His difficult childhood, the desire to acquire Twitter and a 'devil mode': the life of Elon Musk through the eyes of Walter Isaacson
The name of Elon Musk It is heard more and more frequently in the most diverse environments.
At first, he was the 'madman' who proposed changing the automotive market, with his electric vehicles tesla. Then, when the four wheels were no longer enough, he continued by spaceships and created SpaceX. He also explored the field of the Internet with starlink and even landed in the field of artificial intelligence and social networks, with the purchase of Twitter -now known as X-.
In just a few years, Musk became a multifaceted revolutionary willing to take all kinds of risks and without fear to be criticized or end up involved in controversies.
But many wonder what is the key behind their businesses and what this character who is really like jokes very lightly on the Internet and challenges everyone and everything.
Walter Isaacson, the author of Steve Jobs' autobiography, set out to figure that out. For two years, Isaacson became Musk's shadow, a fly that followed him day and night at his work, on his trips and even in his meetings, and who spoke with more than 120 people close to him.
“There are definitely multiple Elon Musks, multiple personalities”began his reflection on the billionaire in an interview with the Wall Street Journal.
Elon Musk is the son of Maye Musk and Errol Musk, who is best known for the mistreatment and abuse to which he was subjected during his childhood. But the violence was not limited to his home. As a child he went to a wilderness camp in which he lost almost five kilos in a week because they beat him and took away his food.
“You don't know how bad it was,” Isaacson recalled Musk mentioning to him one day.
This psychological violence that Elon grew up with - which even became a post-traumatic stress disorder- was the one that generated his personality changes, his aversion to the feeling of satisfaction and that, also, returned it strong and aggressiveto the point of adopting a 'devil mode', just like what happens to his father.
“It gets very dark and that can be a problem,” Isaacson said, remembering, for example, those difficult weeks when he was negotiating the purchase of Twitter.
In order to cope with his difficult childhood, Musk simply learned to “hit people on the nose, as hard as he could” and thus ensured that they no longer mistreated him.
“Today you still see that, it is pugnacious. Sometimes it can be very confrontational and, if in doubt, it punches you in the nose,” the author continued, referring to that tool that he adopted in his youth.
Although today Musk is not a physically violent person and “he never gets really angry (...) he is coldly brutal with people and then he hardly remembers what he has done. She just goes into another world and doesn't seem to remember it,” she said. “It certainly has a lack of empathy".
These wounds from his childhood forged in him another key aspect of his personality that has great weight in his businesses: his constant need for dramaof risk and that, ultimately, promote their projects. This has been seen on multiple occasions, for example, when he decided to base Tesla's driving service on artificial intelligence instead of using code, or the changes - in the eyes of many, unnecessary - in X.
"This allows him to be a disruptive figure but also makes him a very difficult leader”he continued.
In that sense, he recalled a Friday night in Texas, on a SpaceX launch pad, where, from one moment to the next, Musk went crazy when he saw only two people working there and summoned a hundred employees from all over. of the country so that they could get to work, without any need. That was a moment, according to Isaacson, in which the 'devil mode' took control and that, although it allowed rapid progress on the project, it also involved a bitter pill to swallow for Andy, the employee on duty who had to deal with that situation.
Isaacson understood, however, that this type of attitude, although ugly, had its positive side and allowed him to form a work team that was so faithful and ready to follow him on any adventure he decided to face. During a talk with some Tesla employees, they explained that they had resigned from their positions because they could not deal with the workload and stress but, once they distanced themselves from it, they understood that they had to return because, at the end of the day, “ “They believed in Musk's mission.”
In any case, no matter how effective this method may be, the author stressed that the new generations who see the businessman with successful eyes and aspire to follow his model and his ways "definitely do not try it." “They shouldn't try to be like Elon Musk”; Instead, they should take note of what makes a person effective at their job but learning from their mistakes.
The founder of Apple was also one of the characters chosen by the author to narrate his life and work.
His deep knowledge of another of the most disruptive minds in the sector in recent decades, and whose legacy still persists today, allowed him to draw similarities and differences with the South African tycoon.
“They both have a profoundly innovative sense…as Steve Jobs would say, be able to think differently. They are willing to be disruptive and think they can change the world. Musk is crazy, half the time he thinks he can change the world”, he explained about this aspect that is little surprising about a person who rethinks even the most basic and everyday things in life.
On the other hand, the apple genius had something going for him that Elon did not: his ability to listen to his team and take their words.
His strong personality led the Tesla owner to not take kindly to negative comments and even avoid people saying no. As a consequence, plans rarely change from the idea originally proposed and, when they do, it is the result of a long time of insistence and a very small environment that is not afraid to speak to you face to face.
Another key to his success lies in the system that he himself baptized as “the algorithm” and that applies to all your projects.
Is about a five step process which begins in the most basic fundamentals. "One has to question every requirementyou have to look at physics (...) and then you have to delete to keep things simple”Isaacson explained.
In any case, Isaacson pointed out that, if applied incorrectly, the “algorithm” could end up causing the opposite effect, as happened with Tesla when it wanted to automate the line of vehicles. In that case, the biographer recalled, he was “too fast” and did not manage to eliminate all the necessary parts.
Since its influence in the war of Ukraine with the Starlink service to his space projects, Musk has become a great actor in these times. In his own way, the tycoon managed to concentrate a lot of power in his hands that, according to Isaacson, respond to that little Elon who developed ambition whether for space, for robots, for artificial intelligence or whatever he wanted. dream
And that conviction, added to an impulse that he did not know - or perhaps did not want - to control, led him to buy Twitter. In the eyes of many, who had opted for his other companies, a disappointment; For him, the necessary step to take over “the largest playground in the world.”
However, it would be unfair not to acknowledge that, true to form, it wasn't simply a matter of taking control of the little bird and then turning it into your old x.com domain. Since then, Elon focused on artificial intelligence revolution and decided to start his own company.
Simply “can't leave things alone” and he can't let them go either, the author joked. “He is a control freak, I don't see him delegating much to his companies”he concluded.
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