Elon Musk does not live up to his name. The CEOs of Tesla and SpaceX could retire at any time, but instead they are leading six companies.
Walter Isaacson, who spent two years shadowing the mercurial billionaire for a new biography, notes this. The Lex Friedman Podcast That at the beginning of last year, Musk was “riding high,” with sales roaring at Tesla and launches at SpaceX becoming regular.
“And yet he said, ‘You know, I still want to put all my chips back on the table. I want to keep taking risks. I don’t want to taste things,'” Isaacson recalled. “He doesn’t like to coast.”
That attitude helps explain why Musk began secretly buying Twitter shares early last year and—after months of legal drama—bought the company outright in October.
But why take over Twitter at all when things are going so well at Tesla and SpaceX — and risk getting caught up in controversy and legal battles?
“Elon Musk has been chosen as an executive in a very intense situation, so much so that when things get less intense—when they’re actually making enough cars and rockets are going up and landing—he thinks about something else so that he can grow and have more intensity. . He’s addicted to intensity,” Isaacson said.
Musk was brought in this month by Marc Andreessen, general partner at venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz. Huberman Lab Discussing the personality traits of disruptive entrepreneurs on the podcast, he said, “People have to make this decision, which is, ‘Okay, if I have the latent ability to do this… am I willing to go through the stress? Pain and trauma and anxiety and risk of failure?’
Musk, he said, is the rare person “who couldn’t do it any other way… that’s why he’s running five companies at the same time and working on a sixth.”
For biography, venture capitalist Peter Thiel told Isaacson that Musk was addicted to the thrill of risk. Speaking of Tesla and SpaceX, he said, “The wisdom of Silicon Valley would be that these are both incredibly insane bets.”
Isaacson describes Musk’s addiction to intensity as a “superpower,” saying, “There’s always a bigger mission at the top of it. So I would say it’s empathy for people in the bigger picture. It is compassion for humanity rather than compassion for the three or four men sitting in the conference room with you.
In that regard, he said that Musk has the same traits as other disruptive entrepreneurs like Microsoft founder Bill Gates: “He always has empathy for these great goals of humanity and sometimes he is ignorant of the feelings of the people in front of him. , or sometimes harsh.”
Gates, it’s worth noting, also spoke to Isaacson for the biography, saying he became “super mean to me” after learning that Musk had shorted Tesla stock, or bet that its value would drop. “But he’s very bad for a lot of people,” he added, “so you can’t take it personally.”
This story was originally published on Fortune.com
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