Elon Musk
Elon Musk

Elon Musk

Throughout these early years, the engineers credited Eberhard with making quick, crisp decisions. Rarely did Tesla get hung up overanalyzing a situation. The company would pick a plan of attack, and when it failed at something, it failed fast and then tried a new approach. (Location 2263)

“Everyone knew that the person who starts a company is not necessarily the right person to lead it in the long term, but whenever that is the case, it’s not easy.” (Location 2347)

On the marketing front, Musk would run daily Google searches for news stories about Tesla. If he saw a bad story, he ordered someone to “fix it” even though the Tesla public relations people could do little to sway the reporters. One employee missed an event to witness the birth of his child. Musk fired off an e-mail saying, “That is no excuse. I am extremely disappointed. You need to figure out where your priorities are. We’re changing the world and changing history, and you either commit or you don’t.” (Location 2433)

“This was E’s I’m-thinking-about-a-rocket-problem stance, which makes me pretty sure that he had just gotten some kind of bothersome work-related e-mail, and was clearly oblivious to the fact that a picture was being taken at all,” (Location 2535)

He would place this urgency that he expected the revenue in ten years to be ten million dollars a day and that every day we were slower to achieve our goals was a day of missing out on that money.” (Location 2581)

“There’s no such thing as a well-adjusted public figure. If they were well adjusted they wouldn’t try to be a public figure.” (Location 2594)

Tags: fame

Note: Public figures are usually not well adjusted!

When speaking to potential recruits, Singh tried to energize them and be up front about the demands of SpaceX and of Musk at the same time. “The recruiting pitch was SpaceX is special forces,” she said. “If you want as hard as it gets, then great. If not, then you shouldn’t come here.” (Location 3042)

Note: SpaceX was pitched as "Special forces" to potential recruits

He would quiz you until he learned ninety percent of what you know.” 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. (Location 3149)

So, I think generally you do want to have a timeline where, based on everything you know about, the schedule should be X, and you execute towards that, but with the understanding that there will be all sorts of things that you don’t know about that you will encounter that will push the date beyond that. It doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t have tried to aim for that date from the beginning because aiming for something else would have been an arbitrary time increase. (Location 3176)

Musk guides his engineers into taking ownership of their own delivery dates. “He doesn’t say, ‘You have to do this by Friday at two P.M.,’” Brogan said. “He says, ‘I need the impossible done by Friday at two P.M. Can you do it?’ Then, when you say yes, you are not working hard because he told you to. You’re working hard for yourself. It’s a distinction you can feel. You have signed up to do your own work.” (Location 3196)

One of my favorite things about Elon is his ability to make enormous decisions very quickly. That is still how it works today.” (Location 3237)

The guiding principle at SpaceX is to embrace your work and get stuff done. People who await guidance or detailed instructions languish. The same goes for workers who crave feedback. (Location 3294)

“There is a fundamental problem with regulators. If a regulator agrees to change a rule and something bad happens, they could easily lose their career. Whereas if they change a rule and something good happens, they don’t even get a reward. So, it’s very asymmetric. It’s then very easy to understand why regulators resist changing the rules. It’s because there’s a big punishment on one side and no reward on the other. How would any rational person behave in such a scenario?” (Location 3314)

Note: no incentive for regulators to approve change

Part of Shotwell’s duties include reinforcing the SpaceX culture as the company grows larger and larger and starts to resemble the traditional aerospace giants that it likes to mock. (Location 3378)

space. If you think it is worth humans doing some risk management and finding a second place to go live, then you should be focused on this issue and willing to spend some money. (Location 3418)

Public company stocks, particularly if big step changes in technology are involved, go through extreme volatility, both for reasons of internal execution and for reasons that have nothing to do with anything except the economy. This causes people to be distracted by the manic-depressive nature of the stock instead of creating great products. (Location 3569)

Note: public companies become distracted by stock fluctuations

Musk has tried to turn any snafu with a Tesla into an excuse to show off the company’s attention to service and dedication to pleasing the customer. More often than not, the strategy has worked. (Location 3714)

“One of the things Elon pushed hard with everyone was to do as much as possible in-house,” Lloyd said. Tesla would make up for its lack of R&D money by hiring smart people who could outwork and outthink the third parties relied on by the rest of the automakers. “The mantra was that one great engineer will replace three medium ones,” Lloyd said. (Location 3779)

Note: Do as much of the work inhouse.

For Musk, going public represented something of a Faustian bargain. Ever since the Zip2 and PayPal days, Musk has done everything in his power to maintain absolute control over his companies. Even if he remained the largest shareholder in Tesla, the company would be subjected to the capricious nature of the public markets. Musk, the ultimate long-term thinker, would face constant second-guessing from investors looking for short-term returns. Tesla would also be subject to public scrutiny, as it would be forced to open its books for public consumption. This was bad because Musk prefers to operate in secrecy and because Tesla’s financial situation looked awful. (Location 3980)

The same engineering rules as those at SpaceX applied. You did what Musk asked or were prepared to burrow down into the properties of materials to explain why something could not be done. “He always said, ‘Take it down to the physics,’” (Location 4019)

Tesla did have a large number of reservations in which people put down $5,000 for the right to buy a Model S and get in the purchase queue. But the company had struggled to turn these reservations into actual sales. The reasons behind this problem remain unclear. It may have been that the complaints about the interior and the early kinks mentioned on the Tesla forums and message boards were causing concerns. Tesla also lacked financing options to soften the blow of buying a $100,000 car, while uncertainty surrounded the resale market for the Model S. You might end up with the car of the future or you might spend six figures on a dud with a battery pack that loses its capacity, and with no secondary buyer. (Location 4159)

