Alex Preston / bookshelf

Elon Musk by Ashlee Vance


  2. Yet, in the early part of 2012, the cynics like me had to take notice of what Musk was actually accomplishing. His once-beleaguered companies were succeeding at unprecedented things. SpaceX flew a supply capsule to the International Space Station and brought it safely back to Earth. Tesla Motors delivered the Model S, a beautiful, all-electric sedan that took the automotive industry’s breath away and slapped Detroit sober.

  3. “I think there are probably too many smart people pursuing Internet stuff, finance, and law,” Musk said on the way. “That is part of the reason why we haven’t seen as much innovation.”
  4. Huebner showed that the frequency of life-changing inventions had started to slow. He also used data to prove that the number of patents filed per person had declined over time. “I think the probability of us discovering another top-one-hundred-type invention gets smaller and smaller,” Huebner told me in an interview. “Innovation is a finite resource.”
  5. Whenever possible, Musk’s companies would make things from scratch and try to rethink much that the aerospace, automotive, and solar industries had accepted as convention.
  6. As his ex-wife, Justine, put it, “He does what he wants, and he is relentless about it. It’s Elon’s world, and the rest of us live in it.”


  8. “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.”

  9. Elon buys into the idea that his unusual tolerance for risk may well have been inherited directly from his grandfather.
  10. So then, I started to read the Encyclopaedia Britannica. That was so helpful. You don’t know what you don’t know. You realize there are all these things out there.”
  11. Things like physics and computers—I got the highest grade you can get in those. There needs to be a reason for a grade. I’d rather play video games, write software, and read books than try and get an A if there’s no point in getting an A.

  12. CANADA

  13. “When Elon gets into something, he develops just this different level of interest in it than other people. That is what differentiates Elon from the rest of humanity.”


  15. For Elon, the word no does not exist, and he expects that attitude from everyone around him.”

  16. Musk continued to be a ball of energy around the office as well. Ahead of visits by venture capitalists and other investors, Musk would rally the troops and instruct them all to get on the phone to create a buzzy atmosphere. He also formed a video-game team to participate in competitions around Quake, a first-person-shooter game.
  17. Compaq Computer suddenly offered to pay $307 million in cash for Zip2.
  18. Musk and Kimbal had come away with $22 million and $15 million, respectively.
  19. “We were overwhelmed and just thought these guys must know what they’re doing,” Kimbal said. “But they’ didn’t. There was no vision once they took over. They were investors, and we got on well with them, but the vision had just disappeared from the company.”


  21. Later in life, as I competed against the banks, I would think back to this moment, and it gave me confidence. All the bankers did was copy what everyone else did. If everyone else ran off a bloody cliff, they’d run right off a cliff with them.

  22. Musk turned to a friend in the car and said, “Watch this.” He floored the car, did a lane change, spun out, and hit an embankment, which started the car spinning in midair like a Frisbee. The windows and wheels were blown to smithereens, and the body of the car damaged. Musk again turned to his companion and said, “The funny part is it wasn’t insured.” The two of them then thumbed a ride to the venture capitalist’s office.
  23. He exhibited a deep insight into human nature that helped his companies pull off exceptional marketing, technology, and financial feats.
  24. Musk was already playing the entrepreneur game at the highest level and working the press and investors like few others could. Did he hype things up and rub people the wrong way? Absolutely—and with spectacular results.
  25. Both Musk and Thiel had a keen eye for young, brilliant engineers. The founders of start-ups as varied as YouTube, Palantir Technologies, and Yelp all worked at PayPal. Another set of people—including Reid Hoffman, Thiel, and Botha—emerged as some of the technology industry’s top investors. PayPal staff pioneered techniques in fighting online fraud that have formed the basis of software used by the CIA and FBI to track terrorists and of software used by the world’s largest banks to combat crime. This collection of super-bright employees has become known as the PayPal Mafia—more or less the current ruling class of Silicon Valley—and Musk is its most famous and successful member.
  26. At their wedding reception, Justine encountered the other side of the conquering hero. Musk pulled Justine close while they danced, and informed her, “I am the alpha in this relationship.”3


  28. Musk passed his laptop over to Griffin and Cantrell, and they were dumbfounded. The document detailed the costs of the materials needed to build, assemble, and launch a rocket. According to Musk’s calculations, he could undercut existing launch companies by building a modest-sized rocket that would cater to a part of the market that specialized in carrying smaller satellites and research payloads to space.

