....to the glee of naysayers and jealous rivals. Musk carried on, though, and was successul in the end. (So yay Elon!....and pooh on the guys who tried to take him down!)
In this brief review I'll just provide a quick summary of Musk's business activities. For a full picture, you'll have to read the book.
Musk's first venture after college was Zip2 - a kind of online Yellow Pages/Mapquest that allowed users to find businesses and get directions. When Zip2 was sold, Musk founded an internet banking venture that became PayPal. These were profitable pursuits that provided money for additional investments.
Musk founded SpaceX - the aforementioned rocket company in 2002, and co-founded Tesla Motors - which manufactures environmentally friendly electric cars in 2003. Then, in 2006, Musk helped his cousins launch SolarCity - a company that fabricates, markets, and installs solar panels.
Among other things, Tesla and SolarCity are meant to reduce the use of fossil fuels and lower carbon pollution....which would help preserve the Earth and its inhabitants. In this vein, Musk also hopes to build 'hyperloops' - high speed trains that travel on a loop between major cities like New York and Washinton DC; and Los Angeles and San Francisco. President Obama is said to be a fan of this project.
Musk's various ventures require smart, capable personnel and the developer was (and is) always on the lookout for the brightest students, the best engineers, the most foreward-thinking inventors, and so on. Musk is notoriously difficult to work for and - when he wants something done - refuses to hear "I can't do it." If you really can't do it, Musk is likely to let you go and do it himself. Musk expects employees to work long hours without complaint.....and has a reputation for upbraiding and firing personnel. Thus, he's quite ruthless on a business level.
In private life, though, Musk is said to be a fun guy who likes to make jokes; laugh; attend costume parties; play video games with his kids; and generally have a good time. Musk has five sons - twins and triplets - from his first marriage to Justine Musk and is now wed to the actress Tallulah Riley. The entrepeneur has a brutal work schedule - he often works 100 or more hours per week - but takes his sons all over the world with him. Musk is also close to his brother and cousins, and often collaborates with them on business projects.
In addition to influencing national and international corporations, Musk has impacted popular culture. After the actor, Robert Downey Jr., visited the SpaceX factory, he modeled aspects of his character 'Tony Stark' (Iron Man) on the billionaire entrepreneur. And Musk guest starred on an episode of 'The Simpsons' called 'The Musk Who Fell to Earth.' The Simpsons segment is hilarious and gives a cartoonish - but probably accurate....picture of the entrepreneur as an imaginative inventor and concerned citizen of the Earth. (The episode is available on YouTube.)
Vance's discussions of the ups and downs of Musk's businesses are especially well-researched and interesting. The author explains how Tesla ultimately built an electric roadster that's beautiful, comfortable, kid-seat friendly, and (more or less) reasonably-priced (if you're rich); and how a rocket was finally launched after heartbreaking failures due to mechanical errors, sloshing fuel, and other hard-to-foresee factors.
Vance also discusses the problems involved when private companies - like Musk's enterprises - compete with established (though inferior) businesses that have government support. Some corporations are beloved by politicians because of monetary contributions, lobbyists, factories in their districts; etc. It's hard to compete with such companies, and they caused massive headaches for Musk. But, of course, he prevailed in the end.
I admire Musk for his brilliance and accomplishments, and I like this book. I'd recommend the book to readers interested in Elon Musk; his far-reaching business ventures; and the future of the planet.
You can follow my reviews at https://reviewsbybarbsaffer.blogspot....
Rating: really liked it
I’m super interested in Elon Musk and this book provided me insight into the way he thinks, what drives him, how he gets things done, etc.
Some small criticisms--
There were times I noticed information that was being repeated, which made it feel like Vance may have written each chapter separately or without certainty of what order the chapters would be included in the book. Also, while I liked the conversational tone of the writing, it was not what I’m used to from biographies.
A larger criticism—
I don’t know if Vance intended to write this book as a disinterested third party, but it was evident to me that by the end, he was too close to his subject to do so. Musk’s “failures”—his cold dealings with people, his tendency to lose the trees in the forest (which is 100% not how that saying goes), his ruthlessness with people who have sacrificed a great deal for his business and his dreams—are treated as necessary (and therefore forgivable) for the incredibly amazing things Musk has decided to do with his life and money. And while I think I agree, I’m not sure that I wanted the biographer to make that decision for me.
