Tesla CEO Elon Musk Offers a Rare Glimpse into his Personal and Professional Trials

Tesla CEO Elon Musk

It must be hard being Elon Musk, the CEO of one of the most controversial companies of our time. But Musk is controversial by his own right, and in an interview with the New York Times, the highly-regarded-yet-widely-criticized entrepreneur reveals his true exasperation at the events surrounding his initiatives.

Some excerpts from the interview:

On his overall experience over the last one year: “This past year has been the most difficult and painful year of my career. It was excruciating.”

On his physical health: “It’s not been great, actually. I’ve had friends come by who are really concerned.”

Denying that Tesla board members complained to him about his tweet: “I don’t recall getting any communications from the board at all. I definitely did not get calls from irate directors.”

On whether he regretted his tweet, which he confirmed that no one has reviewed or even seen before he sent it: “Why would I?”

On his 120-hour work week: “There were times when I didn’t leave the factory for three or four days — days when I didn’t go outside. This has really come at the expense of seeing my kids. And seeing friends.”

On spending the whole 24 hours of his 47th birthday on June 28, 2018, at work: “All night — no friends, nothing.”

His mistake thinking his problems were over after Model 3’s many successes: “I thought the worst of it was over — I thought it was. The worst is over from a Tesla operational standpoint. But from a personal pain standpoint, the worst is yet to come.”

On the incessant attacks from short-sellers: “at least a few months of extreme torture from the short-sellers, who are desperately pushing a narrative that will possibly result in Tesla’s destruction. They’re not dumb guys, but they’re not supersmart. They’re O.K. They’re smartish.”

On sometimes taking Ambien to help him sleep: “It is often a choice of no sleep or Ambien.”

On rumors of Tesla looking for a COO: “to the best of my knowledge…no active search right now.”

Despite having no plans to give up his position as CEO and Chairman, Musk said: “if you have anyone who can do a better job, please let me know. They can have the job. Is there someone who can do the job better? They can have the reins right now.”

These are the words of a man under immense pressure the likes of which none of us might ever know. If juggling several multi-billion-dollar companies isn’t enough, Musk is trying to break two of the strongest industries of all time – automobiles and energy. The amount of resistance he’s facing is understandable. And his taking Ambien “sometimes” has been referred to by at least Tesla watcher as Musk “relying on” it to get sleep. Wow, great find, F.L. I wonder what sort of drugs you’d be taking if you were under that kind of pressure.

By all standards, Musk is as resilient as the Model 3, not just in terms of performance against the competition, but in terms of sustainability. Musk doesn’t sound like he’s on the verge of a breakdown, as this same Tesla watcher claims. It sounds like he’s just letting out some of the frustration and tension building up inside him. And nobody can blame him for it.

Granted, his actions and words are often cryptic to many, but what do you expect from a man whose level of thinking is far ahead of his time? Have people called Henry Ford an “ignorant idealist” in the past? Did someone say of Thomas Edison that he was “too stupid to learn anything”?

All said and done, I think Musk is doing pretty well for himself.