Elon Musk Book: 8 Major Takeaways About the Man Behind Tesla, SpaceX, and Neuralink

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Elon Musk has dominated headlines for years, but a new book demonstrates that there is still much to learn about the world’s wealthiest man.

After three years of shadowing Musk, Walter Isaacson’s biography on the Tesla CEO offers a peek behind the curtain into the life of one of the world’s most powerful men.

The book was released on September 12 and contained some shocking truths about the entrepreneur, ranging from major revelations about his relationship with Ukraine and the birth of his eleventh kid to information about Musk’s strict work ethic and emotional swings.

Here are eight things we discovered while reading the biography

Musk’s mood swings are extreme, and people close to him are terrified of his ‘devil mode.’

Musk’s moods can swing wildly, according to the book.

“He has numerous minds and many fairly distinct personalities,” Grimes told Isaacson. “He moves between them at a breakneck pace.” You just feel the air in the room change, and then the entire situation shifts to his other state.”

During his time with Musk, Isaacson experienced the billionaire’s emotional volatility, describing him as “light and dark, intense and goofy, detached and emotional.”

“When we hang out, I double-check to make sure I’m with the right Elon,” Grimes explained. “There are some guys in that head who don’t like me, and I don’t like them.” These include the version of him “who’s down for Burning Man and will sleep on a couch, eat canned soup, and be chill” and his “demon mode” — “when he goes dark and retreats inside the storm in his brain.”

According to Isaacson, during these times, Musk is prone to lash out at colleagues or order a work surge. Despite the gloom associated with “demon mode,” Grimes claims it is also the mode in which he “gets shit done.”

Elon Musk’s relationship with his father had a significant impact on his personality and worldview.

Elon Musk’s father, Errol Musk, is a figure that appears regularly throughout the novel.

The biography contains descriptions of incidents in which Elon Musk claims his father bullied and demeaned him (something Errol Musk denies), as well as comments from Elon Musk’s former girlfriends and wives about how Errol Musk ultimately influenced his son’s personality and outlook on the world.

Elon Musk initially lived with his mother after his parents divorced, before spending around seven years in Pretoria with his father from the age of ten.

“It turned out to be a really bad idea,” Elon Musk said of the project. “I had no idea how horrible he was.”

Kimbal Musk, his younger brother, told Isaacson that their father had “zero compassion” and frequently “went ballistic.”

“It was mental torture,” Elon Musk said of the experience. “He sure knew how to make anything terrible.”

Maye Musk, Elon Musk’s mother, expressed concern that her son “might become his father.”

Elon and Kimbal Musk no longer communicate with their father, according to Isaacson.

Elon Musk initially lived with his mother after his parents divorced, before spending around seven years in Pretoria with his father from the age of ten.

According to the book, Elon Musk’s personality was formed by the years he spent with his father.

“I think he got conditioned in childhood that life is pain,” Grimes, Elon Musk’s ex-girlfriend, told Isaacson. She further stated that due of his father’s upbringing, Musk occasionally allows himself to be mistreated and “associates love with being mean or abusive.”

Elon Musk’s first wife, Justine Musk, told Isaacson that during their disputes, Elon would ridicule and abuse her, calling her a “moron,” “idiot,” or “stupid and crazy.”

“When I spent some time with Errol, I realized that’s where he’d gotten the vocabulary,” Justine Musk explained to Isaacson.

Talulah Riley, Errol Musk’s ex-wife, also told Isaacson that Errol Musk’s treatment of his son “had a profound effect on how he operates.”

“Inside the man, he’s still there as a child, a child standing in front of his dad,” she explained.

Musk has always been known for his ‘hardcore’ work ethic.

Musk is well-known for his “hardcore” work ethic, which included sleeping and eating in the workplace in some cases. His late-night habits appear to have stemmed from his upbringing, when he would remain up until 6 a.m. reading, according to Isaacson.

According to the book, Musk and his brother slept at the office, washed at the YMCA, and mostly ate at Jack in the Box while working at Zip2, his first startup. According to Isaacson, one early Zip2 employee had to persuade Musk to go home and shower before customer meetings.

“At Zip2 and every subsequent company, he drove himself relentlessly all day and through much of the night, without vacations, and he expected others to do the same,” Isaacson wrote. “His only indulgence was allowing himself breaks for intense video-game binges.”

Musk has applied the same zeal to other elements of his life, such as learning to fly planes. “I have a tendency to do things very intensely,” he said to Isaacson.

Musk expects his employees to be workaholics as well. At X.com, which later merged to become PayPal, he told employees that the site would go public on Thanksgiving weekend and “prowled the office each day, including Thanksgiving, in a nervous and nervous-making frenzy and slept under his desk most nights,” Isaacson wrote.

When he bought Twitter more than two decades later, he told its employees they needed to commit to a “extremely hardcore” work schedule with “long hours at a high intensity” if they wanted to keep their employment.

Read More: Elon Musk Says X Reaches ‘New High’ With 540 Million Monthly Users

He’s been difficult to work with since the beginning.

Working with Elon Musk has long been associated with horror stories — from abruptly cutting off more than half of Twitter’s workforce to forcing some Tesla employees to work through Thanksgiving — working for one of his firms has become the stuff of urban legend. And it turns out that tensions were frequently close to a boil, even at Musk’s first firm.

According to Isaacson, Musk’s brother allegedly “tore off a hunk of flesh” from Musk’s hand while the brothers wrestled on the floor in Zip2’s workplace back in the 1990s. According to the biographer, the two men would grapple at times of “intense stress.”

According to the book, Musk’s undergraduate dormmate stopped working at Zip2 six weeks after starting there because he couldn’t stand working with Musk.