After reading this book, it’s easy for me to forgive all of Musk’s interpersonal failures because I’m inspired by the things he dreams up, the way he pursues the “impossible” things, and the fact that he has found a purpose in life and doesn’t let things like money and celebrity distract him from that purpose. However, I’m not a casualty of these failures and can’t imagine that I’d like to be written off so easily if I was.
Okay, this hasn’t sounded like a 4-star review so far, but let me assure you that this book is interesting, well researched, has insight that I presume only Silicon Valley insiders had before, and is incredibly inspiring.
Rating: it was amazing
“It’s nuts that people would want to vilify Elon. He might say some things that rub people the wrong way, but at some point, the being nice to everyone thing doesn’t work.“
„Good ideas are always crazy - until they’re not.“ Larry Page, Google co-founder.
„Elon is one of the few people that I feel is more accomplished than I am.“ Craig Venture, the man who de-coded the human genome and went on to create synthetic lifeforms.
Rating: it was amazing
This is an incredibly inspiring book, a important look into a game-changing worldview, and a valuable lesson to the world. As Musk says, "If something is important enough, even if the odds are against you, you should still do it."
Strangely enough, I've followed Space X' and Tesla's progress for a very long time, but I never actually read many things about the person behind them. I still cannot believe what a visionary Elon Musk is, and how persistent he's about anything he does. He is a mad scientist, inventor, business mogul and visionary all at the same time, and all these play equally important role in his life. For obvious reasons, his - let's say - philanthropy strikes the most sensitive chord in anyone who's even remotely troubled by what's going on on this planet. His philanthropic vision though does not consist in giving his billions away, but in trying to make his businesses succeed in order to save humanity from itself, before the planet we live on collapses.
“He’s the possessed genius on the grandest quest anyone has ever concocted. He’s less a C.E.O. chasing riches than a general marshaling troops to secure victory. Where Mark Zuckerberg wants to help you share baby photos, Musk wants to ... well ... save the human race from self-imposed or accidental annihilation."
Mr. Vance curbs his enthusiasm and delivers a well-calibrated portrait of Mr. Musk. The best thing about the book is that it tells Elon Musk’s story simply and well. It’s the story of an intelligent man, for sure. But more so it is the story of a determined one. The insights into the respective industries are truly compelling - Mr. Vance brings us up to date on the states of green energy and space launches. He also veers away from his subject just often enough, offering profiles of the frequently brilliant people who work alongside Mr. Musk.
I'm so very pleased that many of the things discussed in the book as future plans are already happening (safely reusing rockets is one step nearer after the successful landing of Falcon 9 in April, while the first affordable electric car that's more attractive than the best sport cars was unveiled in March, and it has a price tag of 35 000 USD).
I'm too old to hang a poster of Musk in my bedroom, but I've found a new crush, and I'll continue to follow his progress in awe and admiration. Humanity may still have a chance.
Rating: really liked it
Ironically, one of the quotes that made the biggest impression on me in Elon Musk: Inventing the Future didn't come from Musk, but from data scientist Jeffrey Hammerbacher: "The best minds of my generation are thinking about how to make people click ads."
I mean, da-amn. This is so true. (And it stung even more because I'm a marketer.) Where have we gone wrong as a generation? Where is the passion and quest for knowledge? What is the real purpose of innovation? To improve mankind or to become wealthy? Can we have both?
I've long been a fan of Musk; his name comes up quite a bit in my geeky circle and is always spoken with reverence: from Tesla, SpaceX, PayPal, Solar City, The Boring Company... this is a techno-utopian fellow who wants to affect real change in the world. Despite any character flaws (and the book points out many), it's real hard not to respect the guy.
I listened to the audiobook, and even at 392 pages unabridged, this super-accessible biography felt too short. I couldn't wait to go on my lunchtime walks and weekend drives so I could hear what Crazy Elon was up to next. My biggest issue was how out-of-date the book--published in 2015--already is (gotta be hard keeping up with Musk!). Among my beef: 1) Author Ashlee Vance talks only briefly about Musk's desire to build pod-like vehicles to propel through reduced-pressure tubes (Hyperloop); 2) He doesn't mention The Boring Company (his tunnel-digging company) at all, and 3) Perhaps the most egregious, there is a blue-sky conversation about Musk's desire to reuse rockets (this was done to great fanfare in March of this year), as well as to land these rockets with accuracy on floating launch pads (droneships)... SpaceX has now performed this feat multiple times.
This minor annoyance can't really be helped, though. I'd much rather read about Musk now as opposed to waiting until he's done inventing.
