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Elon Musk – Don’t emulate!

4 February 2016 No Comment

Hi All,

I finished listening to Ashlee Vance’ Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future book. It was an interesting experience. Here are my thoughts.

Elon Musk

  • Elon Musk – if I were to believe the author, could recite encyclopedia in a very young age. I mean seriously who would do something like this? There must be something defective or perfective (for lack of a better word) in Elon Musk which makes him so different from most average normal human beings. I am really happy that he is pushing the boundaries of what we can achieve as a man kind. Crazy things like Mars colonization requires crazy mind. I am glad we have him on earth, but seriously I can’t imagine anyone “learning” to be like him or thinking like him.
  • Not all Elon’s traits are worth emulating. Infact I can relate much more to Alan Mulally’s process oriented iron fist approach than Elon’s fight with everybody to get stuff done approach. But there are somethings which were inspiring.
  • There is something about childhood and its stories which eventually becomes an inspiration to leaders; Elon had a fascination with space & science fiction from a very young age. He had also developed interested in batteries & solar power much much earlier than his decision to build the companies; Even Alan Mulally wanted to solve hard problems and leave his name on the sky from a very young age; Howard Schultz’ father had an accident when he was truck driver and his company wouldn’t pay for the insurance. This influenced him to design Starbucks the way he did. I think either the seeds of inspiration is sown at a very young age or the authors do a great job of connecting them.
  • One of them is his ability to learn. Once Elon gets into a topic, he develops way more knowledge than most other folks; He talks to people in the office and quizzes them till he upgrades his knowledge.
  • Elon sets ridiculous schedules. I don’t think it is advisable to do the same, I believe some of the principles behind that is worth emulating. For example, Elon justifies his schedules because he doesn’t want to add up unanticipated delays. These delays happen anyway, but why would you pad the timelines with additional buffer when you don’t know when/how long the delays would be. This just causes cushioning time for employees.
  • Elon is a story of Grit. He had to suffer one set back after another in both private and personal life. Part of them he caused himself for the personality that he is. Part of it is the market forces in action. But at no point did he lose sight of his goal. He wanted to live a dream and he worked hard for it. That was inspiring. How many times do we chicken out at times of crisis. And the plan and purpose had to be something much more than getting rich. He dreamed of life in mars &  cleaner transportation. This bigger vision is needed to get through crisis well.
  • Elon is a Visionary. Period! Everything said and done he bet big and succeeded in creating successful product categories such as Zip2, Paypal, Tesla and SpaceX. I get it that he didn’t start Tesla motors. He was the one who transformed it into what it is today. There is no reason to believe that it is not his company!
  • Obviously Elon is egotistic, crazy and doesn’t seem to have an element of empathy in him. But it always left me wondering why do people ever work for such men? I think it all boils down to the overarching vision of the group which excites people. They are so fascinated about the electric car story or the space story or mars story that they are even putting up with a boss like Elon because they want a shot at history. Otherwise I believe people would definitely quit.
  • Just as the world evolved its way to from anarchy to democracy, I believe there will be a time when we can actually have exceptional visionaries and a good manager in the same person!

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