“I knew I could either work with him or be his friend, but not both,” Navaid Farooq, Musk’s longtime friend and former dormmate, told Isaacson.

Musk later explained his rage after chewing off a SpaceX employee who had lost his child the week before.

“I give people hardcore feedback that is mostly accurate, and I try not to do it in an ad hominem way,” Musk told Isaacson. “I try to criticize the action rather than the person.” Everyone makes errors. What counts is whether a person has a healthy feedback loop, can accept criticism, and can improve. Physics is unconcerned about emotions. It only cares if you got the rocket right.”

Musk physically reacts to stress, but it also motivates him. He can’t stand the peace.

Musk would stay awake at night and vomit during stressful periods at work and in his personal life, according to Isaacson.

According to the biographer, Musk’s stomach problems had a doctor checking for appendicitis at one time.

When Tesla was facing bankruptcy in 2008, Musk’s wife, Talulah Riley, told Isaacson she was terrified the stress would force Musk to suffer a heart attack.

“He was having night terrors and just screaming in his sleep and clawing at me,” she explained. “It would go straight to his gut, and he’d start screaming and retching.” I’d stand by the toilet and support his head.”

Musk’s ex-girlfriend Grimes claims she had similar sleepless nights with the billionaire throughout their relationship.

According to some, Musk appears to seek out these times of extreme stress.

“You don’t have to be in a state of war at all times,” Shivon Zilis, the mother of two of Musk’s children and a director at Neuralink, warned Musk as he prepared to buy Twitter. “Or is it that you find more comfort during times of war?”

Musk explained to Zilis that it is one of his “default settings.”

“I guess I’ve always wanted to push my chips back on the table or play the next level of the game.”

Musk has admitted to Isaacson that his intensity has taken a physical toll on him.

“It’s been nonstop pain since 2007, maybe until last year.” Make Tesla operate, pull a rabbit out of your hat, then pull another rabbit out of your hat,” Musk told Isaacson in 2021.

“You can’t be in constant survival mode, always on adrenaline, and not get hurt.” But I’ve discovered something else this year. Fighting for survival is what keeps you going for a long time. “It’s not easy to stay motivated every day when you’re no longer in a survival mode,” he added.

Musk might be a challenging person to date.

Many of the ladies Musk used to date or marry were interviewed by Isaacson. Musk is clearly a tough guy to date due to a variety of characteristics, including his laser focus on his businesses and his lack of empathy and social understanding.

“Elon and I were used to having big arguments in public,” Justine Musk explained to Isaacson. “I don’t think you can be in a relationship with Elon and not argue.”

Musk delayed his honeymoon with Justine by months so that he could finalize X.com’s merger with PayPal, and they had to cut it short due to company upheaval.

Justine told Isaacson that Elon Musk encouraged her to bleach her hair blonder and that she felt like a “trophy wife.”

“I met him when he didn’t have much at all,” Isaacson said. “The accumulation of wealth and fame changed the dynamic.”

“The strong will and emotional distance that makes him difficult as a husband may be reasons for his success in running a business,” she added.

Meanwhile, Grimes told Isaacson that his emotional volatility and inability to grasp other people’s feelings can be difficult to deal with at times.

According to Isaacson, Musk emailed a photo of his then-girlfriend Grimes having a C-section when she was pregnant with X to their friends and relatives, including her father and brothers. Grimes stated he had “no idea” why she was unhappy about it.

But he has a soft side as well.

Though the book exposes Musk’s tumultuous relationships with a wide range of people, including relatives, friends, partners, and business associates, it also shows how tender he can be at times. Isaacson, in particular, portrays Musk as a devoted father to X AE A-XII, often known as “baby X,” his first kid with Grimes.

“X had an otherworldly sweetness that calmed and beguiled Musk, who craved his presence,” Isaacson wrote. He carried X everywhere.”

Musk also moved in with his father when he was 10 years old because he didn’t want him to be lonely, according to Isaacson. Musk’s cousin Peter Rive told Isaacson that playing “Dungeons and Dragons” with Musk as a child brought out the “incredibly patient” and “beautiful” sides of Musk.

When Musk’s ex-wife Talulah Riley’s close friend died in 2021, he rushed to England to be with her, “and he just made me laugh instead of cry,” she told Isaacson.

Musk’s politics are beginning to resemble those of his father.

While Musk has cut off contact with his father, Errol Musk, Isaacson believes the billionaire’s political attitude is growing to resemble his father’s.

Errol’s sons, according to Isaacson, were sometimes put off by their father’s political rants. In 2022, for example, Errol sent Musk an email in which he labeled the COVID-19 epidemic “a lie” and referred to President Joe Biden as a “freak, criminal, pedophile president” who was out to destroy all the US stood for, “including you.” Isaacson penned.

According to the biography, Musk began to exhibit a similar proclivity, which was sparked in part by his daughter Vivian Jenna Wilson’s choice to terminate connections with him. Musk, according to Isaacson, blamed the disconnect on the “woke mind virus.”

Musk has gone from publicly supporting the Democratic Party to publicly criticizing President Joe Biden, repeating anti-transgender content on X, and advocating conspiracy theories in recent years.

“Musk’s tweet showed his growing tendency (like his father) to read wacky fake-news sites purveying conspiracy theories, a problem that Twitter had writ large,” Isaacson wrote of Musk’s decision to write about a conspiracy theory tied to Nancy Pelosi’s husband’s assassination.

And, like his father, much of Musk’s family is opposed to his political views.

Kimbal Musk warned his brother, “It’s not okay,” after he tweeted, “My pronouns are Prosecute/Fauci.” “It’s not amusing. You’re not going to be able to do that.”

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