I just finished reading Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX and the Quest for a Fantastic Future which was first published in 2015 but updated recently to provide readers with the most up-to-date information. The author Ashlee Vance is an amazing writer. Even though the book was few hundred pages which usually takes me a few weeks to read. I devoured it in days.
Much of Elon Musk is well known and I struggled to see how I can add new perspectives. As such, this is more of a reflection piece for myself. Hopefully, you can find some nuggets of insights here and there.
1. Elon Musk is a Genius and a Jerk
Intuitively, we probably know he is super smart but only after reading the book then it dawned upon me that this guy is probably at a different level compared to most other guys we tend to compare him with. For one, he is running two companies as the book was written and running three now as we speak.
Well, we know that smart people have big egos and are either born jerks or become jerks. Everyone of them is divorced. Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Warren Buffett, Robert Kwok, Sergey Brin.
You name it. Every single one.
So Elon is probably the biggest jerk of them all. He had an affair with his best friend's wife and resulted in Sergey's name being on top. Goodness... (pic below). Of course, what Sergey did to piss his wife to sleep with others is not known.
But jerks do push humanity forward. This post cannot be written without my iMac and no additional research could be done without Google.
2. Space business may have some economics
I never understood the space business. To me, it was just concept. How can the ROIC be great for businesses that require so much capex, R&D with no demand? I am still skeptical but SpaceX shooting up hundreds of satellites and using space technology for commercial applications might become big.
SpaceX satellites are being used in the Ukraine-Russian war. War generates business (bad business though) and brings in money. That said, there are all kinds of commercial applications, including internet, satellite imagery etc.
3. Life is about Luck
The statement above is universal. You don't have to read this 400 page book to know. Well, Elon is tremendously lucky. Tesla could have gone bust multiple times. The same could be said for SpaceX. But he was saved, so many times. It does not mean he does not have skill. Obviously he has, more than anyone today.
But for so many things to come together, you cannot deny luck.
There are people who have enough skill but never the luck to pull off anything. There are people who has not much of any skill but become big, maybe we can put Donald Trump, Jack Ma and Masayoshi Son in that category. Feel free to disagree, you are entitled to have your opinion and so am I.
But Elon Musk just has both.