Summary of The Biography of Musk Want to Learn from Ma Yilong? Are You Crazy? Note Ma Yilong is a Chinese martial arts actor known for his unique fighting style. The original text is making a playful reference to learning from someone like Ma Yilong while discussing the biography of Elon Musk.

Summary Want to learn from Ma Yilong while studying Elon Musk's biography? Are you crazy?

He doesn’t want to be himself, but he doesn’t have a choice, right?

Written by Jingyu

The world’s richest person, the founder of the world’s first private aerospace company, the founder of the world’s leading car company, the king of electronic dance music, the new leader of Twitter, the Iron Man of Silicon Valley…

If possible, the prefix of Elon Musk’s name can be longer than the “Dragon Mother” in “Game of Thrones”; similarly, the storm caused by the Dragon Mother in Westeros, Musk has basically caused the same impact on the human world in the 21st century.

It is somewhat difficult and thankless to write a biography for a celebrity like Musk, because every move, decision, and action of this “Iron Man of Silicon Valley” is tracked and reported by global websites and media, not to mention the tens of thousands of tweets left by him on Twitter (now renamed X), which have made people more or less familiar with his entrepreneurial history and life, forming judgments and attitudes towards him.

“Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future” by Walter Isaacson | CITIC Publishing House

Of course, for Walter Isaacson, CEO of the Aspen Institute, former chairman of CNN, and a well-known biographer who was designated by Steve Jobs to write his biography (“Steve Jobs”), this may not be a problem, because the new book written by this author, “Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future,” was officially released in China by CITIC Publishing House on September 12th.

After reading this nearly 600-page biography, the author only saw one question, a very central question that everyone wants to ask but is embarrassed or afraid to ask – Is Musk really crazy?

Or, to go further, if Musk is not crazy, why do his actions – from creating and managing multiple companies simultaneously, embracing risks at all costs, firing people at the drop of a hat, and spouting nonsense on Twitter – resemble those of a madman (and are getting worse and worse)?

And if Musk is indeed crazy, how did he achieve so many achievements mentioned at the beginning of the article?

Crazy or not, that is the question.

1. There is a high probability that he is crazy

There are too many examples to prove that Musk is a madman.

Before becoming a well-known investor, Peter Thiel had a meeting with Musk. Musk drove his sports car to pick up Thiel, but ended up crashing the car into the roadside with a heavy foot on the accelerator. Fortunately, Thiel was lucky and nothing serious happened even though he wasn’t wearing a seatbelt. If something had happened, there probably wouldn’t have been LianGuaiyLianGuail later on, let alone a series of companies like SpaceX and Tesla.

After all, as someone who later became a godfather-level figure in Silicon Valley investment, Thiel commented after the fact that Musk had a “very high risk threshold.” This statement was proven true time and time again with Musk.

After selling PayPal to eBay, Musk became a billionaire and finally had the opportunity to fulfill his childhood space dream by establishing SpaceX. In order to tinker with rockets, Musk and his friends went to Russia to buy used rockets that had just been released, but they ended up being heavily intoxicated with vodka and didn’t get any benefits from the Russians.

The Falcon 1 rocket had three launches and three explosions, and SpaceX was on the verge of bankruptcy. At this time, Musk still had to focus most of his energy on Tesla, whose payment model for the Roadster was in a critical state before mass production. The co-founder was also kicked out of the company, and the team’s salaries had to be covered by loans from Musk and his relatives and friends.

The book says that Musk was under so much pressure at the time that he couldn’t sleep well at night and would vomit in the morning when he woke up. If it weren’t for the later help from the Mafia, it’s very likely that the world’s number one automotive company right now would still be Toyota.

If all of this can be attributed to the stress response of a super entrepreneur, then the core reason for Musk’s madness might be that he truly believes in his vision – that SpaceX is about making humanity a multi-planetary species, Tesla is about achieving a transformation in human energy utilization, and having children with multiple women is about preventing human extinction.

A “prophet” who firmly believes in his mission, either he is a god or… a sociopath.

It is precisely this confidence that allows Musk to stand in the production line of SpaceX and Tesla factories, carefully examining every aspect that needs optimization, accelerating engineering production, and instantly firing engineers who dare to say “no” to him. For him, compared to company failure and personal ruin, the postponement of the vision of human progress is the more unbearable consequence.

Even when SpaceX had won a large contract from NASA and achieved preliminary success, and there was a moment to catch their breath, Musk still frequently carried out “rectification” by running to the launch site in the middle of the night to see who wasn’t working overtime, engaging in crazy PUA with subordinates, and keeping the team in a “hardcore” tradition. Later, this management method was also used on the Twitter team that was acquired, tormenting the spoiled Silicon Valley programmers to the point of crying.

Family and friends have a unified evaluation of this kind of crazy behavior – “lack of empathy, no ability to sympathize” – the basic professional qualities of a sociopathic serial killer.

Of course, Musk’s madness has been attributed by people and the author of this book, Isaacson, to his father, Errol Musk, a man who is mentally agile but has a volatile temper, a history of domestic violence and infidelity. How crazy is “Dad Musk”? When Musk was hospitalized with a concussion after being beaten up by a classmate, his first reaction was to curse Musk in anger.

