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Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future

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Elon Musk, the entrepreneur and innovator behind SpaceX, Tesla, and SolarCity, sold one of his internet companies, PayPal, for $1.5 billion. Ashlee Vance captures the full spectacle and arc of the genius's life and work, from his tumultuous upbringing in South Africa and flight to the United States to his dramatic technical innovations and entrepreneurial pursuits. Vance uses Musk's story to explore one of the pressing questions of our age: can the nation of inventors and creators who led the modern world for a century still compete in an age of fierce global competition? He argues that Musk is an amalgam of legendary inventors and industrialists including Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Howard Hughes, and Steve Jobs. More than any other entrepreneur today, Musk has dedicated his energies and his own vast fortune to inventing a future that is as rich and far-reaching as the visionaries of the golden age of science-fiction fantasy

392 pages, Hardcover

First published March 3, 2015

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About the author

Ashlee Vance

17 books1,532 followers
Ashlee Vance is an award winning feature writer for Bloomberg Businessweek magazine. Vance is also the host of the "Hello World" TV show. Previously, he worked for The New York Times and The Register.

Vance was born in South Africa, grew up in Texas and attended Pomona College. He has spent more than a decade covering the technology industry from San Francisco and is a noted Silicon Valley historian.

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Profile Image for Will Byrnes.
1,295 reviews120k followers
August 22, 2019
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 have 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.

Ashlee Vance - from HarperCollins

Vance take us from his adolescence as a computer geek, bullied at school, through his arrival in Canada, cold-calling to get work, putting together his first dot.com startup, and using the money from that to invest in a banking-oriented company that would become PayPal. It was the mega-bucks from the sale of PayPal that would allow him to begin realizing his big dreams. In 2003, Musk bought into Tesla, then a struggling startup. The company took the early knowledge that lithium ion batteries had gotten pretty good, added some top level engineering, design and programming talent, and, after plenty of mis-steps and struggles, brought the remarkable all-electric Tesla Roadster to the market in 2008. Tesla followed this with the Model S in 2012. Not only did Consumer reports call this a great car, it named both the 2014 and 2015 versions the best overall cars of their years, and the best car they had ever tested. The last time an auto startup succeeded in the USA was Chrysler, in the 1920s. But this is not about simply making a buck on a new car. The long term goal is to shift our petrochemical auto industry to renewable power, and the Tesla is a nifty start. Not only is the car amazing, the company has constructed a nationwide series of charging stations where Tesla owners can recharge their vehicles…for free. Tesla currently (August 2019) reports 1,604 such stations nationwide, with many more planned. Tesla is involved in building battery production factories, hoping to help support a growing electric-car auto-economy.

Inside the Tesla Model S - from Tesla Motors

But this was not the only big notion that drove Musk. A parallel effort was to develop a solar power business. And with the help of a couple of enterprising cousins, he did just that. SolarCity provides the solar arrays that provide power to the Tesla charging stations, but it has also become one of the largest solar utilities in the nation, installing, maintaining a third of the nation’s solar panel systems. There is obvious benefit to both Tesla and Solar City in sharing gains in battery and other technology. But I expect the third jewel in Musk’s crown is his favorite, SpaceX.

Falcon 9 first stage attempting a controlled landing - from Wikimedia

Musk doesn’t have much going on here, nothing major, only an ardent desire to colonize Mars. But it takes the establishment of an infrastructure in order to be get from point E to point M. Musk saw an opening in the market for satellite launch vehicles. Existing rockets blast things up into orbit and then burn up on their way back down. His idea was to design a rocket that could make its way back to earth in one piece, to be reused. And he has. SpaceX is nearing its goal of launching at least one rocket a month. The manifest available on SpaceX.com lists missions to date. The company also designed a capsule called the Dragon that can be used for cargo, but also for astronauts. The cost of launching a satellite using a Falcon is a fraction of what other options charge. The next step is a larger launch vehicle. Space X has begun launching the Falcon Heavy rocket, offering the biggest load capacity since the Saturn V was last used in 1973. And, while this is definitely good for business in the relatively short term, one must always keep in mind that this is a stage in a bigger plan for Musk. Once the launch infrastructure is established, plans can begin to move forward to put together Mars missions. Not go, look, and explore sorts of adventures, but establishing a colony, a permanent human presence on the red planet.

The Dragon Capsule, attached to the ISS - from Musk’s Twitter page

Of course when one has one’s eyes fixed on the stars (yes, Mars is a planet, I know, Geez), there is a large inclination to lose touch with earth-bound reality. In the movie, then play, then movie The Producers Max Bialystock, in order to cope with the absurd success of a play that was designed to fail, suggests to his partner, Leo Bloom, that one solution would be to do away with the cast. "You can't kill the actors, Max! They're human beings," Leo says. "Human beings? Have you ever seen them eat?" Max replies. I suspect that there are more than a few folks who feel about Elon Musk the way Max felt about the actors. He is rather notorious for his insensitivity to anyone not living inside his head. For example, here is what potential recruits are told to expect when they meet with Musk.
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.

