Elon Musk by Ashlee Vance
I think at this point you’d be hard pressed to find a soul on Earth (and increasingly, in orbit around it) that hadn’t heard of Elon Musk. His status in technology, automotive and aeronautic history is assured and the disruption of the companies he has been associated with throughout their respective industries is undoubtable.
His name may as well be synonymous with both Tesla and SpaceX, and often credited as the founding father of them. No doubt Elon is a highly driven man and is prepared to take extreme personal and financial risk to achieve a goal once he is set upon it. In the case of Tesla, the car was already in development before Elon became involved as funding father, more than founding.
SpaceX was his brainchild however; a childhood dream and the product of his prodigious mind, he recruited expertise in order to make it a reality. His software background lead him to an Agile mentality to rocket development, and almost cost him both SpaceX and Tesla, becoming infamous for failed launches and some epic ‘Booms’; in his own words, “Failure is an option here. If things are not failing, you are not innovating enough.”
What becomes apparent through Ashlee’s book — which was compiled through interviews with friends, relations, current and past employees, peers and colleagues in addition to Elon himself (eventually; he initially refused any involvement with the book) — is that the drive of a man such as Elon can be a suffocating place to work. With a single point of focus, and absolute belief that nothing is impossible he demanded that same drive and focus from those around him almost at any cost. This book doesn’t shy away from telling these stories, nor does it provide justification for Elon’s actions towards others.
These are the stories that provide depth and colour — both good and bad — to a fascinating person. He is a highly driven, deeply passionate, intimidatingly intelligent human being, terrifyingly direct in his vision and at-whatever-cost approach to getting there, but there is a kind of humility in the man too. He utterly believes that what he is doing is for the benefit of humankind, an imperitive even for our survival.
As balanced a view as you are going to find, this is an eminently readable book and fascinating in the perspectives that Ashlee has sought out to include. I found it to be an engrossing read, and one I would recommend seeking out.
Book read date: March 2021
Pixie Reads rating: 9/10