Friday, March 4, 2016

Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future by Ashlee Vance

While many have tried to simplify Elon Musk down to a real-life Tony Stark (Iron Man), this biography shows that there's more to the man than "playboy millionare who will save the world" ... although that is certainly a goal of his.

Musk's got extraordinary vision and dreams way larger than most - and thanks to early investment in tech startups that paid off, he's also got the money to give it a go. While SpaceX may be the first commercial company to take payloads to the International Space Station, that's just a lilypad in the leapfrog to Mars.

But I feel very sorry for his employees, who must be willing to give 110% on everything at the expense of their personal lives. He's the kind of guy who leads by example - but ill health, crappy diet, extreme stress, work-a-holic tendances, and lack of empathy aren't something to which you should aspire.

I'll nitpick that the book's not truly a biography of Musk - there's great info about his early days, then once we get into his big businesses there's not much detail about his personal life anymore. For example, there's a minor aside dismissed quickly like, "And then he married his second wife again." I'd like to have known more about that decision and the change-of-heart one or both experienced; that's a pretty big reversal for a guy who's always moving forward. And what is he REALLY like as a dad to 5 young boys with 4-day-a-week custody, a private plane, and an overbooked schedule? How does he parent?

This book fired in me a personal obsession with Tesla cars (how will I find the kind of money to buy one?!), and Musk's drive to make green energies more affordable is interesting and commendable. I was fascinated by the subject and enjoyed this book immensely - and thankfully I don't have to like the guy all that much to have loved the book.

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