When the long-awaited Musk was published recently, The New York Times marked the arrival by claiming that –with Steve Jobs no longer with us — Elon Musk is the only Silicon Valley leader to ‘carry a similar air of dark mystique’. This is a big claim, but after thoroughly enjoying this book, we can certainly say that Musk has some very unusual qualities.
Musk is long on charisma and this shines throughout the book. At its heart this is a book about how Musk’s drive and determination brought him from South Africa to North America; how it took him from fixing boilers to building companies in Silicon Valley. It is the story of how he became arguably the most significant entrepreneur in the world.
To give you a quick overview of Elon Musk’s story, he moved from South Africa to Canada when he was 17. He studied Physics and Economics at the University of Pennsylvania before moving to Silicon Valley. He made his first millions by selling Zip2 and X.com before wagering big on rocket ship enterprise SpaceX and Tesla motors.
But to simply recount his story in this simplified manner misses out the fundamental theme of Musk’s narrative. Elon Musk is a man who — even from his difficult childhood in South Africa — has always been struggling to find a place for his terrific talents. In fact it wouldn’t be going too far to claim that he has at times struggled to find his place in the world.
Behind the charisma, Musk has a fierce need to prove himself and his ideas. Perhaps this explains his dogged perseverance with projects like SpaceX that have a whiff of madness to the rest of us.
As with Musk’s enterprises, SpaceX and Tesla, there are a still a lot of questions to be answered, and no doubt there is a lot more to come in the future. But this book represents the first look inside the life and character of Elon Musk, and for that reason alone, it is a must read.