Book Review

Book Review: Elon Musk by Ashlee Vance

Title: Elon Musk: How the Billionaire CEO of Spacex and Tesla is Shaping Our Future

Authors: Ashlee Vance

Publisher: Virgin Books

Genre: Biography, Business

First Publication: 2015

Language: English


Book Summary: Elon MuskBook Review - Elon Musk How the Billionaire CEO of Spacex and Tesla is Shaping Our Future

The book captures the life and achievements of South African interpreter and innovator, Elon Musk, the brain behind series of successful enterprises such as PayPal, Tesla, SpaceX and Solarcity. The real-life inspiration of the Iron Man Series, Musk wants to be the saviour of the planet, send people into space and set up a colony on Mars.

Bullied in school and scolded tremendously by his father, Musk was actually a brilliant student and his life story is nothing less than a drama packed film. Ashlee Vance’s brilliant description of Musk’s character, simple language and neat choice of words indeed makes this book a great read.

Considered by some as the innovation, entrepreneurial Steve Jobs of the present and future, Elon Musk became a billionaire early in life with his successful online ventures. One of the successful companies that he co-founded was the online payment gateway PayPal that was later acquired by e-Bay in 2002.

“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.”

Getting sacked as the CEO, Musk did not cease to amaze friend and foes alike with his out of the box ideas, like investing in rockets! Needless to say, this deconstructed obsession with technology had his marital life go haywire.

The book ‘Elon Musk: How the Billionaire CEO of SpaceX and TESLA is Shaping Our Future’ is a brilliant and intelligent account of this genius young ‘iron man’ told in a gripping manner.


Book Review: Elon Musk

Ironically, one of the quotes that made the biggest impression on me in Elon Musk: Inventing the Future didn’t come from Musk, but from data scientist Jeffrey Hammerbacher: “The best minds of my generation are thinking about how to make people click ads.”

I mean, da-amn. This is so true. (And it stung even more because I’m a marketer.) Where have we gone wrong as a generation? Where is the passion and quest for knowledge? What is the real purpose of innovation? To improve mankind or to become wealthy? Can we have both?

“If the rules are such that you can’t make progress, then you have to fight the rules.”

I’ve long been a fan of Musk; his name comes up quite a bit in my geeky circle and is always spoken with reverence: from Tesla, SpaceX, PayPal, Solar City, The Boring Company… this is a techno-utopian fellow who wants to affect real change in the world. Despite any character flaws (and the book points out many), it’s real hard not to respect the guy.

Now coming to the book, It’s a very insightful account on a man who wants to reach the stars (well, Mars) and save humanity from extinction and global warming, yet often falls short from showing a modicum of kindness toward his employees and prone to going ballistic over typos in emails and abbreviations. Oh, did I mention he is downright misogynistic as well? He basically said all smart women must breed and he’s the alpha in his marriage.

“I think there are probably too many smart people pursuing Internet stuff, finance, and law, That is part of the reason why we haven’t seen as much innovation.” -Elon Musk

The book provides succinct insights on the situation surrounding the industries the mercurial Musk works in: automotive, finance, power generation, and aerospace. Admittedly, most of them had become bureaucratic, imploding, sunset industries, and had not shown any significant achievements for decades. Musk changed it, with his then-crazy ideas and gung-ho attitudes which include over optimistic deadlines and clashes with friends and employees who did not suit him. He made those happened nonetheless. Not just a big talker, but also a doer.

I wish he could be more humane about all of it but his vision seems to be more abstract – future humanity – than taking a good care of people surrounding him (including his loyal ex-secretary, his own Pepper Potts) and himself, all the people in the now that could bring that grand vision to life. If you want to bring changes to the world, you need to start from yourself and people surrounding you then work from that gradually.

“If the rules are such that you can’t make progress, then you have to fight the rules.”

Semi-philosophical rambling aside, this is a recommended read for those who love innovation (or disrupt) and how to get there. One of the must read books for entrepreneurs and innovators. The SpaceX and Solar City chapters were quite entertaining. All in all, I appreciate the way he managed to reach self-sufficiency in Tesla and SpaceX (if I were an American I’d be thankful for the employment opportunity) where his other competitors have to rely on other countries.

I now wonder when his space internet and submarine cars will be finished. Speaking of submarines, I hope he also does something with the oceans. Like a machine that collects plastic waste that is cheap, could be mass produced everywhere, solar charged, etc. Just use the SpaceX rockets to deploy them to the far reaches of the ocean surface. Can you do that, Musk, since you said you want to save the world?

Buy Now: Elon Musk – How the Billionaire CEO of Spacex and Tesla is Shaping Our Future by Ashlee Vance

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