Ego is certainly a big piece of the picture here. But I guess if you can do it, it ain’t bragging. Elon Musk is a larger than life figure, a computer geek, an engineer, an entrepreneur, and a dreamer, in addition to being a walking IED as someone to work for. He is one of the inspirations for Robert Downey‘s portrayal of Tony Stark in sundry Marvel Universe films. In fact, Downey came to visit Musk, specifically to get a taste of what a real billionaire techno-industrialist was like. Downey insisted on having a Tesla Roaster on the set of Iron Man, saying, ”Elon was someone Tony probably hung out with and partied with or more likely they went on some weird jungle trek together to drink concoctions with the shamans.” Musk even had a cameo in Iron Man II. The resulting publicity from this connection did little to diminish Musk’s view of himself. Living the high-life in Tinseltown, hanging with, social, economic and media A-listers added more gas to the bag. Part of his ego issue is that he tends to take internal company timetables and announce them to the world as promises (I can see his entire staff jointly rolling their eyes, clutching palms to temples and issuing choruses of “Oh my god” and “WTF” as they spin in place), then holds his employees to those unreasonable schedules. Of course this results in many missed deadlines, much ingestion of antacid and probably the odd nervous breakdown or two.

Musk, in an Iron Man II cameo - fromWired

Musk is the sort of guy who shows up with some regularity in science fiction novels, a genre trope, like the researcher who has exactly the sort of experience and insight the President/PM/Chairman/Secretary General needs in order to stave off global catastrophe. He’s the guy who has been secretly building the arc that the world needs to stave off extinction. In this case he is doing it publicly. Of course this raises some issues. Do we as a country, as a planet, really want to be reliant on private companies for our space exploration? Do we want a possible colony on Mars to be a privately held branch of Musk Industries? There are only a gazillion questions that are raised by the privatization of space. What’s good for the bottom line at SpaceX may or may not be good for humanity. We have certainly seen how a reliance on the inherent civic-mindedness and good will of corporations has worked on this planet. Musk is a dreamer, for sure, and I expect his dream of making a better world through the use of renewable energy and his hopes of establishing a human outpost on Mars are pure ideals. But the devil is always in the details, and what would happen should Musk be infected by another virulent strain of malaria and not escape with a near miss, as he did in 2001? Would the replacement CEO share his ideals? Would a replacement CEO be willing to take big risks to support those ideals? Would a replacement CEO look to sell Tesla off to GM to make a few quick billion? One person can move the world, but it takes more than a start to keep things rolling. We could certainly use plenty more people with the sort of drive and ambition that Elon Musk embodies. Innovation is a rare resource and must be cherished. But like any powerful force, it must be, if not tethered, at least monitored, to make certain that it does not run amok.

Ashlee Vance has done an amazing job of telling not only Musk’s story, but of making the life history of the several companies with which Musk has been involved fascinating reading. I did get the sense that Vance was, from all the time he spent with Musk, smitten with his subject. While his portrait of Musk is hardly a zit-free one, I got the feeling that there might be a few more skeletons safely tucked away in closets, a few more bodies buried in basements. Nevertheless, Elon Musk is a powerful, entertaining and informative look at one of the most important people of our time. Your personal vision of the future should certainly include checking out this book.

=================EXTRA STUFF has been moved to comment #1
Profile Image for Louise.
945 reviews291 followers
June 10, 2015
3.5 Stars

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.
Profile Image for Dr. Appu Sasidharan (Dasfill).
1,135 reviews2,157 followers
December 2, 2022

Elon Musk is considered as a cross-pollination of Thomas Edison and Tony Stark. SpaceX, Tesla, Paypal, SolarCity are some of the few companies started by him. The above names are more than enough to understand Musk's potential.

Ashlee Vance shows us the not-so-famous childhood of Musk in South Africa. He compares and contrasts Musk's entrepreneurial brilliance to Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and his Scientific prowess to Thomas Edison and Henry Ford. His role in preventing global warming is ubiquitous. The EV's produced by his company Tesla is helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to a large extend. Musk is even donating $100 million for a competition to find better methods to remove carbon from the air or water. The race for this price will start on 22nd April 2021 (earth day) and goes on till 2025.

His courage to invest in ventures with no empirical evidence and make them successful by his confidence and hard work is truly astounding. His enigmatic enthusiasm to get up from failures, again and again, to become successful is very well conveyed in this book and will be truly inspirational for the future generation. Elon Musk is not an ephemeral phenomenon guilty of hyperbole which will be evanescent soon. This name is that of an erudite maverick going to be discussed for a long, long time one way or the other.

What I learned from this book
1) Never ever give up
When Falcon 1 failed continuously three times, Musk was nearly bankrupt, and the whole world was making fun of his ideas. But he didn't give up and tried for the fourth time, and the rest is history.
“Good ideas are always crazy until they’re not.”

2) What makes Musk different from other Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and CEOs?
Working more than 16 hours a day, making quick decisions, and achieving impossible targets are common to silicon valley entrepreneurs. But Musk is still entirely different compared to them
"What Musk has developed that so many of the entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley lack is a meaningful worldview. He's the possessed genius on the grandest quest anyone has ever concocted. He's less a CEO 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."

"Elon is the shining example of how Silicon Valley might be able to reinvent itself and be more relevant than chasing these quick IPOs and focusing on getting incremental products out,"

3) Understanding human nature
It is Musks's ability to cognize human nature which made him successful. He exactly knows what humans want and has the motivation to work hard to deliver it quickly even before his competitors started thinking about its possibility
"He would bring standard financial instruments online and then modernize the industry with a host of new concepts. He exhibited a deep insight into human nature that helped his companies pull out exceptional marketing technology and financial feeds. Musk was already playing the entrepreneur game at the highest level and working at the press and the investors like few others could."

My favourite three lines from this book
“Everything he does is fast,” Brogan said. “He pees fast. It’s like a fire hose—three seconds and out. He’s authentically in a hurry.

“There needs to be a reason for a grade. I'd rather play video games, write software, and read books than try and get an A if there's no point in getting an A."

