Elon Musk needs help

Nobody saw what really mattered

Startup da Real
Sep 19, 2018 · 8 min read

For some time I have been following Joe Rogan’s podcast, I believe it’s one of the best interview models out there.

Reaching almost 3 hours of duration and covering the most varied topics the show manages to deep dive into themes with its guests that hardly would speak more openly in other shows.

Could be easy to answer “15 minutes interviews”, but even for highly trained people sustain their mask for so long — being captured by the cams and having no control over how the subjects will be raised and addressed — it is a hard thing to do.

I was happy to see that one of the interviewees last week was Elon Musk. I do not have any personal appreciation for the businessman, but I think he has some interesting things to say besides the obvious we see out there.

I do not think any other place has a format so conductive to lead to interesting conversations.

Unfortunately, the marijuana

This is the most irrelevant point of the podcast. The subject that should have less repercussion of all that was said — and even what wasn’t — throughout the interview.

After two hours and ten minutes of podcast, after drinking a fair amount of Whiskey, Joe Rogan takes a joint and Musk ends up trying out.

I even mocked a meme of the scene on Twitter for being an unusual scene, but I confess that I regret having paid so much attention to this detail of the interview.

Both drank a fair amount of Alcohol throughout the podcast. A drug that is known to be more harmful than marijuana and responsible for more medical occurrences.

It’s important to make it clear: smoking marijuana is a legalized activity in the state where they were filming the show.

Moreover, Musk does’t actually smoke. The video shows that it just pulls and releases the smoke quickly, far from being enough for any real effect.

It is curious to emphasize that the much more damaging and also legal activity that was repeated throughout the program, the many Whiskey sips, did not cause any comment.

Another activity — as much legal as — that it was not even really done, caused all that fuss. By fuss, I don’t mean half a dozen people were posting photos and doing memes, but for the falling stock prices and for a military investigation.

What really mattered

I know very little about Elon Musk, nothing beyond the great achievements spread by the media. But it didn’t take long for me to feel that the speech was a little drawn and at several moments it seemed that the South African businessman was about to fall down in tears.

It is very easy to notice that on subjects that do not involve his great success and his fame as a creative genius, Musk chokes and seems to be extremely contemplative.

Because the entrepreneur’s speech was too strained, finding it difficult to express his thoughts in a way that does not match the extensive public relations training that someone in his position undergoes, I decided to look and compare his past interviews.

The first one I found was still a panel this year at SXSW. Elon Musk shows an expression of extreme tiredness, with his swollen eye bag and the same kind of slow-spoken speech that was noticeable in the conversation with Joe Rogan.

I decided to look for other older interviews, because sometimes the problem was just my perception. There is a chance Musk has always been this exhausted guy with signs of depression and, I just don’t watch him enough.

But no.

Inan interview for Vanity Fair in 2015, Musk looks much more in line with what is socially expected of an eccentric billionaire, well rested and, with a fluid and much more eloquent speech.

I kept watching his older interviews and the perception was the same. Somewhere between last year and this year, things have started to get worse for the billionaire. Maybe they were not good before, but now it shows up much more strongly.

We can not jump to conclusions about the mental health of Elon Musk only by the change in the tone of voice in his speeches and his physical appearance, but joining these factors to the excesses that he has been committing on Twitter and the controversies that he happened to be involved, the diagnosis is getting more evident.

So I went to look for interviews and reports about the mental state of the Tesla’s founder, and my guesses become a certainty.

Elon Musk is not well.

In a recent interview with the New York Times, this perception is clear.

Musk makes it clear during every interview that he is having an “excruciating year” and recounts some difficult times that have been affecting his life.

Among the most forceful, quotes we have the feeling that the entrepreneur misses the real life.

“There were times when I didn’t leave the factory for three or four days, this has really come at the expense of seeing my kids. And seeing friends.”

At this point, the article says that Musk needed to stop and recover from the emotions. And the interview continues to give more clues that the exaggerated routine is ruining the life of the businessman.