  29. From Cantrell and others, he’d borrowed Rocket Propulsion Elements, Fundamentals of Astrodynamics, and Aerothermodynamics of Gas Turbine and Rocket Propulsion, along with several more seminal texts.
  30. Desks were interspersed around the factory so that Ivy League computer scientists and engineers designing the machines could sit with the welders and machinists building the hardware.
  31. journalist Michael Belfiore in Rocketeers, a book that captured the rise of a handful of private space companies.
  32. The SpaceX employees christened the site in fitting fashion, downing a $1,200 bottle of Rémy Martin cognac out of paper cups and passing a sobriety test on the drive back to the company apartments in the Hummer. From that point on, the trek from California to the test site became known as the Texas Cattle Haul. The SpaceX engineers would work for ten days straight, come back to California for a weekend, and then head back. To ease the burden of travel, Musk sometimes let them use his private jet. “It carried six people,” Mueller said. “Well, seven if someone sat in the toilet, which happened all the time.”


  34. These efforts began in earnest on October 18, 2004, and, rather remarkably, four months later, on January 27, 2005, an entirely new kind of car had been built by eighteen people.

  35. Tesla tried to lease a small office in Detroit. The costs were incredibly low compared with space in Silicon Valley, but the city’s bureaucracy made getting just a basic office an ordeal. The building’s owner wanted to see seven years of audited financials from Tesla, which was still a private company. Then the building owner wanted two years’ worth of advanced rent. Tesla had about $50 million in the bank and could have bought the building outright. “In Silicon Valley, you say you’re backed by a venture capitalist, and that’s the end of the negotiation,”
  36. Eberhard had a picture of his young daughter projected onto the wall of the main workshop. He asked the Tesla engineers why he had put that picture up. One of them guessed that it was because people like his daughter would drive the car. To which Eberhard replied, “No. We are building this because by the time she is old enough to drive she will know a car as something completely different to how we know it today, just like you don’t think of a phone as a thing on the wall with a cord on it. It’s this future that depends on you.” Eberhard then thanked some of the key engineers and called out their efforts in public.
  37. Eberhard’s show boosted morale. “We were all working ourselves to the point of exhaustion,” said David Vespremi, a former Tesla spokesman. “Then came this profound moment where we were reminded that building the car was not about getting to an IPO or selling it to a bunch of rich dudes but because it might change what a car is.”
  38. All of these moves were part of the Marks List, a 10-point, 100-day plan that included eliminating all faults in the battery packs, getting gaps between body parts to less than 40 mm, and booking a specified number of reservations.
  39. “Elon got fired up and said we were going to do this intense cost-down program,” said Popple. “He gave a speech, saying we would work on Saturdays and Sundays and sleep under desks until it got done. Someone pushed back from the table and argued that everyone had been working so hard just to get the car done, and they were ready for a break and to see their families. Elon said, ‘I would tell those people they will get to see their families a lot when we go bankrupt.’


  41. Musk told Riley, a virgin, that he wanted to show her his rockets. “I was skeptical, but he did actually show me rocket videos,” she said.