“The company would pick a plan of attack, and when it failed at something, it failed fast and then tried a new approach.”

What could have been better?
If you are a person working under Musk and have a different wavelength compared to him, then there is a high probability that his extreme obsession with his work will feel like a toxic one to you. The extra working hours and unrealistic deadlines will be difficult to handle for ordinary people. He might be a maverick, but we still wish he should have been a little bit more kind to his workers when they fall short of deadlines. But Musk tackled this problem by only appointing extraordinary people who always think like him and apt for their designations as his workers. This ability of Musk to convert his foibles to positives is one of the secrets of his success. Musk was involved in many controversies like the rift with few other tech firms, Hollywood actors, Thai cave rescue, and overvaluing Tesla stocks which were unfortunately totally ignored in this book.

4/5 I have seen very few biographies like this, which will evoke interest in people from extremely different society sections. It is due to Musk's eclectic knowledge and ability to use it in the best way possible in different spheres of life. If you are a car enthusiast or an EV owner or plans to buy an EV in the future or an aeronautical engineer or astrophysicist or banking professional or software engineer or an entrepreneur or a student who wants to build a successful career, this is a must-read book.
Profile Image for Mark Bao.
29 reviews222 followers
May 25, 2015
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)

And while that is actually a good way to work—to have everything lined up—is Musk's approach the right way to manage a company? Is it the only way to be successful on incredibly difficult things? Or are Tesla and SpaceX successful in spite of this way of working—that it actually holds people back?

Other than those questions, this is a very good overview of Musk's life and personality, and the trials and tribulations he went through to be successful—a path beset by an immense number of setbacks and late deliveries.

What comes through clearly is how much of a genius this guy was. To get a sense of what this guy is like, consider that in his childhood, he ran out of books to read at the local library and the school library, and sometimes would read for ten hours a day. Dude also has a memory that's not only photographic, but he can wrangle images and numbers and relationships between them in his head. Insane. His ability to ingest and retain information, and his approach to knowledge, is nuts:

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)

What also comes across was how much Musk believes in the technological future and how much he as done to restore that promise to humanity. It's clear that he is one of the top people pushing technology and humanity forward, and that's incredibly inspiring.

What I found a bit lacking in this book, which would have made this an excellent book, was more about Musk's inner life. Vance hypothesizes that Musk seems cold and non-emotional because he has a different sort of empathy than others: he emphasizes with the entire human species, and wants to do the most he can for them, but that makes him forget the individuals in front of him. But what does Musk think about this? How does Musk characterize his own values and experiences? Of course, this is something that few biographies do anyway, but for someone as dynamic as Musk, it would have been a welcome addition to the surface-level 'what he did' information.

The guy's a genius, and this book, I think, represents that well. The inside look into Musk's life and work from the mid-2000s is thorough and really gives you a fantastic backstory into Musk's experience with Tesla and SpaceX. showing he did to make them successful, making this into an endlessly inspiring biography.

FIVE STARS — Changed how I see things
Profile Image for Ali Abdaal.
17 reviews33.6k followers
June 13, 2021
Pretty good and interesting. Not life-changing but certainly gives a nice insight into the various Musk-related businesses + early life, which is interesting and most of it was new to me.
Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,566 reviews56.5k followers
May 6, 2022
Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future, Ashlee Vance

Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future is Ashlee Vance's biography of Elon Musk, published in 2015.

The book traces Elon Musk's life from his childhood up to the time he spent at Zip2 and PayPal, and then onto SpaceX, Tesla, and SolarCity. In the book, Vance managed to get regular interviews with Musk, those close to him, and those who were with him at the most important points of his life.

تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز بیست و یکم ماه اکتبر سال2017میلادی

عنوان: الون (ایلان) ماسک: تسلا، اسپیس اکس و جستجوی آینده‌ی رویایی؛ نویسنده: اشلی ونس؛ مترجم: چکامه مرتضی‌نیا؛ تهران: نشر پرچین؛ سال1395؛ در362ص؛ شابک9789648340433؛ موضوع اهل کسب و کار (ماسک، ایلان، سال‏‫1971م) - ایالات متحده - سرگذشتنامه - از نویسندگان ایالات متحده آمریکا - سده21م

‬عنوان: بازگشت به آینده: داستان زندگی ایلان ماسک...؛ نویسنده: اشلی ونس؛ مترجم: فرید رجبعلی؛ تهران اندیشه عصر‏‫، سال1396؛ در208ص، عکس؛ شابک9786004211314؛‬

ایلان ریو ماسک؛ زاده ی سال1971میلادی در «آفریقای جنوبی»، مهندس، طراح صنعتی، مخترع، و شخص نامی تجارت، در صنایع پیشرفته آمریکایی، و جزو ده شخصیت تأثیرگذار جهان هستند؛ ایشان بنیان‌گذار شرکت‌هایی همچون «تسلا موتورز»، «پی‌پال (که اکنون به ای‌بی تعلق دارد)» و «اسپیس‌اکس» هستند؛ ایشان هم‌اکنون، مدیرعامل و مدیرفنی «اسپیس اکس» هست؛ «ماسک» همچنین در حال توسعه ی یک سیستم «حمل و نقل» با سرعت بالاست، که با نام «هایپرلوپ» شناخته شده ‌است

