Elon Musk in his own words: a Pando meta media mashup

By Adam L. Penenberg , written on May 10, 2013

From The News Desk

Elon Musk has been on a tear lately. First Tesla smashed earnings and revenue expectations then Consumer Reports gave the Tesla Model S an almost perfect score – 99 out of a possible 100 – calling it the best car it has reviewed since 2007. The stock is up about 60% this year, giving heartburn to traders who have been aggressively shorting the stock.

Over the years the ever-quotable Musk has had plenty to say, so we figured we'd provide a little hyperlink madness. Here he tells his story entirely in his own words.

Every now and then I sort of stick my foot in my mouth. Given some of my crazy tweets, I’m not sure you could tell if my account was hacked or not.

A lot’s going to happen in the next several years.  Computer-assisted driving is a logical step in the evolution of automobiles. I like the word autopilot more than I like the word self-driving. Self-driving sounds like it’s going to do something you don’t want it to do. Autopilot is a good thing to have in planes, and we should have it in cars. Creating an autopilot for cars at Tesla is an important, but not yet top priority. Still a few years from production.

I want SpaceX to help make life multi-planetary. We’re going all the way to Mars, I think. Best case, 10 years, worst case, 15 to 20 years. A future when humanity is a spacefaring civilization, out there exploring the stars, is an incredibly exciting future. The United States is a nation of explorers. America is the spirit of human exploration distilled.

I’d like to die on Mars, just not on impact. [First] we need to develop the technology necessary to transport large numbers of people and cargo to Mars, ultimately with the goal of establishing a self-sustaining civilization on Mars. You need to live in a dome initially but over time you could terraform Mars to look like Earth and eventually walk around outside without anything on. ... So it's a fixer-upper of a planet.  There's some potential, even though it sounds science-fictiony, for warp drive to work. Technically, to warp space such that you're traveling at the speed of light, but you've warped space so that space is actually traveling.

My main academic training is physics, which is a great framework for critical thinking. When you do something important and new, you need to boil things down to the fundamental truths and reason up from there. Physics is the framework for understanding the true nature of the universe. It's good mental training.

You only build value in a company if you're doing hard work to solve tough problems. I have always wanted to create exciting new products that push the frontiers of technology.  My motivation with Tesla and with SolarCity is just, I think, time is running out. We've got to do something. If things are just left on their own devices, it might be too late. It doesn't help to have a car that's cheap, but that sucks.

Always seek negative feedback, even though it can be mentally painful. They won't always be right, but I find the single biggest error people make is to ignore constructive, negative feedback. I don't have a problem w/critical reviews. I have a problem w/false reviews.

You may have heard … about an article written by John Broder from The New York Times that makes numerous claims about the performance of the Model S. We [were] upset by this article because it does not factually represent Tesla technology... The logs show again that our Model S never had a chance with John Broder. I call it a low-grade ethics was not in good faith. We [got] a lot of cancellations as a result of The New York Times article. It probably affected us to the tune of tens of millions, to the order of $100 million, so it’s not trivial…I would say that refers more to the valuation of the company. It wasn’t as though there were 1,000 cancellations just due to The New York Times article. There were probably a few hundred.

Being an entrepreneur is like eating glass and staring into the abyss of death. [In 2008] I went from working insane hours to totally insane hours. I felt pretty dammed bad. It looked like all my companies would die, and my marriage was over, [a] period of maximum suckage. I’m not staring into the abyss of death anymore. I’m just eating glass now. I’ve got all the sort of SpaceX kind of mental balls in the air and it’s the same with Tesla. It can be a little confusing as to whether I called a meeting for Tesla or SpaceX… I’m not doing it because this is the most fun way to live. I definitely would not recommend it. It is not the path to a happier life. My New’s Years resolution, actually, was to have more fun this year.

Most people, when they make a lot of money don’t want to risk it. For me it[s] never about money, but solving problems for the future of humanity.

I actually think, as long as the sun is shining, we'll be fine. If humanity had to get all of its energy from the sun, it could do so. There's truly an astounding amount of energy that comes at us from the sun.


1. "Elon Musk on Tesla Merger Prospects: Apple Has ‘a Lot of Cash,’" by Alan Ohnsman, Bloomberg, May 9, 2013.

2. "Elon Musk on Mars: 'It's a fixer-upper of a planet,'" by Julia Steers, CBS This Morning (video), Sep. 21, 2012.

3. "'Autopilot' Function on Tesla Cars Anticipated, Elon Musk Says It’s Years Away," by Ovidiu Sandru, The Green Optimist, May 8, 2013.

3. "Tesla CEO Talking With Google About ‘Autopilot’ Systems," by Alan Ohnsman, Bloomberg, May 7, 2013.

4. Elon Musk tweet, May 7, 2013.

5. "SpaceX Will Send Humans To Mars In the Next 10 to 20 Years," by Rebecca Boyle, Popular Science, Apr. 25, 2011.

6. "Elon Musk’s Mission to Mars," by Chris Anderson, Wired, Oct. 21, 2012.

7. "SXSW: Elon Musk Would Like to Die on Mars," by Degen Pener, Hollywood Reporter, Mar. 10, 2013.

8. "Elon Musk on Mars: 'It's a fixer-upper of a planet,'" by Julia Steers, CBS News, Sep. 21, 2012.

9. "SpaceX's Elon Musk and friends look to the future: Engage warp drive," NBC News, Apr. 23, 2013.

10. "Elon Musk Hits Frontier Milestones With SpaceX, Tesla," by Brian Deagon, Investor's Business Daily, Aug. 21, 2012.

11. "AutoblogGreen Q & A: Tesla Motors Chairman Elon Musk Pt. 3 - Lessons and WhiteStar hints," by Sam Abuelsamid, AutoblogGreen, Jun. 25th 2008.

12. "The Engadget Interview: Tesla's Elon Musk promises more Superchargers, better service, cheaper EVs that don't suck," by Tim Stevens, Engadget, Apr. 5th, 2013.

13. "Elon Musk Hits Frontier Milestones With SpaceX, Tesla," by Brian Deagon, Investor's Business Daily, Aug. 21, 2012.

14. Tweet from SXSW attendee, Katie Boehret, Mar. 9, 2013.

15. "A Most Peculiar Test Drive," by Elon Musk, Teslamotors blog, Feb. 13, 2013.

16. Tweet from Popular Mechanics, attending SXSW, Mar. 9, 2013.

17. "Elon Musk: Bad Review In New York Times Cost Tesla $100 Million," by Joann Muller, Forbes, Feb. 26, 2013.

18. SearchQuotes, undated.

19. "Elon Musk’s Risky Business," by Gary Rivlin, Men's Journal, Nov. 2011. . 20. "Elon Musk Hits Frontier Milestones With SpaceX, Tesla," by Brian Deagon, Investor's Business Daily, Aug. 21, 2012.

21. "Elon Musk’s Risky Business," by Gary Rivlin, Men's Journal, Nov. 2011.

22. "How Elon Musk Turned Tesla Into the Car Company of the Future," by Joshua Davis, Wired, Sep. 27, 2010.

23. "Icons: Elon Musk doesn't let up at Tesla, SpaceX," Chris Woodyard, USA Today, Apr. 17, 2013.

24. "Elon Musk, the Rocket Man With a Sweet Ride," by Carl Hoffman Smithsonian, Dec. 2012.

25. "Shit Elon Says: Elon Musk - The Future Of Energy And Transport," transcript, Nov. 14, 2012.