This sort of relationship is hard to pull off if you don’t control as much of the lifestyle as possible. PC makers that farmed their software out to Microsoft, their chips to Intel, and their design to Asia could never make machines as beautiful and as complete as Apple’s. They also could not respond in time as Apple took this expertise to new areas and hooked people on its applications. (Location 4267)

Musk had received a lot of pushback internally for trying to locate a car factory in or near California. “All the guys in Detroit said it needs to be in a place where the labor can afford to live and be happy,” Lloyd said. “There’s a lot of learned skill on an assembly line, and you can’t afford turnover.” (Location 4333)

The Rives decided to make buying into the solar proposition much simpler and formed a company called SolarCity in 2006. Unlike other companies, they would not manufacture their own solar panels. Instead they would buy them and then do just about everything else in-house. They built software for analyzing a customer’s current energy bill and the position of their house and the amount of sunlight it typically received to determine if solar made sense for the property. They built up their own teams to install the solar panels. And they created a financing system in which the customer did not need to pay anything up front for the panels. The consumer leased the panels over a number of years at a fixed monthly rate. Consumers got a lower bill overall, they were no longer subject to the constantly rising rates of typical utilities, and, if they sold their house, they could pass the contract to the new owner. At the end of the lease, the homeowner could also upgrade to new, more efficient panels. Musk had helped his cousins come up with this structure and become the company’s chairman and its largest shareholder, owning about a third of SolarCity. (Location 4417)

Musk speaks about the cars, solar panels, and batteries with such passion that it’s easy to forget they are more or less sideline projects. He believes in the technologies to the extent that he thinks they’re the right things to pursue for the betterment of mankind. They’ve also brought him fame and fortune. Musk’s ultimate goal, though, remains turning humans into an interplanetary species. This may sound silly to some, but there can be no doubt that this is Musk’s raison d’être. Musk has decided that man’s survival depends on setting up another colony on another planet and that he should dedicate his life to making this happen. (Location 4572)

After adding up this behavior, dozens of people expressed to me their conclusion that Musk sits somewhere on the autism spectrum and that he has trouble considering other people’s emotions and caring about their well-being. (Location 4716)

“I’ve learned that your intuition about things you don’t know that much about isn’t very good,” Page said. “The way Elon talks about this is that you always need to start with the first principles of a problem. What are the physics of it? How much time will it take? How much will it cost? How much cheaper can I make it? There’s this level of engineering and physics that you need to make judgments about what’s possible and interesting. Elon is unusual in that he knows that, and he also knows business and organization and leadership and governmental issues.” (Location 4869)

don’t think we’re doing a good job as a society deciding what things are really important to do,” Page said. “I think like we’re just not educating people in this kind of general way. You should have a pretty broad engineering and scientific background. You should have some leadership training and a bit of MBA training or knowledge of how to run things, organize stuff, and raise money. I don’t think most people are doing that, and it’s a big problem. Engineers are usually trained in a very fixed area. When you’re able to think about all of these disciplines together, you kind of think differently and can dream of much crazier things and how they might work. I think that’s really an important thing for the world. That’s how we make progress.” (Location 4892)

It bothers Musk a bit that his kids won’t suffer like he did. He feels that the suffering helped to make him who he is and gave him extra reserves of strength and will. “They might have a little adversity at school, but these days schools are so protective,” he said. “If you call someone a name, you get sent home. When I was going to school, if they punched you and there was no blood, it was like, ‘Whatever. Shake it off.’ Even if there was a little blood, but not a lot, it was fine. What do I do? Create artificial adversity? How do you do that? The biggest battle I have is restricting their video game time because they want to play all the time. The rule is they have to read more than they play video games. They also can’t play completely stupid video games. There’s one game they downloaded recently called Cookies or something. You literally tap a fucking cookie. It’s like a Psych 101 experiment. I made them delete the cookie game. They had to play Flappy Golf instead, which is like Flappy Bird, but at least there is some physics involved.” (Location 4910)

Musk has talked about having more kids, and it’s on this subject that he delivers some controversial philosophizing vis-à-vis the creator of Beavis and Butt-head. “There’s this point that Mike Judge makes in Idiocracy, which is like smart people, you know, should at least sustain their numbers,” Musk said. “Like, if it’s a negative Darwinian vector, then obviously that’s not a good thing. It should be at least neutral. But if each successive generation of smart people has fewer kids, that’s probably bad, too. I mean, Europe, Japan, Russia, China are all headed for demographic implosion. And the fact of the matter is that basically the wealthier—basically wealth, education, and being secular are all indicative of low birth rate. They all correlate with low birth rate. I’m not saying like only smart people should have kids. I’m just saying that smart people should have kids as well. They should at least maintain—at least be a replacement rate. And the fact of the matter is that I notice that a lot of really smart women have zero or one kid. You’re like, ‘Wow, that’s probably not good.’” (Location 4918)

Note: If smart people were to continue having less kids than less smart people then the world would see an increase in stupid people

As Thiel said, Musk may well have gone so far as to give people hope and to have renewed their faith in what technology can do for mankind. (Location 4937)

seems to feel for the human species as a whole without always wanting to consider the wants and needs of individuals. And it may well be the case that this is exactly the type of person it takes to make a freaking space Internet real. (Location 5039)