Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX and the Eccentric Billionaire – Ashley Vance Book Review

I want you to leave a comment below of what the most amazing thing you did when you were 12 years old, and I’ll explain why later in this video.

Elon Musk was born in Africa, which not very many people know, but that didn’t stop him from reading every single book in the local library. In fact he ran out of books to read between 3rd and 4th grade. Anyways, before I get much further, I wanted to let you guys know this is going to be a book review of the biography of Elon Musk, written by Ashley Vance. Now, Ashley does an AMAZING job at being unbiased writing this book and including both sides to every story, and it’s something I wish more journalists could do so well.

By the age of 12, Elon had written a computer game with only 167 lines of code, sent it to a magazine and won $500, which was a lot of money for young Elon. He called the game Blastar and the player fought against space aliens. He said “Maybe I read too many comics as a kid, but it always seems like they are tyring to save the world. It seemed like one should try to make the world a better place because the inverse makes no sense.” Elon’s futuristic traits started at a young age, and coupled with his immense book knowledge and photographic memory, he soon because out of the ordinary. He didn’t have very many friends at school and his parents said it was not unusual for him to read 10 hours a day.

If you’ve ever studied Albert Einstein, you know of his famous “thought experiments” where he would run simulation of new ideas in his mind, which Elon recalls almost the same thing. “For images and numbers, I can process their interrelationship and algorithmic relationships. Acceleration, momentum, kinetic energy — how those sorts of things will be affect by objects comes through very vividly.” So he’s kind of like an Albert Einstein on steroids mixed with the Robert Downey Jr’s Sherlock prediction and analysis methods.

Throughout the book, his eccentric and unusual way of thinking becomes evident early on. For example, while Elon is playing outside one night with is siblings, one of them complains of the dark and how frightening it is; while Elon points out “dark is merely the absence of light”, and he would continue to point out thinking flaws to people because he genuinely thought people would be happy to hear about their flawed thinking. This is something he states he’s had to overcome while managing hundreds of people.

It’s worth noting that Elon’s dad, Errol was quite mean and caused Elon a “great deal of misery” throughout his childhood”. Some people say this gave roots to Elon’s managerial aspects, as Errol was also a great engineer. Let’s move on to the Easter Egg story.

Elon had entrepreneurial tendencies early on, as he collected many eggs, would paint them with his brother and sell them to a wealthier neighborhood during the Easter season. This is about the same time Elon started creating his own homemade explosives and miniature rockets, he said in one interview “it’s amazing how many things you can get to explode”. Also, “I’m lucky to have all my fingers”.

At around age 20, Musk saved up money, and moved to Canada, I believe to get closer to living in America, but also to avoid joining the military in Africa. He spent over a year in Canada doing odd jobs like gardening, which is also something I found interesting; because the millionaire social media celebrity Tai Lopez also worked on a farm for around a year during the same age.

During college, Musk considered making video games as a living; stating “I really like computer games, but then if I made really great computer games, how much effect would it have on the world?”. He said he couldn’t do it because he knew he could offer the world; and I think this is a conversation we all have to have within ourselves. He ended up graduating with a degree in both physics and economics from The University of Pennsylvania. An interesting fact is one of his research papers was on solar energy, and the economics from it; combining both physics and economics into a single report.

After college, Elon founded a startup called Zip2, and it basically combined yellowpages and Google Maps for an online directory of companies. One interesting thing about this startup is that Elon lived at the office, working some amazing hours, while taking showers at the local YMCA when needed. He was committed. I don’t want to get into the whole story, but if you’re interested just check out the book. While trying to get funding, Elon told one investor “My mentality is that of a samurai. I would rather commit seppuku than fail”. Seppuku is a form of suicide that samurais used to do as a form of punishment and honor. This gives us insight into his mentality, which is really important. He’s all or nothing, which is something I’ll talk about later on.

Another cool story about Elon is the mountain biking story. So Elon and his friends were invited to a mountain biking thing, but he definitely wasn’t in shape. Everyone went on their own pace, and first one friend passes, then his cousin passes, then more cyclists, then 15 minutes later Elon, purple-faced, panting, and drenched with sweat comes pumping up the hill to the top. One of his friends said “I always think back to that ride. He wasn’t close to being in the condition needed for it. Anyone else would have quit or walked up the hill. As I watched him climb up that final hundred feet with suffering all over his face, I thought, that’s Elon. Do or Die, but don’t give up”. This mentality is also super important, and something I think we can grow. Persistence and endurance even through pain.

I’m going to quickly skip over the part where he makes a whole bunch of money, over $100 million, basically selling x.com to Paypal, along with all of the difficulties to not spoil it, but lets talk about SpaceX for a bit. So Elon wanted to build a rocket, but couldn’t find one cheap enough, in fact he got a price of $8 million a rocket from the Russians, tried to bargain and quickly got sent home. So, what did Elon do? He took his own money, gathered up a group of people who knew how to build rockets, and started making his own rockets. Now there was tons of testing with this, but one thing was for sure, his employees were taken care of. One time, Elon remembers hearing an employee complain about his eyesight, but he didn’t know Elon was listening. The next day, Elon gave him some time off work, and paid for laser eye surgery. That’s a trait of a great leader. Elon did that with his own money. And we went on to spend his own $100 million on Tesla and SpaceX until he ran out of it, and had to start begging from his friends and family. Eventually there was a successful rocket launch and, well, now he’s a billionaire.

From this, we can learn 3 things about a successful entrepreneur, and I didn’t even get past the second half of the book in this review.

  1. Elon would rather die than not try.
  2. Elon never gave up, especially when it got tough. He gave it his all and had faith his ideas were going to work.
  3. Elon cared for his employees, and did whatever it took for them to get the job done.

I hope you guys enjoyed this review, if you want to read the whole book, or to pick out a free audiobook from audible, I have link in the description respectively. Thanks so much for watching, and subscribe for more! Oh yeah, and shoutout to galwaro for the background music, leave a comment what you think, link in the description!


Theodore created PracticalPsychology in his mother's basement after quitting university at age 19. From there, a dream was born to change lives by helping people understand how their brain works. By applying practical psychological principles to our lives, we can get a jumpstart on the path of self-improvement. 1,500,000 Youtube subscribers later, and that dream continues strong!

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 1 comments
Saifullah Jamil - November 24, 2017

This book review by this 20 year old guy was mind blowing that how he read books and carefully summarizes it! Amazing job, Theodore! Love from Pakistan! Oh BTW, I’m living in Canada but I was born in Pakistan :p


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