  42. Musk later proposed to Riley again on the balcony of Skoll’s house, unveiling a massive ring. (He has since bought her three engagement rings, including the giant first one, an everyday ring, and one designed by Musk that has a diamond surrounded by ten sapphires.) “I remember him saying, ‘Being with me was choosing the hard path.’ I didn’t quite understand at the time, but I do now. It’s quite hard, quite the crazy ride.”
  43. SpaceX simply did not have enough money to try a fifth flight. He’d put $100 million into the company and had nothing to spare because of the issues at Tesla. “Flight four was it,” Musk said. If, however, SpaceX could nail the fourth flight, it would instill confidence on the part of the U.S. government and possible commercial customers, paving the way for the Falcon 9 and even more ambitious projects.
  44. Musk fielded another call in the middle of the night while sleeping next to Riley and had to whisper as he berated the engineers. “He’s giving us the pillow talk voice, so we all have to huddle around the speakerphone, while he tells us, ‘You guys need to get your shit together,’” Brogan said.
  45. Riley spied on Musk while he read e-mail and watched him grimace as the bad news poured in. “You’d witness him having these conversations in his head,” she said. “It’s really hard to watch someone you love struggle like that.” Because of the long hours that he worked and his eating habits, Musk’s weight fluctuated wildly. Bags formed under his eyes, and his countenance started to resemble that of a shattered runner at the back end of an ultra-marathon. “He looked like death itself,” Riley said. “I remember thinking this guy would have a heart attack and die. He seemed like a man on the brink.” In the middle of the night, Musk would have nightmares and yell out. “He was in physical pain,” Riley said. “He would climb on me and start screaming while still asleep.” The couple had to start borrowing hundreds of thousands of dollars from Musk’s friend Skoll, and Riley’s parents offered to remortgage their house. Musk no longer flew his jet back and forth between Los Angles and Silicon Valley. He took Southwest.
  46. For Gracias, the Tesla and SpaceX investor and Musk’s friend, the 2008 period told him everything he would ever need to know about Musk’s character. He saw a man who arrived in the United States with nothing, who had lost a child, who was being pilloried in the press by reporters and his ex-wife and who verged on having his life’s work destroyed. “He has the ability to work harder and endure more stress than anyone I’ve ever met,” Gracias said. “What he went through in 2008 would have broken anyone else. He didn’t just survive. He kept working and stayed focused.” That ability to stay focused in the midst of a crisis stands as one of Musk’s main advantages over other executives and competitors. “Most people who are under that sort of pressure fray,” Gracias said. “Their decisions go bad. Elon gets hyperrational. He’s still able to make very clear, long-term decisions. The harder it gets, the better he gets. Anyone who saw what he went through firsthand came away with more respect for the guy. I’ve just never seen anything like his ability to take pain.”


  48. A whole new breed of satellite makers has just appeared on the scene with the ability to answer Google-like queries about our planet. These satellites can zoom in on Iowa and determine when cornfields are at peak yields and ready to harvest, and they can count cars in Wal-Mart parking lots throughout California to calculate shopping demand during the holiday season. The start-ups making these types of innovative machines must often turn to the Russians to get them into space, but SpaceX intends to change that.

  49. Most significant, he’s been testing rockets that can push their payload to space and then return to Earth and land with supreme accuracy on a pad floating at sea or even their original launchpad. Instead of having its rockets break apart after crashing into the sea, SpaceX will use reverse thrusters to lower them down softly and reuse them.
  50. Since getting past its near-death experience in 2008, SpaceX has been profitable and is estimated to be worth $12 billion.
  51. Musk’s demanding management style can only flourish because of the otherworldly—in a literal sense—aspirations of the company.