کتاب «ایلان ماسک: تسلا، اسپیس‌اکس، و مأموریت برای آینده‌ ای شگفت»؛ زندگی‌نامه ی «ایلان ماسک»، اثر «اشلی ونس» ‏است، که نخستین بار در سال2015میلادی منتشر شد؛ این کتاب، زندگی «ماسک» را، از کودکی، تا تأسیس «زیپ2»، و «پی‌پال»، و بعدها در «تسلا موتورز»، «اسپیس‌اکس»، و «سولارسیتی»، به‌ تصویر می‌کشد؛ «ونس» در این کتاب، با «ماسک»، و با دوستان و اطرافیان او، و اشخاصی که شاهد لحظات مهم زندگی «ماسک» بوده‌ اند، گفتگوهایی انجام داده‌ است؛ «ماسک» خود بر روی محتوای این زندگی‌نامه کنترلی نداشته‌ اند؛ «ماسک» نزدیک به چهارده‌ ساله بودند، که همچون دیگر نوجوانان نابغه، تلاش کردند، با خوانش کتاب‌های مذهبی و فلسفی، کار را ادامه دهند؛ ایشان از هر ایدئولوژی، نکته‌ ای را برداشت کردند، و سپس کمابیش، از همان‌جایی سر درآوردند، که آغاز کرده بودند؛ یعنی پذیرفتن آموزشهای کتاب علمی‌ - تخیلی «راهنمای مسافران کهکشان»، نوشته‌‌ ی «داگلاس آدامز»، که یکی از تاثیرگذارترین کتاب‌های زندگی ایشان بود؛

ماسک در این‌باره میگونید: (یکی از سخت‌ترین کارها این است�� که بفهمیم چه پرسشهایی را باید بپرسیم؛ وقتی پرسشها را بدانید، رسیدن به پاسخ آسان‌تر خواهد شد؛ به این نتیجه رسیدم، که ما باید تلاش کنیم، تا میزان، و حوزه ی آگاهی بشر را، برای فهم بیشتر پرسشهایی که باید بپرسد، بیشتر کنیم)؛

در اینجا بود که «ماسکِ» نوجوان، به آن بیانیه ی بسیار منطقی‌ خویش رسید: (تنها کاری که انجامش منطقی به‌ نظر می‌رسد، تلاش برای بالابردن سطح آگاهی جمعی است.)؛

ریشه‌ یابی برخی تلاش‌های «ماسک»، برای رسیدن به هدف، آسان است؛ ایشان زاده ی سال1971میلادی، و بزرگ‌ شده ی شهر بزرگ «پرتوریا»، در شمال شرقی «آفریقای جنوبی» هستند، که تنها به اندازه‌ ی چند ساعت رانندگی، با «ژوهانسبورگ» فاصله دارد؛ حضور آپارتاید، روی دوران کودکی‌ اش، سایه انداخته بود، و «آفریقای جنوبی» هم، به‌ برهان تنش‌ها، و خشونت‌ها، گاه‌ و بی‌گاه متشنج بود؛ از سویی سیاه‌ ها و سفیدها، با هم درگیر بودند، و از سوی دیگر، سیاه‌های قبایل گوناگون، به جان هم افتاده بودند؛ «ماسک» درست چند روز پس از قیام «سووتو»، چهار ساله شد؛ در قیام «سووتو»، صدها دانش‌آموز سیاه‌پوست، چون به مصوبات دولت‌مردان سفیدپوست، معترض بودند، کشته شدند؛ «آفریقای جنوبی»، سال‌ها به‌ سبب قوانین نژاد پرستانه‌ اش، از جانب کشورهای دیگر، تحریم بود؛

ماسک، در دوران کودکی، برای سفر به خارج از کشور، رفاه کافی داشت، و نظر خارجی‌ها را، درباره‌ ی «آفریقای جنوبی» می‌دانست؛ اما آنچه بیشترین تاثیر را، بر شخصیت «ماسک» گذاشته بود، فرهنگ رایج «آفریقایی» در «پرتوریا»، و مناطق دور و برش بود؛ رفتارهای مرد سالارانه رواج داشت، و سوارکارهای ماهر، و خشن، پرطرفدار بودند؛ «ماسک» با اینکه جزو افراد مرفه آن دوران به شمار می‌آمد، یک خارجی بود، که شخصیت یگانه، و ذات نابغه‌ اش، با رفتارها، و گرایشات آن زمان، در تضاد بود؛ نظریه‌ اش درباره اشتباه‌ بودن دنیا، مدام تقویت می‌شد، و تقریبا «ماسک»، از نخستین روزها، نقشه ی فرار از محیط دور و برش را می‌کشید، و رویای جایی را در سر داشت، که در آنجا آرزوها، و شخصیتش، می‌توانستند شکوفا بشوند

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 14/06/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ 15/02/1401هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Elizabeth.
700 reviews29.1k followers
July 17, 2019
I found the tale of Elon Musk's childhood all the way through Zip, Paypal, Solar City, SpaceX and Tesla fascinating and inspiring. One thing in particular stood out. He's not motivated by greed. I've met my share of entrepreneurs and there are countless motivations that power these people. Some are narcissists, some like the idea of being in charge (ego), some are battling the demons of their parents (Musk most likely has a piece of this in his psyche), but the best ones are compulsive problem solvers. I liked the quote that Justine Musk mentioned when she said something to the effect: "He's not trying to make money, it just happens for him."

Also, I'm no Elon Musk but I share his loathing of acronyms. They are blockers of communication. As an editor and a writer, clarity is key. Why lose someone in a meeting when they could be participating and applying to their brainpower to a problem?
Profile Image for Barbara.
1,343 reviews4,864 followers
April 11, 2023

4.5 stars

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.

Jupiter and Europa

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.

Elon Musk's father Errol

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.

Little Elon Musk

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.

Young Elon Musk

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 Washington 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.

Elon Musk giving commencement address

Caltech students

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.