I'm not even going to attempt to summarize Musk's life or the book - it's a captivating read, and one I'd recommend to anyone interested in Musk, electric cars, space travel and/or colonizing Mars. I've noted some interesting tidbits below (please let me know if there are any inaccuracies; I didn't catch all of the details from the audio):
Musk was and still is an avid reader. Among his childhood favorites: The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Foundation, and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.
Musk doesn't characterize himself as an investor; he's interested in making technologies he thinks are important and will change the world in some way. For instance, he seriously considered going into game design and programming, but didn't think the cause was noble enough or that it would help change the world. He's also long been interested in the internet, solar energy and space: he didn't just stumble upon the fields as the "next hot thing."
His big takeaway from his stint as a banker, pre PayPal: Bankers "are rich and dumb."
He's demanding and difficult to work with: there's a long line of people who will go on record to say they hate him, and those who will follow him anywhere.
He requires little sleep and has an undisputed work ethic. After a particularly grueling period at Tesla, engineers were told by Musk to rework a design yet again, sacrificing their weekends and sleeping under their desks if necessary. An employee pushed back and asked when they would be allowed to see their families. Musk's answer: "They’ll get to see their families a lot... when we go bankrupt."
Tesla's Model S stereo volume goes to 11: a nod to This is Spinal Tap.
He's not a fan of Amazon's Jeff Bezos and scoffed at his secretive Blue Origin space program, particularly irked by Bezos's desire to patent everything under the sun. In summation. "He's just not a fun guy."
He'd like to spend his final days on Mars and not come back: "If my wife and I had a bunch of kids, she would probably stay with them on Earth." (!!!)
The retirement of our space shuttle has made us reliant on Russia, who (as of 2015), charge us $70 million per person for the trip to the International Space Station.
Musk went to Russia multiple times, looking to buy rockets for SpaceX. When he was repeatedly quoted astronomical (heh) figures, he decided to build his own.
He refuses to take SpaceX public until a viable plan to go to Mars (his ultimate goal) is secure.
The early engineers of SpaceX were rock stars. They flew to Kwaj (Kwajalein Island, in the Marshall Islands), and were tasked with building a launch site. The early days were likened to Gilligan's Island... with rockets. Musk would agree or refuse essential material requests from the U.S.: one denied request was a paved area that would allow engineers to transport the rocket to the launch site more easily. Engineers were instead forced to go the way of the ancient Egyptians, laying boards down, and wheeling the rocket on top of it, with the last board moved to the front, and then the last board moved to the front again, and so on and so on.
United Launch Alliance (ULA), a 50-50 joint venture by Lockheed Martin and Boeing (who joined forces because they thought there wasn't enough government work to go around), is pretty much an embarrassment to the U.S. During a 2015 Congressional hearing, Musk claimed ULA charged $380 million per rocket launch. ...with SpaceX charging a mere $90 million ($30 million more than they would typically charge due to strict government protocol).
Rating: liked it
I wish I could rate this book 2.5 stars. It's a great long read Atlantic or Wired piece about a visionary person with an interesting childhood that is at the forefront of a technology shift and an unsuccessful emotional biography. There are a ton of details about Elon's upbringing, especially about his father and brother, who always felt like a mystery to me. I got a good understanding of how Elon's early mentor, a Canadian banking executive, gave him some insights towards starting X.com, a service I had dearly loved but didn't seem to jive with his later projects. There were interesting details on the mind boggling progress SpaceX made when building their initial Falcon rockets. In short I learned a lot about the progress of Elon's companies, but very little about what motivated him to start them or continue after making his first billion.
It's hard not to compare this book to Walter Isaacson's 'Jobs, not only because the structure of the book is similar but Vance seems to reach for the same informal and intimate tone. Isaacson was able to give us a real glimpse into Jobs's growth as a person and a real insight into Steve's thinking. Vance gives us a chronology of Elon's life, a superficial overview of the technology that anyone with more than a layman's interest already knows, and adds his own often peremptory commentary on Musk's motivations and accomplishments. It straddles a funny line between objective reporting and jokey insider tell-all. I think it falls on both fronts as Vance does a very skin deep overview of the technology that SpaceX and Tesla have pioneered and a lot of the jokey comments come off as non-sequitor. In a way I learn more about him than Elon.
Elon's companies are important enough to our future than any new information about him and his motivations is well worth a read. I hope someone else takes on the topic with a little more depth and a little less personality.