  52. He’s presented the company as anything but another aerospace contractor. SpaceX is the hip, forward-thinking place that’s brought the perks of Silicon Valley—namely frozen yogurt, stock options, speedy decision making, and a flat corporate structure—to a staid industry. People who know Musk well tend to describe him more as a general than a CEO, and this is apt. He’s built an engineering army by having the pick of just about anyone in the business that SpaceX wants.
  53. The object is to find individuals who ooze passion, can work well as part of a team, and have real-world experience bending metal. “Even if you’re someone who writes code for your job, you need to understand how mechanical things work,” said Dolly Singh, who spent five years as the head of talent acquisition at SpaceX. “We were looking for people that had been building things since they were little.”
  54. Companies will typically challenge software developers on the spot by asking them to solve problems that require a couple of dozen lines of code. The standard SpaceX problem requires five hundred or more lines of code.
  55. The reward for solving the puzzles, acting clever in interviews, and penning up a good essay is a meeting with Musk. He interviewed almost every one of SpaceX’s first one thousand hires, including the janitors and technicians, and has continued to interview the engineers as the company’s workforce swelled.
  56. Numerous people interviewed for this book decried the work hours, Musk’s blunt style, and his sometimes ludicrous expectations. Yet almost every person—even those who had been fired—still worshipped Musk and talked about him in terms usually reserved for superheroes or deities.
  57. In addition to building its own engines, rocket bodies, and capsules, SpaceX designs its own motherboards and circuits, sensors to detect vibrations, flight computers, and solar panels. Just by streamlining a radio, for instance, SpaceX’s engineers have found that they can reduce the weight of the device by about 20 percent. And the cost savings for a homemade radio are dramatic, dropping from between $50,000 to $100,000 for the industrial-grade equipment used by aerospace companies to $5,000 for SpaceX’s unit.
  58. “Blue Origin does these surgical strikes on specialized talent* offering like double their salaries. I think it’s unnecessary and a bit rude,” Musk said.
  59. At Zip2 and PayPal, he felt comfortable standing up for his positions and directing teams of coders. At SpaceX, he had to pick things up on the job. Musk initially relied on textbooks to form the bulk of his rocketry knowledge.
  60. Musk realized he could tap into their stores of knowledge. He would trap an engineer in the SpaceX factory and set to work grilling him about a type of valve or specialized material. “I thought at first that he was challenging me to see if I knew my stuff,” said Kevin Brogan, one of the early engineers. “Then I realized he was trying to learn things. 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.
  61. After a couple of years running SpaceX, Musk had turned into an aerospace expert on a level that few technology CEOs ever approach in their respective fields. “He was teaching us about the value of time, and we were teaching him about rocketry,” Brogan said.
  62. 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.
  63. Musk often asks for highly detailed proposals for how projects will be accomplished. The employees have learned never to break the time needed to accomplish something down into months or weeks. Musk wants day-by-day and hour-by-hour forecasts and sometimes even minute-by-minute countdowns, and the fallout from missed schedules is severe.
  64. Makes sense, 42 daya knowing what will happen each day verses 2-3 months.
  65. “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.”
  66. The ideal SpaceX employee is someone like Steve Davis, the director of advanced projects at SpaceX. “He’s been working sixteen hours a day every day for years,” Brogan said. “He gets more done than eleven people working together.” To find Davis, Musk called a teaching assistant* in Stanford’s aeronautics department and asked him if there were any hardworking, bright master’s and doctoral candidates who didn’t have families.
  67. “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.
  68. SpaceX boasts that the Falcon Heavy can take up twice the payload of the nearest competitor—the Delta IV Heavy from Boeing/ULA—at one-third the cost.


