Book Review: Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX and the Quest for a Fantastic Future

Elon Musk is my idol. He’s my vision of the perfect entrepreneur. He’s founded four different companies that aim to make the world a better place. This book, written by Ashlee Vance, tells the story of Elon Musk’s life, times, and works. I found this book fascinating because Vance doesn’t portray Musk as the superhero that earth deserves, but as a complex man with many strengths and weaknesses whose passion is to make the world a better place.

What I loved about this book is that it didn’t solely focused on Musk but also on the people around him. Vance sheds light on the engineers who helped Musk design the prototypes for the Tesla motors and the rockets for SpaceX. He details on the motivation for the engineers who wished to pursue building electric motors or rockets. One of Musk’s biggest criteria for both SpaceX and Tesla Motors is for them to manually build all their materials. During the finding of SpaceX, Musk hated how competitors such as Boeing spent 300 million dollars on Russian-made rockets. Musk read textbooks on how to build rockets and concluded with his co-founders that it is indeed possible to build a rocket at a much cheaper cost. Vance gives the analogy of ‘why buy a Ferrari when you can buy a Honda will do?’

As a student learning managerial and organisational communication, I found that much of what I’ve learned in these classes are applied through Musk’s form of leadership. For his organisational culture, Musk wrote an email to all his employees banning the use of new acronyms. As strange of a rule this sounds, the reason behind it is so any new engineers don’t have to learn all these new acronyms and keep everyone on the same level. He’s okay with acronyms engineers should know such as GUI, but new ones like VTS don’t make sense to him.

HIs leadership style is absolutely fascinating. Vance illustrates him both being an authoritarian leader (pretty much a dictatorship) and a democratic leader. Musk will demand his employees to do impossible tasks. If the worker refuses, Musk will fire him or her immediately and then do the task himself, which Vance has noted has followed through. Musk is known to be a callous leader as shown with an incident regarding an employee missing a press release of the first SpaceX rocket launch for the birth of his first child. “That is not an excuse!” He told him (although Vance notes Musk doesn’t recall this incident). Another example of his callousness is his disregard to the loyalty of his employees. Mary Beth Brown who has worked for him for 12 years was known to be an extension of Musk. Whenever Musk was around, she was around. She scheduled meetings for him and took him out of meetings if he was in there for too long. In 2014, she asked for a raise and Musk replies with giving her an all-expenses paid vacation and he’ll think about it. Once she came back from the vacation, she was let go because Musk “didn’t need her anymore.”

Musk is also a visionary and hopeful leader. He provides his employees with a passion to solve impossible problems and gives hope when all feels lost. His goal for SpaceX is to eventually make man become an interplanetary species. He pushed his engineers to their limits to achieve his vision. He reasons why have two engineers work 8 hours when you can have one engineer work 16 hours. There was a time where most engineers wanted to take a time off and see their families. Musk replied with “You’ll get a chance to see your family 24/7 when you’re unemployed.” That clicked with the engineers and encouraged them to work even harder. SpaceX had been doing what appears impossible compared to other space companies because they are sending a rocket every three weeks compared to every year and a half and can reuse rockets that they send up into space.

I’ve found this book applicable to me because it showcases one of the most powerful man’s leadership style. It reveals how strong he is as a leader. He is a strong leader because he has strong organisational and management skills along with the ability to understand the physics behind what he’s investing in. He may be calloused in terms of emotional quality, but I find emotional quality to be one of my strongest skills which I can use in work. He is also passionate about his impossible visions. His passion for his vision brings about passion in his employees and pushes them beyond their limits to acheive such impossible dreams. If there’s one big thing I want to take away from this book is to never stop working toward your dream because someday, that dream will become a reality.

Why It Took Me So Long To Create My Social Media Accounts

I simply never had a need for it. I would always see my friends face to face and there would be no need to connect with them, that is until I reached the age of 17. I created my Facebook account to connect with the friends I’ve made that were graduating high school and were at the point where they would move on to the next stage of their lives. It was also about the time where I realized that I was about to graduate high school and made the decision to go to university and I would have a hard time connecting with my friends.

Moving forward about two years now, Facebook has allowed me to keep in contact with my core group of friends that I’ve made in high school. I’m fortunate because these are the group of friends that encourage me when I feel lost and make me laugh when I’m feeling down. We call ourselves Bread is Baked (“Because how do you cook bread? You bake it”) We started off as a study group for our history, calculus, and journalism classes. Our group chat has slowly evolved where we talk about business, economics, computer science and anything pertaining to how can we succeed financially in the future. From time to time, we still tease each other in the same childish nature that we used to back in high school. I’m also fortunate that this group of friends consists of vastly diverse people that can look past our differences and still remain friends. We are people of different ethnicities (Vietnamese, Indian, Chinese) and people of different faith (Christian, Atheist, Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Buddhist) yet we still enjoy each other’s presence and value each other’s beliefs. The diversity of this group has helped me expand my worldview and has helped me look into how other people view the world.

Now that I’m living across the ocean on the other side of the world in London, Facebook has allowed me to keep in touch with the friends I have in the United States. I can now keep in contact with about 30 other people in my church community back home and tell them about my adventures here. I also have countless other people living vicariously through me through the photos I’ve taken. But most importantly, I’ve found that Facebook has allowed me to stay connected with the friends that I’ve made in London. I’ve found a wonderful, supportive community of awesome people at Hillsong London that I can go to forget about my stresses and shift my eyes on God. I’ve also met people from all over the world( I know people on six continents!!!) through the international student hostel that I stayed at two months ago. Social media gave me the opportunity to visit my friend in Germany and stay at his place for the weekend. I’ve got 5 more weeks left in my time abroad and I don’t know if I’ll be seeing the friends that I’ve made here again for a while, but I know that I’ll see them online. Facebook has become my main method of communicating with people and maintaining strong relationships with them.

As for my Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn profiles, I created them solely for the purpose of marketing. I never had a desire to tweet out my thoughts because I could just talk to someone face to face about my troubles. I never had a desire to pull out my phone and take pictures (Although another reason why I created my Instagram is because my friend told me that I posted awesome photos on Facebook through my camera. It then hit me, “Wesley, you’re a photographer now, why not create one?”) My intention for those accounts is to build up my personal brand and create an online presence. I want to market myself as a person of influence, that can draw in people and create content for them to enjoy. I’ve had many quarter-life crises at my time abroad. I’m changing from my studies from being a communications major into a computer science major. I’ve wrestled in my head whether I should travel again in the next five years or not and wrestled whether I should stay at my university in San Diego or transfer out and wrestled with the thought of staying  at my parent’s house after graduation to save money. As for right now, I see that marketing myself will be a stepping stone toward whatever decision I make toward my future.

Thank you so much for reading this. In case you haven’t followed me on my social media accounts, I would appreciate you taking the chance to do so now:

https://www.instagram.com/life.of.wesley/

https://uk.linkedin.com/in/wesleytrann7