“To everyone I’ve offended, I just want to say, I reinvented electric cars and I’m sending people to Mars in a rocket ship. Did you think I was also going to be a chill, normal dude?”
These words by Elon Musk on Saturday Night Live and repeated in Elon Musk by Walter Isaacson tell the tale. Elon Musk is not a normal dude. In January, when lots of folks are tired of the holidays and maybe at the same time low on entertainment money, a good book will fill the time. My recommendation: Elon Musk by Walter Isaacson.
Elon Musk’s life has been non-stop. Lots has happened. The book moves just as fast.
A native of South Africa, in school, Musk was the youngest and smallest kid in his class to whom empathy did not come naturally. Isaacson writes, “His moods would cycle through light and dark, intense and goofy, detached and emotional.” On another page, the author says, “He became one of those people who feels most alive when a hurricane is coming. ‘I was born for a storm and calm does not suit me.'”
And then we read: “Driven since childhood by demons and heroic compulsions he stocked the controversies by making inflammatory political pronouncements and picking unnecessary fights. Completely possessed at times, he regularly propelled himself to the Karman line of craziness, the blurry border that separates vision from hallucination. His life had too few flame diverters.”
We know Elon Musk these days for Teslas, his purchase of Twitter and his fascination with outer space and rockets. The book tells us everything behind those activities and more. We also learn about his almost bankruptcy when manufacturing electric cars, his many women and children, his rages and his brilliance. It’s all fascinating and makes the reader glad to be normal, but not-so-glad to have wasted time in life. Our wasted time was Elon Musk’s creative space.
Walter Isaacson writes that Elon Musk allowed him to shadow the book’s subject for two years, invited him to sit in on his meetings, and indulged scores of interviews and late-night conversations. Isaacson had written other biographies of folks like Leonardo da Vinci, Steve Jobs, and Benjamin Franklin. He has been an editor of Time, the CEO of CNN and the CEO of the Aspen Institute. He writes well and sources his information. Elon Musk’s life is not over yet. Isaacson may have yet another book to write on the same subject.