Lesson from Hell, Elon Musk

SpaceX launch

As a smart, ambitious, and aware business owner, have you ever wished that you could achieve financial results similar to those of Elon Musk? To be truthful I think most of us would love to have a few financial slices of Musk’s business life, but we really wouldn’t want to live it in his non-stop 24/7 style.


As you may know, the legendary biographer Walter Isaacson recently released a rather thick 688-page book titled simply ‘Elon Musk’. That’s about 500 pages more than I’m prepared to read this week, but I wanted to know if the book might convey some useful business lessons that I’d otherwise never be able to hear about. So, instead of reading the actual book I’ve read a couple of reviews about the book. For example, Mr. Isaacson who introduced us to Apple founder Steve Jobs “Reality distortion field” concept in his 2011 book introduces readers to Musk’s “Demon Style leadership” in this one.


Every entrepreneur in businesses from very small up to mega in size must already be, or able to become an effective problem solver. In the book we learn that Musk has named his framework for solving problems “the algorithm.” The author says that Musk often urges his employees to employ 5-steps:


1) Question every requirement.
2) Delete any part or process you can.
3) Simplify and optimize.
4) Accelerate cycle time.
5) Automate.

Isaacson says that Musk has a long-held method for problem solving called first principles which breaks tasks into their very basics. By doing this, he gets to the “can or can’t do this” answer that he’s seeking. Musk is well known for not asking an employee to do something that he’s not willing to do. Perhaps that is why Elon Musk is also well known for sleeping on factory floors at times! In 2018, Tesla was less than a month away from declaring bankruptcy due to problems producing the model 3 sedan. I’m guessing that he was on the floor a lot then and again when an early Space-X rocket exploded!


Years ago, a very accomplished friend of mine said “Nelson, a person can become pretty wealthy by accident, but becoming a billionaire takes a very high level of intent.” It’s easy for all of us to see that Elon Musk has taken major business risks frequently in this life to even get near his current level of wealth. Claire Boucher, the mother of three of Musk’s children, coined the phrase ‘demon mode’ according to Walter Isaacson. In the book she said that “he goes dark and retreats inside the storm in his brain.” She added that demon mode “causes a lot of chaos but it also gets shit done.” I’d like to know if he was in ‘demon mode’ before or after becoming the owner of Twitter!


So, if you want life and business success lessons through the non-stop brain waves of Elon Musk, it seems that the heavy book may be worth its weight!

2 thoughts on “Lesson from Hell, Elon Musk”

  1. Dear Nelson,

    Thank you for sharing some of these business gems, and for making us where this book exists. I have no idea whether Elon Musk is often happy, but happiness far outweighs great wealth, and all the stress it brings.

  2. Hey, Nelson — nicely put, and informative. Have no further interest in Elon Musk, however, other than his likely incarceration or bankruptcy.

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