Elon Musk is notoriously hard to work with

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.

Elon Musk's first wife Justine Musk

Elon Musk with his second wife Tallulah Riley

Elon Musk with his sons

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.)

Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark (Iron Man)

Elon Musk on The Simpsons

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....
Profile Image for Tom LA.
595 reviews223 followers
April 27, 2020
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. Or he just didn’t get anything about that out of Musk.

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.”

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 for much longer than Elon Musk has. I read Zubrin's "The case for Mars" many years ago, and I was utterly fascinated by it.
Profile Image for TS Chan.
699 reviews868 followers
January 4, 2018
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
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 6 books3,964 followers
March 24, 2018
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!

Profile Image for Nataliya Yaneva.
165 reviews322 followers
December 14, 2017
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.
Profile Image for Tiffany.
481 reviews
August 26, 2015
I'm not sure why the reviews are so universally high across the board for this book. I thought it was poorly written and focused on all the wrong things. Each chapter, particularly those towards the end, was repetitive and paced as though it was a stand-alone article, which made the pacing of the book very choppy. The author focused on the failures of each company but completely glossed over what made each product and each company climb the peak to success. I'm assuming the author didn't understand the engineering and science behind why the Tesla Model S and the SpaceX rocket are so amazing and so couldn't explain them. He goes over the failures in detail, but does not talk about the breakthroughs and advancements in nearly enough depth. I got the sense from the book that Musk is a tyrant (which he likely is), but no sense of why he has inspired so many people to work for him or invest in him. This was a really disappointing book.
Profile Image for Umut.
355 reviews164 followers
January 9, 2019
Whether you follow him or his companies/works, Elon Musk is an important innovator of our times, and I would suggest everyone to read this book to get inspired or experience another world.
I really admire how Vance captured his biography, which is not an easy thing to do. If you read a little bit, you'll understand Musk is not the most easy going person in the world. The author opens the book in a very intriguing way starting from why Musk allowed him to write his biography, which starts to shed some light into his character.
It was really interesting to read about how SpaceX, Tesla and all his other success stories started, how he jumped from one ambition to another, and how he runs his companies. Obviously, Musk is no normal person. He runs after his heart, and his dreams. He's not only after making a lot of money, but he wishes a self-sufficient world before he leaves it himself. I do admire how he uses his intellect, his efforts and resources to do innovations that would be good for the earth. Clean technology, colonisation in Mars, solar power, etc.

He's probably one of the most persistent person I've ever read about. All the difficulties he's thrown at would make any one of us to give up, but he still goes after his dreams. He's tough, both on himself and his employees. It's not easy to work for him. But, yet again, it's also not easy to aim to change how the world operates. So, we can't expect ordinary from him.

All in all, I would really suggest this book to anybody. It's interesting, fascinating, very well captured inner world of this genius I truly admired even more than before I read this book.

Thanks a lot to NetGalley and the publisher for granting a free copy in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Trish.
1,916 reviews3,402 followers
November 17, 2022
“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.“

Elon Musk is fascinating. I could simply tick off some biographical points such as him having been married twice and having five children with his first wife (a set of twins and a set of triplets), but that is not why I read biographies and, in fact, why I dislike most of them. Either the people the biographies are about aren’t really interesting (actors barely in their 30s for example) or it really is just a list of facts that I could read on Wikipedia as well.
This biography about Elon Musk is different. He is different. He’s only 47 but has lived through and accomplished more than other people could in 3 lifetimes.

He grew up during a very violent period in South Africa. Granted, he’s white and the family was never truly poor, but it was still dangerous. He was also bullied in school (like, beaten bloody) and suffered the intense mind games of his father. Later, he went to Stanford university for only one day before leaving again.
He, his way of life, his ideas and his ambition are very unconventional.

From what I understand, he is still the little boy reading comics and dreaming of humanity conquering and colonizing the stars. And that is his mission in life that he has dedicated everything to. Some might call this silly but great minds like Stephen Hawking agree(d) with Musk that it’s the only way humanity will have a future and we do need a champion that is driving us, giving us a chance at survival. Once upon a time, we all had this dream of reaching the stars, but it has since dwindled thanks mostly to politics and peoples' tendency to give up when something is hard.

Musk knows that getting humanity to Mars and beyond also means creating technology that will automatically enhance and better life here on Earth. There are many who can influence consumers and create new trends, but Musk isn’t here for exploiting a moment and getting rich - he’s poured ALL of his money, time and time again, into his businesses when they were in trouble and went much farther than any „expert“ thought sane, just to reach his ultimate goal (a colony on Mars).
Simply put: he has proven that he’s not afraid to give up or at least risk everything, unlike most entrepreneurs. It’s no surprise, then, that his three main businesses are Tesla (electric cars), SolarCity (renewable energy), and SpaceX (aerospace industry).

Before getting to create the above mentioned companies, he founded zip2, which became part of AltaVista eventually, as well as X.com of PayPal fame, but was forced out. I won’t go into detail but it seems kind of a trend that people get enthused by Musk, get rich by his skills - and then force him out because they simply wish to cash in and don’t share his vision. Backstabbing galore throughout his career. It’s sickening.
I admit that it sounds as if he was a very difficult man to work with but that is no excuse for such behaviour and his success shows that his way of doing things works! Every time he has an idea, people say he’s nuts and that it cannot work - and then he proves them wrong.
„Good ideas are always crazy - until they’re not.“ Larry Page, Google co-founder.

