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June 05, 2015

Some of the most shocking and interesting excerpts from the new Elon Musk biography.

Ashlee Vance’s new biography Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future is causing quite a stir in the tech world. Musk has shown over and over that his ambition knows no bounds, and has more than once (3 times!) dared to answer even the most kinda tricky questions in the world. Or should we say…the galaxy?

Yes, Vance’s new book is a groundbreaker. But that’s no problem for Musk, because where he’s going they don’t need ground.

Here are the 22 most groundbreaking quotes and questions that are sure to make you go “huh?”:

1. “Elon wouldn’t let us take him home from the hospital when he was born. In fact, he kicked us with those really hard baby shoes whenever we tried to take him out of the bassinet. No, he wanted to figure it out himself. And sure enough, he tied the blankets into a little rope ladder and rappelled down himself. He drove the car home.” – Janet Musk, Elon’s mother

2. “He doesn’t go to bed until everything he’s said that day is a palindrome.” – Justine Musk, Elon’s ex-wife, describing one facet of his perfectionism. Each night he makes sure everything he said that day is symmetrical (by letter, not phonetically) and has to start over if he makes a mistake. He hasn’t slept in 16 years, but this has led to many of his greatest inventions.

3. “Elon was such a precious kid. He’d just wanted me to heat up these frozen lasagnas, one after another. They looked terrible, but he would eat them right out of the microwave. He even invented a special glove so he could eat them with his hands without getting burned. He didn’t care if it burned his mouth I guess.” – Janine DeGresio, former babysitter

4. “Henry Ford once said, ‘if I had asked, people would have told me to invent faster horses.’ Before PayPal, when everyone was clamoring for lighter money, I said, ‘what if it was so light, it was in the computer?’ Of course, computers were very heavy back then; that’s why I had to invent iPhones.” – Elon Musk, on the genesis of the iPhone

5. “He goes into his brain, and then you just see he is in another world. He still does that. Now I just leave him be because I know he is designing a new rocket or something.” — Elon Musk’s mother describing how he looked when he was trying to remember where he hid his cigarettes and porno


6. “The first movie he ever saw was The Terminator, I’ll never forget it. He made a huge scene in the theater - throwing his popcorn, trying to rip his clothes off, just acting real bizarre. Something about the red eyes. I’ll never forget it. It seemed to drive him mad.” - Cordon Musk, Elon’s father

7. “One time in his late 20s - I think he was 27 or 28? - Elon had a girlfriend who would always complain that he worked too much. So you know what he did? He turned her into a business. Sold her to Peter Thiel for $3.2 billion in 2007.” - Tad Friend, writing in The New Yorker

8. “Working with Elon is great; he’s so inspired every time he’s here. The thing is, he never tells us which company’s office he’s going into that day. You know he’s the CEO of 8 companies: Tesla, SpaceX, SpaceY, SpaceZ, Hormel Chili, Mama Celeste’s Frozen Lasagnas, PayPal, Def Jam Records, and freecreditreport.com.” – Russell Simmons, founder of Def Jam Records

9. “I knew Elon was on to something big with PayPal..for weeks before that, he’d just pace around mumbling ‘electric money…electric money…’” – Brian Dennehy, early PayPal investor

10. “Musk was instrumental in our team’s success with the “orange” flavor. It’s come to be known as the most complex artificial flavor ever created by science, with an interplay of 30 distinct base flavors that’s totally unique, and it’s one of our most popular sellers as well. I think he was trying to make liquid lasagna.” – Robert Will, Chairman and CEO of Gatorade, Inc, on Musk’s contribution to the flavor of orange Gatorade

11. “Things were pretty bad there for a while. After Woodstock ’98, man…things were bleak. It took a while to recover from that.” – former business partner Brandon Crustik, on the failure of one of Musk’s early inventions, rap-rock.

12. “His first idea was an app that smells like pussy.” – Dayve Renaldo, CEO of VC firm Renaldo-Swimm, on the pitch meeting for SpaceX. Musk initially intended to pitch an app that smells like pussy, and then jotted down the plans for SpaceX in the waiting room as a backup plan.

13. “Elon’s hiring practices are the stuff of legend. He doesn’t want average Joes; he wants people who can think outside the box. We had two candidates for chief engineer at SpaceX; one guy had spent his entire life at NASA, and the other didn’t even apply. Elon thought that was really ballsy, so he hired him on the spot.” – Ridley Morgansette, Senior Executive Junior VP, SpaceX

14. “He hates being fooled.” - David Bradlee, high school principal

Elon-Musk space x.jpg

15. “Elon has sex 69 times a year and smokes weed 420 times a year. It seems crazy, but he does it. Of course, the weed thing can get in the way of work, so he consolidates it all to one day. That’s right, he smokes weed 420 times every Christmas. Well, it’s Presidents Day, but he calls it Christmas. He loves weed.” – L. Ron Hubbard, Jr., butler

16. “My next project is shaping up to be the hardest yet. A diet lasagna.” – Elon Musk, on his plans for the future

17. “Elon was a big inspiration for me. I was always in favor of apartheid until he emailed me some book recommendations and I kind of had to, well, rethink everything.” – Nelson Mandela, shortly before his death

18. “At one point, I was at a crossroads. It was either cars that ran on electricity, or computers that ran on gasoline. I flipped a coin and the rest was history. Or rather, it wasn’t history: it’s the future.” – Elon Musk, taking about the origins of Tesla

19. “Use your dog to work out discreetly if you have a few seconds.” – Elon Musk, delivering a TED Talk in Sweden, 2006.

20. “The 9 years I was trapped in an empty cement room with nothing but a basketball goal was probably the most trying time of my life.” – Elon Musk, on the period he was imprisoned by a toy clown and not released until he made 10 free throws in a row with both his right and left hands, and then 10 alternating between either hand, and then one simple layup off the backboard

21. “He loves his models. He can even get a little obsessive sometimes, painting them, organizing them on the mantle, you know - the whole deal.” - Talulah Riley, Musk’s wife, on his collection of paper mache penises (he has one of every president)

22. “Marc Andreesen [CEO of VC firm Andreesen-Horowitz] likes to go around calling Elon the real life Tony Stark, but I’ve always thought he’s more like the real life Garfield. I mean, all these inventions he invents because he’s lazy. He does nothing but eat lasagna – I mean the guy weighs 370 lbs.” – T.J. Ping, close friend and attorney for Tesla Motors