On his birthday, Elon Musk says he spent the 24 hours working:

“All night — no friends, nothing.”

Another impressive story presented by the interview is about his brother's wedding. The billionaire flew straight from the factory and arrived on time for the ceremony. At the end of the wedding, he took his private plane and returned to work.

“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.”

A simple and more emotional interview reporting his personal problems was enough to overturn Tesla’s stock.

When your tears can cost millions of dollars, the only possible action is to deny it. The world does not yet see with good eyes men who are moved by their emotions.

The answer to this, of course, is to deny that there were tears throughout the interview and that it was all a misunderstanding.

The information that “Elon Musk did not cry” was more publicized than the interview itself. This suggests a public relations job to contain a possible crisis.

Drug Abuse

I saw a lot of people saying that Musk’s difficulties comes from drug abuse, especially after the episode in Joe Rogan. However, there is a reason to believe that at least marijuana isn’t the case.

When Rogan questions the businessman about marijuana use, Musk says he doesn’t like it because it’s bad for productivity. It may be just for the sake of speaking, but it is a very common statement among highly productive people, who often prefer other substances. The general opinion is that marijuana leaves the brain slow and makes productivity difficult.

We might suggest that there are other abuses, but it would be mere speculation. In addition to the alcohol that Musk consumes easily during the conversation with Joe Rogan, the interview in The New York Times describes that Musk makes use of Ambien also known as Zolpidem, a hypnotic used in the treatment of insomnia.

“It is often a choice of no sleep or Ambien”

It is very difficult to believe that someone with the charge and productivity assigned to Elon Musk is free enough to be highly dependent on some kind of drug. The declines in his productivity would certainly raise an even bigger problem and, this would be reflected in declines in company stock and a possible replacement of the CEO.

Success corrupts freedom

In a society guided by the cult of professional success, romanticizing the successful giant entrepreneur who kills himself working too much is inevitable.

It is common to hear the same arguments cited in this essay demonstrating that Elon Musk is likely to be under a severe depression, with a completely opposite perspective, praising the entrepreneur for his outstanding performance.

To say that he prioritizes work instead of friends and children, that he did not enjoy his brother’s wedding party and went straight to work and that his own birthday was locked working in the factory, sounds like music to success enthusiasts.

But in the eyes of Elon Musk himself, as we can see, reality does not look so beautiful.

This idea that success comes with glory and happiness is true until the second page when the pressure begins to come.

Elon Musk’s latest interactions show that in addition to not being able to really enjoy his individual freedom, having each of his attitudes punished by the company’s shareholders, the luxuries and potential advantages of being a billionaire do not seem to outweigh the size of the pressure ends up suffering.

The market continues to ruthlessly romanticize Musk’s image, and his behavior has been characterized as a side effect of his extremely creative side.

The lack of approach on the psychological state of the entrepreneur is to impress. The narratives follow the example of great geniuses of the past, who had their depressions and episodes of suicides romanticized as part of the negative side of being too intelligent.

Although I personally do not consider Elon Musk as creative as the media tries to project, there are no signs that his mental health is impaired and that they keep trying to “soften” this impression by romanticizing the stereotype of the misunderstood genius.

It should be emphasized that none of this exempts the billionaire from the many problems that exist in the Tesla’s factories that are his responsibility. Not even the aggression to the diver in the case of Thailand.

But when we see the media shouting about someone who has experienced a legal substance during a conversation, we see that other, much more serious and important issues are left out.

I hope it doesn’t happen, but if something worse happens to Musk, what’s left is his speech to Rogan:

“Those people you think are super happy — actually not that happy. Really depressed, they’re very sad.[…] Some of the happiest seeming people — actually some of the saddest people in reality”


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Os bastidores do circo empreendedor

Thanks to Felipe Correa, Pedro Drewanz, and Diego Mendes.

Startup da Real

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