A newly released biography gives a closer look into the upbringing and inner workings of entrepreneur Elon Musk.
Musk, the CEO of Tesla Motors, has sparked the interest – and sometimes the ire – of many. He’s known for sidestepping his publicity team to announce company updates through Twitter posts. And his interviews and shareholder updates are frequently sprinkled with foul language, brutally honest opinions and over-the-moon objectives.
But a new book by Ashlee Vance reveals a side of Musk that the public doesn’t often get a chance to see. To write the biography “Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future,” Vance talked with family members, colleagues and even Musk himself.
Before picking up the book, Will Oremus with Slate wanted to know two things about Musk:
“What could drive one man to tackle so many seemingly impossible problems, let alone solve them all? And: Is there a fatal flaw that might yet prove his undoing?” asked Oremus. “A close reading of Musk’s life suggests the answer to both questions may be related. He tends to assume – not without reason – that he is smarter and more capable than just about everyone around him.”
For Musk, this leads to innovations and ideas that stray far from convention. As the CEO of Tesla, for example, Musk doesn’t always follow the same unwritten rules that other automakers live by. In this biography, Musk spoke about developing one of the distinctive components in the Model S: the touch-screen console:
“When we first talked about the touch-screen, the guys came back and said, ‘There’s nothing like that in the automotive supply chain. I said, ‘I know. That’s because it’s never been put in a f—— car before.’”
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The book extends beyond Tesla, covering Musk’s roles with SpaceX and PayPal. Musk’s views on a diverse array of subjects also come out: he isn’t interested in wasting time eating, he truly believes that humans will successfully colonize Mars to become “a multiplanetary species,” and he said his family worries that Russians may assassinate him.
As for his ability to dream up new approaches and take on such ambitious projects, Musk has a guess where this inspiration may have come from:
“Maybe I read too many comics as a kid. In the comics, it always seems like they are trying to save the world. It seemed like one should try to make the world a better place because the inverse makes no sense.”
Photographer: Yuriko Nakao/Bloomberg via Getty Images