Elon Musk Biography by Ashlee Vance ｜Book Review｜
Hello readers! I’m back with another book review. This week we are talking about the Biography of Elon Musk written by Ashlee Vance.
For those of you who don’t know Musk, he is one of the most forward thinking and innovative entrepreneurs of our time. Early in his career Musk was a co-founder of PayPal. However, this book focuses on his development of Tesla and SpaceX.
Here is my book review:
Here are 3 things I learned!
Do it for the right reason
I’m sure we’ve all heard this before, but exploring Musk’s business journey made it crystal clear to me. Musk was incredibly successful with PayPal and pocketed $165 million after selling the company in 2002. That was more than enough money to retire and relax for the rest of his life. However, Musk decided to invest and develop new projects that ultimately became Tesla and SpaceX. These were risky decisions that unnecessarily placed his financial security on the line. However, Musk had a vision and a legacy that he wanted to imprint on this planet and that is what drove his decision-making process.
What we learn from Musk is that we have to do things for the right reason. Obviously, businesses exists to make a profit. However, having personal profits as the driving factor is dangerous because eventually your motivation won’t be there and a new money-making opportunity will arise and grab your attention. Based on reading the brutal business journey that Musk experienced, I can’t imagine money was the main motivator. If it had been, he would have quit early on in his career, as there were so many hurdles that he had to overcome to see his innovative ideas come to fruition.
Money is not his motivation, and, quite frankly, I think it just happens for him. It’s just there. He knows he can generate it.
Even if you are familiar with Tesla or SpaceX, you might not realize that most of the R&D and assembling of specific parts is conducted in-house. Musk wanted to maintain control over as many aspects of the product creation process as possible. In the short-term, this caused increased costs, as Musk had to higher specialists to design, develop, and create all the necessary parts of the products. He felt that the employee’s of other companies wouldn’t have the same passion for the product he was trying to create and therefore wouldn’t be as motivated to deliver quality work.
In the long-term however, this approach saved them money and time. It saved them money as they were able to limit the production costs on each part through their extensive in-house R&D. This allowed for a more competitive price for their products and greater margins. It also saved them time because they would be able to make any necessary changes immediately without having to contact other companies. They were completely self-sufficient. This is an aspect I have often overlooked as it has become so commonplace to simply ship product assembly to other countries to limit costs, yet we forget the value of being in control of our product.
If you told him that you made a particular choice because it was the standard way things had always been done, he’d kick you out of a meeting fast.
Careful what you wish for
We all have this idea of being a successful entrepreneur, creating amazing products. We see the lifestyle as cool and sexy. Well, if you read this book it will burst your bubble. The truth is that you’re going to come up against a lot of resistance. We see the final product, but forget the process that’s involved to get there. When you’re trying to innovate, other companies are going to take notice and oftentimes try to limit what you’re able to do, instead of trying to step up the quality of their own product. This book shed light on the brutal realities of being innovative. The motor and space industry didn’t take Musk seriously, and once they realized he was on to something, they used political, financial and social power to try and crush Musk.
We are always told to reach for the stars, and that is something I agree with. However, we need to recognize that the process of achieving greatness comes with more pressure. We want to build the next game-changing product and create a massively successful company, but we have to understand that this involves becoming more accountable for our actions.
If the rules are such that you can’t make progress, then you have to fight the rules.
One thing I love about this book is that it gives you insight into the industry of innovation and how someone like musk goes about creating and developing a product. That was something that was very fascinating to me, to be able to see what goes on in his mind and all the processes that are involved in developing a new product and being innovative. I also appreciated that Vance shows us the good, the bad and the ugly sides of entrepreneurship and business. We hear from people that worked for, with and against Musk as well as the impact work had on his personal life.
This book goes into the nitty-gritty details of SpaceX and Tesla. If you’re not into science and you’re not interested in the specifics of the products, you might find some sections of the book boring. I am not a science buff, but I still enjoyed learning about the details regarding the development of rockets and electric cars.
Who should be reading this book?
If you’re an aspiring entrepreneur interested in learning about innovation and all the trials and tribulations that occur during the process, this book is for you. It will give you raw, unfiltered insight into the world of innovation and help you understand the potential challenges you’ll face along the way.
I also think this book is for anybody seeking inspiration. I found Vance’s work extremely motivating. You’re taken on this amazing journey through Musk’s life, the highs and lows, and it will help you realize that if you put your mind to something and have the drive and vision to persist, you can achieve the unimaginable.
Good ideas are always crazy until they’re not.
About Ashlee Vance & Elon Musk
This is a great playlist of Ashlee Vance’s global journey to find inventors, scientists and technologists shaping our future.