Books

Elon Musk: an unexpected and inspiring story about the man behind electric cars and reusable rockets

This biography reveals the difficult choices and challenges an aspiring entrepreneur would face in order to succeed, and reap the rewards.

Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future by Ashlee Vance
Published by HarperCollins
400 pages

Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future by Ashlee Vance published in 2015, is an interesting biography about the founder of such famous companies as Tesla, SpaceX, SolarCity and Paypal. The book covers the hardships, perseverance, and glories in Elon’s life. He was a boy who fantasized about space who became a technology freak striving to make humanity better, from electronic banking to the idea of living in outer space. Growing up in South Africa, a young Elon planned to go to the United States to pursue his obsession over computers and technology, so he flew to Canada first so that his mom could pass her Canadian citizenship to him. This allowed him to create his first start-up company, Zip2, which helped generate the capital he needed to establish more companies for his own dreams.

Musk is an eccentric entrepreneur who has a massive vision for the society such as electric cars and online banking. He is someone who does not sugarcoat his words just to make people like him, but instead he says the truth as he sees it, as he said that “I don’t really give a damn what you thinks,” when a Zip2 employee complained about a technical change that they wanted. His steadfastness was shown when he stated that “[his] mentality is that of a samurai… [and]  would rather commit seppuku than fail,” to a venture capitalist. Even though he has the serious character needed to be an amazing entrepreneur, he also has a fun side to him. Michael Colonno, who worked for Musk in Zip2 jokingly mentioned that “the CEO is there shooting at us with rockets and plasma guns,” while playing a video game with him and other co-workers.

The development of Musk’s character in this book is a bit slow since it is conveyed through real life events. Considering that the events are highlighted more than the description of the people, I had a challenge figuring out what Musk was really like, fully. As you might know, he is one of the richest men in the world; however, his life wasn’t always rainbows and butterflies. He was born to Maye and Errol Musk, along with his brother and sister in a middle class family. He never experienced what it was like being too poor nor being too rich in his young years. He lived in South Africa before he flew to the United States with his brother, Kimbal, and started his first company,Zip2. Zip2 was a company that provided maps and directions to the internet. After selling Zip2 to Compaq Computer, they got $22 million and $15 million respectively, and Elon started on his next project,X.com. From X.com he then proceed to build SpaceX and Tesla into a reality. In early moments of SpaceX and Tesla, there was a funding problem due to the parts of the failed tests. He had concluded based on the past expenses that he could afford to save one of the two companies and his dilemma made him think of another way to maintain his two businesses. More fame and wealth came after the companies became successful as they released their products that greatly affected the industry. This event of the book is the one I enjoyed reading the most since there are many interesting experiences in this. We see the lengths he had taken in order to save the businesses, and the amount of belief he had in himself and others. The book shows that the action Musk took had a positive outcome as his businesses survived through the problems. On the other hand, during this crisis, Musk had a tough time debating over and over on which of the two companies that he wants to save. He ran out of money one time, had to work long hours and his eating habits changed.

This is a must read for people going into business, especially those who are planning to be an entrepreneur. The book shows you the story of one of the most influential entrepreneurs in the world and the ups and downs of his journey. However, I would not recommend this for younger people such as teenagers because of the simplicity of the book. Younger people tend to prefer more exciting books such as those that has a huge complex climax, while this book is direct and simple; you would know what to expect but not how you would expect it.

This book is a tough yet rewarding read because it is a story of a real person, especially an amazing businessman who’s gone through many encounters in his life, and there are some complicated words that not all people know such as “tumult” and “mitigate”. The word choices are also tricky for some sentences, and the chapter titles are only a few words that summarize the chapter. Although it is a tough read, this book has many fun and not so fun-packed adventures of how the current SpaceX, and Tesla owner became the successful entrepreneur that he is.

2 comments on “Elon Musk: an unexpected and inspiring story about the man behind electric cars and reusable rockets

  1. I’ve always been curious about him. Thank you for this wonderful review! Well done.

    Liked by 2 people

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