Short-term, inconsequential goals are trending nowadays from normal people to the highest politicians. In this environment, a radical visionary like Musk steps on many toes and quite often, too.
It can’t be easy to be ridiculed and stabbed in the back all the time. However, he thinks that that plus his childhood suffering actually helped him to become who he is today. And I see what makes him think so. Without adversity, there is no challenge to overcome the danger/problem so you stagnate. It sounds a bit like Darwin’s theory of evolution.
„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.

Radical. Visionary. Musk has haters and fans alike. He was even called the real-life Iron Man (albeit an Iron Man who sacked his Pepper Potts).
His life goals certainly are very compelling if you care about the future at all and refuse to be tied down by the comfortable excuse of it being hard or costly. If you look at historical visionaries that have catapulted humanity forward, I’d say they were all more or less „difficult“ people and especially after seeing the Heavy Falcon rocket being operated successfully only recently (a fact that sadly didn’t make it into this biography as it was published earlier), I believe he can pull it off and certainly hope he can.

I, personally, like how well-read Musk is, that he seems to be a technological allrounder, that he is right there in the factories working at least as many hours as he expects from everybody else and getting his hands dirty like any other worker (often ruining expensive Italian leather shoes to the horror of the people around him), that he has such an unbendable will (though I'm sorry it has cost him so much already), that he is playing video games in his spare time when he's not taking care of his kids (because he seems to be quite a good father as well), and that he is a big nerd and geek.
As can be seen by him not only shooting one of his sports cars into space, that gets "steered" by a "space man" (Bowie reference) recently or by him storing a very nice collection of scifi literature onto the car's bord computer, but also by him programming said bord computer to display Douglas Adams' immortal words.

This biography was written in a very compelling way by a man with an apparent vast knowledge of the history and inner workings of various industries (the author has worked for several well-known business papers for many years). The book also shows a great deal of research. Some authors manage to bore me even when talking about interesting people but Ashlee Vance has a unique style and I like the red thread throughout the book and that he doesn’t shy away from also showing the more problematic sides of Musk’s character.

I won't downrate the book because it is still very well written and the points made remain coherent and true. However, looking at recent events, I'm sorry to say that I am sorely disappointed in Musk. He must be suffering a 100% breakdown complete with megalomaniac re-build-up afterwards.
If you want to see the true measure of a man, watch how he treats his inferiors, not his equals. --- Harry Potter

Evil begins when you begin to treat people as things. --- I Shall Wear Midnight

To think that I believed in him (his vision and him being able to achieve it) once ...

Profile Image for Andrew Smith.
1,050 reviews578 followers
January 7, 2023
Not long ago I was glued to my television set as SpaceX launched its Falcon 9 rocket, carrying two astronauts on their journey to the International Space Station. The launch was followed shortly thereafter by the amazing spectacle of seeing the main body of the rocket separate before flipping and completing a descent, culminating in a vertical landing on an autonomous drone ship. This still feels to me like something out of a sci-fi movie – I’m hardly able to believe what I’m seeing! A few days later Audible offered up a cheapie listen to this bio of the company’s founder and driving force, Elon Musk. And, of course, not only is Musk the man behind America’s return to manned space travel he also runs Tesla, a company producing high-end electric cars. Oh, and let’s not forget SolarCity, a subsidiary of Tesla that specialises in providing solar energy services. That’s quite a collection.

Musk was born in Pretoria, South Africa in 1971 and from an early age he demonstrated an ability to absorb and retain a huge volume of information. A prodigious reader, he regularly immersed himself in books for up to ten hours a day. As a young boy he wasn’t considered hugely sociable and his habit of routinely correcting other children was hardly going to help him develop an extensive group of school friends. He developed into a geeky adolescent who enjoyed science fiction and fantasy stories. Shortly before his 18th birthday he set off for Canada on his own and from there made his way to America. After obtaining degrees in physics and economics and completing two internships in Silicon Valley he toyed with the idea of beginning doctorate studies before giving that up to launch a web software company called Zip2, in 1995.

After pocketing $10 million from the sale of Zip2 he co-founded an online financial services and email payment company (X.com) which through a merger acquired a money-transfer service called PayPal. A couple of years later Musk was ousted as CEO but in the shakeout he received circa $165 million. This was to be his set-up money for SpaceX and Tesla. Musk had developed into a visionary who believed that to safeguard the human race it would be necessary to build a multi-planetary society – his planet of choice being Mars. Furthermore, he was enthused by the idea building an electric car after test driving a handmade electric sports car. The makers had no interest in mass producing the car but Musk believed in the concept of a future in which cars were no longer powered by petrol or diesel.

This book walks us through Elon’s involvement in both companies, and to a lesser extent the development of SolarCity too. Not surprisingly, he comes across as daring and hugely driven. He rates high on his ability to maximise output from his teams – he recruits highly skilled people, expects them to work long days and accepts no resistance to his lofty targets and goals. But he can be harsh in dealing with his employees and it seems that though almost all respect (and often revere) their boss, it doesn’t necessarily mean they like him. As a leader he is adept at developing a big picture strategy but, unusual for high flying CEO’s, he’s also totally comfortable delving into the fine detail. And there are quite a few examples here describing how Musk uses his photographic memory to the consternation of those around him: in one example he provided feedback on a prototype car, listing around 80 elements requiring attention – all without having taken any notes.