  70. Cars end up being about 10–20 percent efficient at turning the input of gasoline into the output of propulsion. Most of the energy (about 70 percent) is lost as heat in the engine, while the rest is lost through wind resistance, braking, and other mechanical functions. The Model S, by contrast, has about a dozen moving parts, with the battery pack sending energy instantly to a watermelon-sized motor that turns the wheels. The Model S ends up being about 60 percent efficient, losing most of the rest of its energy to heat. The sedan gets the equivalent of about 100 miles per gallon.*

  71. Some of the early owners complained about glitches like the door handles not popping out quite right or their windshield wipers operating at funky speeds. These were inexcusable flaws for such a costly vehicle, but Tesla typically moved with clever efficiency to address them. While the owner slept, Tesla’s engineers tapped into the car via the Internet connection and downloaded software updates.
  72. Motor Trend celebrated the Model S as the first non–internal combustion engine car ever to win its top award and wrote that the vehicle handled like a sports car, drove as smoothly as a Rolls-Royce, held as much as a Chevy Equinox, and was more efficient than a Toyota Prius.
  73. Musk had never run a car factory before and was considered arrogant and amateurish by Detroit. Yet, one year after the Model S went on sale, Tesla had posted a profit, hit $562 million in quarterly revenue, raised its sales forecast, and become as valuable as Mazda Motor. Elon Musk had built the automotive equivalent of the iPhone. And car executives in Detroit, Japan, and Germany had only their crappy ads to watch as they pondered how such a thing had occurred.
  74. “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,”
  75. After purchasing a CLS, Tesla’s engineers tore it apart. One team had reshaped the boxy, rectangular battery pack from the Roadster and made it flat. The engineers cut the floor out of the CLS and plopped in the pack. Next they put the electronics that tied the whole system together in the trunk.
  76. Following three months of work, Tesla had in effect built an all-electric Mercedes CLS.
  77. he stumbled on an article about a start-up called Tesla Motors and went to the company’s website, which described Tesla as a place “where we are doing things, not talking about things.”
  78. There were times when Musk would overwhelm the Tesla engineers with his requests. He took a Model S prototype home for a weekend and came back on the Monday asking for around eighty changes. Since Musk never writes anything down, he held all the alterations in his head and would run down the checklist week by week to see what the engineers had fixed.
  79. The idea of Musk as a design expert has long struck me as bizarre. He’s a physicist at heart and an engineer by demeanor. So much of who Musk is says that he should fall into that Silicon Valley stereotype of the schlubby nerd who would only know good design if he read about it in a textbook. The truth is that there might be some of that going on with Musk, and he’s turned it into an advantage. He’s very visual and can store things that others have deemed to look good away in his brain for recall at any time.
  80. The result is a confident, assertive perspective that does resonate with the tastes of consumers. Like Steve Jobs before him, Musk is able to think up things that consumers did not even know they wanted—the door handles, the giant touch-screen—and to envision a shared point of view for all of Tesla’s products and services.
  81. When Tesla’s engineers first heard about the falcon-wing doors, they cringed. Here was Musk with another crazy ask. “Everyone tried to come up with an excuse as to why we couldn’t do it,” Javidan said. “You can’t put it in the garage. It won’t work with things like skis. Then, Elon took a demo model to his house and showed us that the doors opened. Everyone is mumbling, ‘Yeah, in a fifteen-million-dollar house, the doors will open just fine.’”
  82. It’s almost a binary experience for him. Either you’re trying to make something spectacular with no compromises or you’re not. And if you’re not, Musk considers you a failure. This position can look unreasonable or foolish to outsiders, but the philosophy works for Musk and constantly pushes him and those around him to their limits.
  83. Depending on which of the many promised delivery dates you pick, the Model S was anywhere from eighteen months to two-plus years late. Some of the delays were a result of Musk’s requests for exotic technologies that needed to be invented.
  84. The guy who was always promising, promising, promising was doing—and doing spectacular things. “I may have been optimistic with respect to the timing on some of these things, but I didn’t over-promise on the outcome,”
  85. The film, Baseball in the Time of Cholera, was good but grim and explored a cholera outbreak in Haiti. It turned out that Musk had visited Haiti the previous Christmas, filling his jet with toys and MacBook Airs for an orphanage.
  86. The solid performance of the stock increased consumers’ confidence, creating a virtuous circle for Tesla. With cars selling and Tesla’s value rising, the deal with Google was no longer necessary, and Tesla had become too expensive to buy. The talks with Google ended.*
  87. Tesla also has the edge of having designed so many of the key components for its cars in-house, including the software running throughout the vehicle. “If Daimler wants to change the way a gauge looks, it has to contact a supplier half a world away and then wait for a series of approvals,” Javidan said. “It would take them a year to change the way the ‘P’ on the instrument panel looks. At Tesla, if Elon decides he wants a picture of a bunny rabbit on every gauge for Easter, he can have that done in a couple of hours.”*
  88. “It is frequently forgotten in hindsight that people thought this was the shittiest business opportunity on the planet. The venture capitalists were all running for the hills.” What separated Tesla from the competition was the willingness to charge after its vision without compromise, a complete commitment to execute to Musk’s standards.


  90. SolarCity, like the rest of Musk’s ventures, did not represent a business opportunity so much as it represented a worldview. Musk had decided long ago—in his very rational manner—that solar made sense. Enough solar energy hits the Earth’s surface in about an hour to equal a year’s worth of worldwide energy consumption from all sources put together.20