Darth Vader, the iconic dark warrior from Star Wars, is used here as a metaphor. Implicitly, Musk is the Skywalker, determined to break free from his father’s shadow. Unfortunately, like father, like son, as he grows older, “Luke” becomes more and more like “Anakin”. Even the people around Musk know the one thing that can really provoke him: “You’re becoming more and more like your dad.

But Luke is not Anakin, at least not yet.

II. Some moments are not madness

Aside from these crazy behaviors, Musk can also display absolute composure and rationality in some moments, making people wonder if he’s just “acting crazy” all the time!

As a person who always seeks revenge, Musk’s favorite thing to do is mercilessly destroy his opponents, even if they beg for mercy. For example, because Bill Gates held a short position on Tesla, Musk insisted on a years-long feud with Gates, even though Musk had previously favored the Windows system and had high regard for Gates himself.

One of the wisest things Musk did when he was young was to forgive the “LianGuaiyLianGuail Gang” for betraying him.

When Musk’s company merged with Peter Thiel, Musk rightfully took control of the entire company, but his rule over the team and his obsession with eventually led the entire team to “mutiny” and secretly overthrow Musk’s regime.

Being ousted from a company he founded for the second time (the first time was Zip2 in the United States), Musk, with his personality, would never forgive the “traitors” easily. But surprisingly, Musk decided to give up seeking revenge and made peace with Peter Thiel and others.

It turned out that without this “amicable parting,” when Tesla was on the brink of collapse in 2008, if Peter Thiel’s Founder’s Fund hadn’t generously provided $20 million in emergency funds, Musk would likely have become the “American Jia Yueting”, rather than the current world’s richest person.

Even though later on he went crazy and acquired Twitter in just a few weeks, Musk was still aware of who he could provoke and who he couldn’t. For example, you can criticize the President of the United States, but you have to be humble when dealing with the CEO of Apple.

After Musk took over Twitter, the platform’s content policy underwent a huge change, causing advertisers to flee and even rumors of being removed from the Apple App Store. Musk used “first principles” to deduce why Apple couldn’t discuss app revenue sharing and data interoperability.

With these bold questions in mind, Musk went to Apple to meet with Tim Cook, who politely stated that they could discuss revenue sharing later. As a reputable company, Apple is cautious about advertising platforms and also assured Musk that they would not remove Twitter.

After the meeting, Musk posted a photo of Apple’s headquarters, saying that he had a great time at Apple and got the result he wanted. You see, he knew how to be sensible when dealing with certain people. After all, before meeting Cook, Musk’s old friend Larry Ellison, the founder of Oracle, warned him, “Apple is not a company you want to go against.

Even during the busiest and craziest time of running Twitter, during the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, Musk generously offered a large number of Starlink satellite communication systems to help Ukraine restore communication. But when the Ukrainian side planned to use Starlink satellites to destroy Russian buildings, Musk made a very clear judgment and immediately stopped Starlink’s service in Ukraine. Helping establish communication is one thing, but when it is used for military purposes, the nature is completely different, and Musk understands that.

III. Fine Red Lines

There is a legend in Silicon Valley: when Apple’s co-founder Steve Jobs passed away, he left a will to donate his fortune to someone similar to himself, someone who could truly make history, and that person is Elon Musk.

To be honest, this “will” seems more like something made up by the Chinese rather than straightforward Americans.

If we talk about the intersection between Musk and Jobs, it is true that Jobs did buy a Tesla Roadster and appreciated it from a product perspective. This is probably the highest praise for a hardware manufacturer. The subsequent “streamlining” of Tesla’s product line and vehicle design can be said to have lived up to Jobs’ praise.

The book mentions more than once that Musk is indeed similar to Jobs, with a kind of “distorted reality perspective” that can turn PUA into the art of management and enable the team to achieve physically impossible things. However, there are still differences. Jobs was more inclined to squeeze the team’s creativity from a product design perspective, while Musk, from the perspective of product manufacturing and processes, optimized the entire manufacturing process to the extreme based on first principles, overcoming production capacity hell and turning dangerous situations into safe ones time and time again.

You can hardly imagine Steve Jobs standing in a factory in Shenzhen, staring at the assembly line workers, calculating how much time each motion can save; while Elon Musk can indeed squat in the unfinished factory of SpaceX and Tesla, closely monitoring each assembly step, calculating which actions and processes are unreasonable and can be overturned and redone, just to save a few seconds.

“The most important product of Tesla is actually the Gigafactory.” Musk’s statement is not a joke.

Jobs mainly focused on Apple, except for his brief experience with Pixar and NeXT. Musk, on the other hand, started with SpaceX, and his attention has been constantly divided among Tesla, Boring, Neuralink, Twitter, and later — each company has an important aspect related to the future vision of humanity, and each one faces tremendous challenges.

During the “production hell” phase of Tesla Model 3, Musk took the time to attend a Southeast Asian entrepreneurs forum. The forum host earnestly asked Musk to answer a question that many entrepreneurs in the audience wanted to ask: “How to become the next Musk?”

Tired, Musk replied that if you don’t want to become Musk, it’s really torturous.

You must be crazy enough to believe that you are the chosen one, and that only you can lead humanity to the stars; but you must not be too crazy, to the point where you fly too high and fall like Icarus.

In between, there is only a thin red line, which is the path Musk has been walking on. And currently, this path has no end.

* Image source: Aixos

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