The book was published in 2015, so it doesn’t cover elements that have made the news in the past few years. But what is clear here is just how daring the man is. He is not afraid to go ‘all in’ when investing in his companies, though this nearly cost him dear in 2008 when both SpaceX and Tesla were on the verge of financial collapse. He has also managed to augment his skills as a physicist and an engineer with an eye for design. He’s a man with a big ego and this can sometimes get in the way but his drive and focus ensure that his eyes (and those of his team) are always firmly set on the prize. It’s a fascinating story and sits beside those featuring the likes of Steve Jobs and Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin as another testament to the bright, insightful entrepreneurs Silicon Valley has produced.
Profile Image for S. Tom Cebic.
18 reviews5 followers
July 27, 2015
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.
Profile Image for Lyubov.
363 reviews194 followers
June 15, 2016
Предупреждавам, че това ревю ще бъде лично и доста д��лго, 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, н�� 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?
Profile Image for Amit Mishra.
233 reviews667 followers
October 11, 2021
Elon Musk is a revolutionary entrepreneur of the 21st century. His life was full of struggles whether it's a family affair or a professional one. He has witnessed a long list of hardships in his life but he never scummed to those. The book by Ashlee Vance has wonderfully written those pieces of information that will be very delightful for the readers to read.
He was thrown out of Paypal, multiple failures of SpaceX and many more came in his life. He took lessons from his failures and never stopped there. Now, we all know who is Mr Elon Musk.
Profile Image for Amar Pai.
960 reviews101 followers
September 14, 2016
Really enjoying this book, but I'm struck by how Musk, like Jobs and Bezos, is a total asshole. A Space-X employee missed a work event to witness his child's birth, and Musk calls him on the carpet for it. He expects his employees to have no life and discards people as soon as they're no longer useful. Just a nightmare boss. Not somebody I'd ever want to work with. Apparently I'm not the only one who had this thought. From NY Times: The Bad Behavior of Visionary Leaders

As I was reading Ashlee Vance’s “Elon Musk: Tesla, Space X and the Quest for a Fantastic Future,” I was alternately awed and disheartened, almost exactly the same ambivalence I felt after reading Walter Isaacson’s “Steve Jobs” and Brad Stone’s “The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon.”

The three leaders are arguably the most extraordinary business visionaries of our times. Each of them has introduced unique products that changed – or in Mr. Musk’s case, have huge potential to change – the way we live.

I was awed by the innovative, courageous, persistent and creative ways all three built their businesses. I also love their products. I own a Mac Pro and an iPhone, and I have been a loyal customer of Apple for 20 years. I buy many books and other products on Amazon, lured by a blend of low prices, ease of purchase and reliably quick delivery. The Tesla Model S is hands down the best car I have ever driven, and it’s all electric, rechargeable in your garage.

Plainly, I have bought in to what these guys are selling.

What disheartens me is how little care and appreciation any of them give (or in Mr. Jobs’s case, gave) to hard-working and loyal employees, and how unnecessarily cruel and demeaning they could be to the people who helped make their dreams come true.

All three of these dudes are clearly geniuses who have advanced the state of the art and changed the world. iPhone, amazon, ehhhh tesla (jury's out). But I have to believe you could get there without treating your employees like shit.

Is it a patriarchy/male thing? Who knows. Maybe female billionaire tycoons are all assholes too.

Kudos to the first self-made billionaire who manages to change the game multiple times (at the level of iphone/pixar, tesla/space x, amazon/kindle) WITHOUT abusing employees and trampling people's lives. It has to be possible
Profile Image for Cassie.
343 reviews26 followers
July 22, 2015
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.
Profile Image for Nguyen Linh Chi.
83 reviews14 followers
May 7, 2017
At first, the idea of reading 380-page autobiography about a technology-savvy made me downhearted. However, eventually I extremely relish this book that I cannot put it down.

1. There is nothing wrong about being an introvert and enjoying reading books. You will find a lot of inspirations for your career. Don't give up your childhood dream.

2. Working hard is the only way that lead to success. I vividly remember that he has to take about 170 flights a year. Thanks for his hard work, he contributes tremendously to our modern world. Musk is the founder of SpaceX, co-founder of Zip 2, Paypal, Tesla and SolarCity.

3. Always seek to minimize monopoly in every industry. SpaceX helps US government save a lot of money to lauch satellites, instead of relying on Russian providers.
Profile Image for Lubinka Dimitrova.
254 reviews150 followers
June 30, 2016
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.

Profile Image for Arun Divakar.
796 reviews380 followers
November 11, 2015
Google’s Larry Page says that ’Good ideas are always crazy until they are not’ and this is a statement of truth. If before 2007, someone were audacious enough to tell you that a mobile phone made in the US will turn the industry on its head then you would have called that a crazy notion. If prior to 1998, someone would have said that a website will come along and would grow beyond its role as a search engine into a part of life itself that would have been called crazy too. Every other thing from a light bulb to a movie to a car to sliced bread were all crazy ideas at one time. It only took an individual or a group to persist through this period of ridicule and name calling to finally make these crazy notions come to life .Then there is this man : Elon Musk .His dreams of cheaper space travel, sustainable and clean energy and electric cars were laughed off as the dreams of just another batshit crazy Silicon Valley entrepreneur. Elon founded one company, took over another and invested in a third all three of which were called epic fails by the industry pundits. Time however proved Elon right and all three companies (SpaceX, Tesla and Solar City)are now stuff of lore. How did these companies manage to break through against all these odds and how did Elon manage to drive them to achieve more and more- this is the crux of this book.