  91. Each one of his businesses is interconnected in the short term and the long term. Tesla makes battery packs that SolarCity can then sell to end customers. SolarCity supplies Tesla’s charging stations with solar panels, helping Tesla to provide free recharging to its drivers. Newly minted Model S owners regularly opt to begin living the Musk Lifestyle and outfit their homes with solar panels. Tesla and SpaceX help each other as well. They exchange knowledge around materials, manufacturing techniques, and the intricacies of operating factories that build so much stuff from the ground up.
  92. “I think our Tesla headquarters looks like crap,” Musk said. “We’re going to spruce things up. Not to sort of the Google level. You have to be like making money hand over fist in order to be able to spend money the way that Google does. But we’re going to make our headquarters much nicer and put in a restaurant.”
  93. “The thing that’s important is to reach an economic threshold around the cost per person for a trip to Mars. If it costs $1 billion per person, there will be no Mars colony. At around $1 million or $500,000 per person, I think it’s highly likely that there will be a self-sustaining Martian colony. There will be enough people interested who will sell their stuff on Earth and move. It’s not about tourism. It’s like people coming to America back in the New World days. You move, get a job there, and make things work. If you solve the transport problem, it’s not that hard to make a pressurized transparent greenhouse to live in. But if you can’t get there in the first place, it doesn’t matter.
  94. Musk’s behavior matches up much more closely with someone who is described by neuropsychologists as profoundly gifted. These are people who in childhood exhibit exceptional intellectual depth and max out IQ tests. It’s not uncommon for these children to look out into the world and find flaws—glitches in the system—and construct logical paths in their minds to fix them.
  95. Musk announced in 2014 that Tesla would open-source all of its patents, analysts tried to decide whether this was a publicity stunt or if it hid an ulterior motive or a catch. But the decision was a straightforward one for Musk. He wants people to make and buy electric cars. Man’s future, as he sees it, depends on this. If open-sourcing Tesla’s patents means other companies can build electric cars more easily, then that is good for mankind, and the ideas should be free. The cynic will scoff at this, and understandably so. Musk, however, has been programmed to behave this way and tends to be sincere when explaining his thinking—almost to a fault.
  96. “And he has that consumer sensibility of Steve along with the ability to hire good people outside of his own comfort areas that’s more like Bill. You almost wish that Bill and Steve had a genetically engineered love child and, who knows, maybe we should genotype Elon to see if that’s what happened.” Steve Jurvetson, the venture capitalist who has invested in SpaceX, Tesla, and SolarCity, worked for Jobs, and knows Gates well, also described Musk as an upgraded mix of the two.
  97. In his next book, Average Is Over, Cowen predicted an unromantic future in which a great divide had occurred between the Haves and the Have Nots. In Cowen’s future, huge gains in artificial intelligence will lead to the elimination of many of today’s high-employment lines of work.
  98. As for the unemployed masses? Well, many of them will eventually find jobs going to work for the Haves, who will employ teams of nannies, housekeepers, and gardeners.
  99. One of Smil’s latest works is Made in the USA, an exploration of America’s past manufacturing glories and its subsequent, dismal loss of industry. Anyone who thinks the United States is making a natural, clever shift away from manufacturing and toward higher-paying information-worker jobs will want to read this book and have a gander at the long-term consequences of this change.
  100. “As, among other things, a historian of technical advances I simply must see Tesla as nothing but an utterly derivative overhyped toy for showoffs,” Smil wrote to me. “The last thing a country with 50 million people on food stamps and 85 billion dollars deeper into debt every month needs is anything to do with space, especially space with more joyrides for the super rich. And the loop proposal was nothing but bamboozling people who do not know anything about kindergarten physics with a very old, long publicized Gedankenexperiment in kinetics.... There are many inventive Americans, but in that lineup Musk would be trailing far behind.”
  101. “By 2010 the electronic controls for a typical sedan required more lines of software code than the instructions needed to operate the latest Boeing jetliner,” Smil wrote.
  102. As Page puts it, “Good ideas are always crazy until they’re not.” It’s a principle he’s tried to apply at Google. When Page and Sergey Brin began wondering aloud about developing ways to search the text inside of books, all of the experts they consulted said it would be impossible to digitize every book. The Google cofounders decided to run the numbers and see if it was actually physically possible to scan the books in a reasonable amount of time. They concluded it was, and Google has since scanned millions of books.
  103. 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.”
  104. “I 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.”
  105. “Elon came to the conclusion early in his career that life is short,” Straubel said. “If you really embrace this, it leaves you with the obvious conclusion that you should be working as hard as you can.”
  106. 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.
  107. Musk just seems to possess a level of conviction that is so intense and exceptional as to be off-putting to some. As we shared some chips and guacamole and cocktails, I asked Musk directly just how much he was willing to put on the line. His response? Everything that other people hold dear.


  • All of the games for the Xbox are written in Microsoft C++. The same goes for games on the PC. They’re incredibly sophisticated, hard things to do, and these great tools have been developed thanks to the gaming industry. There were more smart programmers in the gaming industry than anywhere else. I’m not sure the general public understands this.
  • “Two of the guys that left PayPal went off to Blizzard and helped created World of Warcraft. When you look at the complexity of something like that living on PCs and Microsoft C++, it’s pretty incredible. It blows away any website.
  • “There were a bunch of things that should have been done like checks. Because even though people don’t use a lot of checks they still use some checks. So if you force people to say, ‘Okay, we’re not going to let you use checks ever,’ they’re like, ‘Okay, I guess I have to have a bank account.’ Just give them a few checks, for God’s sake.


  • Even something as minor as pushing a launch back a few weeks from one quarter to the next gets you a spanking. Tesla vehicle production in Q4 last year was literally only three weeks behind and yet the market response was brutal.
  • I do actually recommend selling some amount of stock, even if you are certain it will appreciate, as life is short and a bit more cash can increase fun and reduce stress at home (so long as you don’t ratchet up your ongoing personal expenditures proportionately).