Personally I wouldn’t bet on it; at almost every turn in his mercurial rise, it has been possible to say that the risks were such that he was almost bound to come a cropper. Yet so far, all his really big, visionary bets have paid off.
Luck or judgement? Who knows, but reading this biography, you rapidly come to appreciate that it is Musk’s self diagnosed “Aspergers” that is a large part of the ruthlessness and drive that helped make him the world’s richest man, a position he spars for with his great rival as a space entrepreneur, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos.
Musk plainly enjoys some of the accoutrements of success – private jets, unfettered access to the rich and powerful, glamorous girlfriends and so on, but money is not the primary motivation; for him wealth is merely a means to an end of driving through transformational technological change.
Nations are capable of remarkable things when at war; the fight for survival instils in them a determination to overcome seemingly impossible odds that you don’t find in peacetime.
It’s the same with Musk; he runs his companies as if on a permanent wartime footing, and when they grow lazy and complacent, or seem to forget the mission, he steps in to create chaos and a renewed sense of urgency. In his mind, no obstacle is insurmountable.
This may be partially true of all outstandingly successful entrepreneurs, but Musk has these characteristics to the power of ten.
All of which raises an interesting question. Musk is obviously unique in many respects, a genuine oddball who courts and delights in controversy – a drama queen as well as a serial creator of hugely successful businesses.
But he is also one of what is now a veritable army of extraordinarily impactful entrepreneurs that the US economy has given birth to these past 150 years. That the US can continue to foster such transformative wealth creators is testament to its enduring qualities as an economic superpower.
Sadly, the same cannot be said of the UK and Europe more widely. Why is this? Too much tax? Too much regulation? Not really. The World Bank’s last published “Ease of Doing Business” survey placed the US at just sixth in the rankings, with a score not much higher than that of the UK.
All such surveys are wide open to manipulation and should perhaps be taken with a large pinch of salt – the World Bank has actually discontinued its survey after Chinese meddling – but even so; US markets are notoriously highly regulated and well protected.