To me this book was more about SpaceX and Tesla than Elon’s biography. I did come across a lot of articles that detailed his management style, the apparent lack of empathy and of pushing people to the last shreds of their performance but the ultimate vision that these companies embody might not be compatible to a softer management style. Take SpaceX, whose stated vision is to make human beings as a multiplanetary race in the days to come. This is one of the grandest, loftiest visions a company can have as its raison d'être . Now this is a binary vision as in you either make it to space and colonize or you fail as a company. The objective is monstrously big and for a company striving to reach it there can be no excuses or compromises. Everybody breaks their back working to get human beings to space. Elon, who heads the company and who formulated the vision then works double hard and puts in twice more than any other employee to move closer to realizing that vision. Slips in performance from individuals or teams will not be tolerated and Musk & Co burn through employees like firewood. You can look at it from the perspective of a conventional organization and say that such a methodology is bad for you but then there are loads of talented people waiting in line to be hired into SpaceX or Tesla to get their hands on these projects. This by no means is a justification for abrasive management practices from Musk or for the gruelling work hours of these firms. But truth be told complacency was what unseated the competitors for both these organizations. Ashlee Vance makes an analogy by comparing the industry placidity that surrounded iPhones. When the iPhone came out, everyone called it an overpriced rich man’s toy and were quick to downcast it. But then it blazed ahead and disrupted the entire mobile phone industry. Even with an iPhone in hand, companies like HTC and Samsung took years to come close to a comparable design or user interface. Now use this perspective in SpaceX and you see Musk & Co. shaking up years of bureaucratic dust when they cut the cost of commercial space flight to a fraction of what it was before and Tesla blows competition out of the water with their automobile design and efficiency.

Elon Musk’s ideas for a better future of mankind is cleaner, effective and makes abundant use of technology. Therein also lies its biggest impediment for almost all of it hinges on this one man alone. Musk is not immortal and we really cannot predict what the companies policies might evolve into post his time. They already employ an army of workers and hence bring in tremendous clout in the US but it remains to be seen what these organizations will stand for in the years to come. Humanity is too large and too volatile to be bracketed into users and non-users of these commodities alone.

The book is highly readable especially since Elon is enjoying the status of a rock star celebrity at the moment. Vance writes in a way which tries to capture the essence of this man while not sounding like a sycophant. It is only towards the end that I felt Vance tries his hands at speculating as to why Elon is not empathetic and his explanation did not appear all too convincing to me. I suppose a few prejudices of the man himself rubbed off on the author with a most notable case being references to Jeff Bezos. There is no love lost between Musk and Bezos with the end result being that the book does not have a great deal of good to talk about Bezos. It is also very inspiring to know about a man who overcame such huge odds to survive and single-mindedly pursue an objective relentlessly.

Profile Image for Sharon.
248 reviews101 followers
January 6, 2018
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).
Profile Image for Mario Tomic.
159 reviews308 followers
July 8, 2015
Amazing book, if you liked the biography of Steve Jobs or Jeff Bezos this book is a must-read! I found it very inspiring and motivational, Elon Musk has the potential to change the world we live in forever. His vision and commitment to make the world a better place through is mind-blowing. Reading this book really helped me push myself past limits and work even harder. It's not hard when your know there's someone like Elon putting everything he's got into his big vision, working 16 hours a day for weeks with no breaks and no holidays. I was especially impressed how he kept his composure to rescue his companies facing multiple bankruptcies and never lost faith in the projects. Highly recommended book if you want to glance into the harsh reality of a man who will stop at nothing to change the world for better and the sacrifices he made along the way to his success.
Profile Image for Riku Sayuj.
653 reviews7,016 followers
April 9, 2022
It's a fun book, and Elon has cracked the hologram code. But this book is too early - written before Alexander set off from Macedonia. The game has only started.
Profile Image for Silvana.
1,149 reviews1,120 followers
January 27, 2018
A very insightful account on a man who wants to reach the stars (well, Mars) and save humanity from extinction and global warming, yet often falls short from showing a modicum of kindness toward his employees and prone to going ballistic over typos in emails and abbreviations. Oh, did I mention he is downright mysoginistic as well? He basically said all smart women must breed and he's the alpha in his marriage.

The book provides succinct insights on the situation surrounding the industries the mercurial Musk works in: automotive, finance, power generation, and aerospace. Admittedly, most of them had become bureaucratic, imploding, sunset industries, and had not shown any significant achievements for decades. Musk changed it, with his then-crazy ideas and gung-ho attitudes which include over optimistic deadlines and clashes with friends and employees who did not suit him. He made those happened nonetheless. Not just a big talker, but also a doer. I wish he could be more humane about all of it but his vision seems to be more abstract - future humanity - than taking a good care of people surrounding him (including his loyal ex-secretary, his own Pepper Potts) and himself, all the people in the now that could bring that grand vision to life. If you want to bring changes to the world, you need to start from yourself and people surrounding you then work from that gradually. Anyway, I am an idealistic nobody, so what do I know.

Semi-philosophical rambling aside, this is a recommended read for those who love innovation (or disrupt) and how to get there. The SpaceX and Solar City chapters were quite entertaining. The Tesla ones were too abstruse for me. The Paypal one was alright, I managed to get through it bexause it reminded me of the excellent Halt and Catch Fire series at AMC - those ICT innovators could be really dramatic especially in the founding stories and creative claims.

All in all, I appreciate the way he managed to reach self-sufficiency in Tesla and SpaceX (if I were an American I'd be thankful for the employment opportunity) where his other competitors have to rely on other countries.. I now wonder when his space internet and submarine cars will be finished. Speaking of submarines, I hope he also does something with the oceans. Like a machine that collects plastic waste that is cheap, could be mass produced everywhere, solar charged, etc etc. Just use the SpaceX rockets to deploy them to the far reaches of the ocean surface. Can you do that, Musk, since you said you want to save the world? I challenge you.
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