Skip to content

Elon Musk’s ‘Maniacal Sense Of Urgency’ Frightening To Some, Says Biographer

Walter Isaacson recounts incidents of Musk's dark demeanor when people lacked urgency.

Elon Musk has that “maniacal sense of urgency,” which often was frightening to people around him, according to his biographer Walter Isaacson.

A woman looks at British street artist Banksy’s mural “The Son of a Migrant from Syria” showing Steve Jobs, during a preview of the exhibition “The world of Banksy, the immersive experience” at the Milano Centrale main railway station in Milan on December 02, 2021.  (Photo by MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP via Getty Images) 

There were times when Isaacson walked with Musk at the Starbase station at Boca Chica or climbed on top of a solar roof that was being installed, or at Tesla, where the latter was creating something, the biographer said in a Twitter Spaces.

“Where you see him go dark, I mean, it isn’t just the face, his whole demeanor, and it’s because people aren’t having a maniacal sense of urgency,” Isaacson said on a Twitter Spaces session last week.

The same trait came to the fore during the first month at Twitter, he said, adding that he would go dark because people once again didn’t have the “maniacal sense of urgency.”

“And you knew what was going to happen. First, somebody was going to get leaned out and secondly, he was gonna order a surge,” Isaacson said. Giving an example, he said Musk would ask everybody to come to Boca Chica and get the rocket stacked on the launchpad.

“This stacked Starship 18 months before it was going to be ready, but it just extruded the shin out of the system, and it gave everybody that maniacal sense of urgency,” he added.

 That’s one of the five principles that are being discussed in the book, the biographer said.

Chief Executive Officer of SpaceX and Tesla and owner of Twitter, Elon Musk attends the Viva Technology conference dedicated to innovation and startups at the Porte de Versailles exhibition centre on June 16, 2023 in Paris, France.  (Photo by Chesnot/Getty Images) 

Isaacson also recounted an incident when he would be sitting in the room with Musk and the Tesla CEO would be with some “poor finance guy” looking at the cost of a component of a raptor. The billionaire would go dark and “I know that he was going to rip that person apart.”

“It’s uncomfortable for me to be sitting there at times because he is just brutal about somebody who’s talked up,” Isaacson said.

“And it was never physical, and it was almost done in a flat monotone,” he added.

Musk is someone who does not carry things over, the biographer suggested.

“But he would just really attack people and a few days later, if they had absorbed the lesson, he forgot about it,” he said.

It was like what Apple co-founder Steve Jobs used to do, “except for one order of magnitude larger,” he added.

“Eighty percent of the time was god, but you know, 20% of the time it just made people afraid to give him bad news and that type of thing.”


Produced in association with Benzinga

Edited by Alberto Arellano and Jessi Rexroad Shull

“What’s the latest with Florida Man?”

Get news, handpicked just for you, in your box.

Check out our free email newsletters

Recommended from our partners