He is said to be one of the most polarizing people in the technology industry to date. When asked, most people either love him, or they loathe him. Who is this man with simple roots who later grew up to lead the digital payment industry (Paypal), reinvent the automotive industry (Tesla), disrupt the space industry (SpaceX) and make the solar industry (Solar City) as common as the household telephone? That honor goes to none other than Elon Musk. I’m not a big fan of listening to biographies, but I will say that I found the book titled “Elon Musk”, written by Ashlee Vance and narrated by Fred Sanders, to be a fascinating journey into the life and actions of this brilliant and at time eccentric man. In many ways, because of all his accomplishments, he has been called more of a machine than a man. He rarely sleeps, demands precision, and dedication. And, as this book reveals, you do not want to get in the way while as this machine will steamroll you without question. Sadly, this often impacted his personal relationships and his marriage. If you enjoy books covering the technology industry or the people who make it up, I would highly recommend you listen to this book.
What I found fascinating was, from the beginning of Mr. Musk life, he thought differently from those around him. As a child, he was that one kid who was always picked on because he was different. He loved reading and learning things, and once he ingested a piece of knowledge, it stuck with him because he is said to have perfect recall; both a curse and a blessing. Yet, these are the type of people who do not conform to the pressures or norms of society, but instead think outside of the box and reinvent it. As with most other inventors, Elon Musk did not simply take existing ideas and make them better. Not at all. In most cases he would take an industry and turn it upside down no matter the road blocks, he would move forward until he succeeded. Life for those who were not onboard was often difficult and such people did not last long in any of his companies. One was either on board or thrown overboard.
He often would upset entire industries that have always done it a specific way for nearly a century, just because that is how it was said to be done. He instead would see the weaknesses and failures of an existing industry and try to recreate it from the foundation up. When he saw the inefficiencies of the space industry (NASA), he said to himself that he could do it cheaper, safer, and better than anyone else. He was able to analyze the people, process, and technologies required to launch a space craft, and in his mind, evaluate the many options what would condense the activity to it fundamental parts. Similarly, when he helped to create Paypal, he was not frightened away by all the government regulations or requirements. He just plowed on with his goal and we see how he upset the payment industry with his new way of doing things. One really begins to see how this genius of a man does not confirm to norms, but instead focuses on how to change the world by way of his technology. He does not want to be one of the better providers in a given industry, instead he wants to be the best and by being the best he knows it will ultimately impact the whole world.
I thought the narration by Fred Sanders was professional and the right fit for the book. For material that at times could be dry and slow, Mr. Sanders did a good job of keeping the listener engaged and entertained. From an audio perspective, the quality was excellent, the volume levels were consistent, and I do not recall any audio artifacts would listening. This is my first listen to this narrator, and I was not surprised to see that nearly all of his other works on Audible have between four and five star ratings.
If you enjoy stories of both success and failure, I think you will really enjoy this book. It does not pull any punches and during my listen I found that my opinions of this man would go between genius and crazy idiot. It is a fascinating story and one that is both worth your Audible credit and the nearly fourteen hours of audio.