Life Lessons you could draw from the Elon Musk Episode

Elon Musk: “But from a personal pain standpoint, the worst is yet to come”,

If you don’t know who’s Elon Musk, you should probably not be reading this piece. The 47-year old CEO of Tesla and SpaceX is what very person perhaps aspires to be: young, smart, rich and famous but more importantly, spearheading efforts to literally change the way this planet works. He’s already making cars that run on electricity and his rockets could revolutionize the way international travel happens and his underground tunnels could cut the traffic creeps that plague all the major urban centres of the world.

On 7th August morning, Pacific Time, he made the following fateful tweet: “Am considering taking Tesla private at $420. Funding secured.” This lead to the share prices sky-rocketing, leading NASDAQ to suspend the trading mid-day. The price finally closed at $379, up 11 percent from the previous close. This impromptu twitter announcement lead to a formal SEC investigation and questions were being asked whether the funding indeed had been “secured”. There were also murmurs of dissent from the various Board members who expressed annoyance that they had not been informed, much less consulted. The share price ended the week on 17th August at $308.58.

This was preceded by Elon Musk’s one-hour long interview with the New York Times, which was published on 16th August in which he stated “This past year has been the most difficult and painful year of my career. It was excruciating.” In the interview he struggled to maintain his composure and revealed that he had been working 120 hours a week and taking Ambien to sleep. He had spent his last birthday literally confined to the office cabin and had nearly missed his brother’s wedding, where he was the best man. Musk said “The worst is over from a Tesla operational standpoint”, referring to the concerted effort of the short-sellers to beat down the Tesla stock. “But from a personal pain standpoint, the worst is yet to come”, he concluded ominously.

NYT reported, “In the interview, he demonstrated an extraordinary level of self-reflection and vulnerability, acknowledging that his myriad executive responsibilities are taking a steep personal toll.”

Self (Health), Work, Family, Friends: A sense of proportion

Efforts are already afoot to find a Chief Operating Officer to relieve Musk, who continues to hold the two posts of the Chairman and the CEO, of a significant part of his day-to-day duties. No one knows where it shall end for Elon Musk personally or his listed entities and we can only wish him well. However, it’s time for us to withdraw ourselves from the theatre of action and see what lessons, if any, we can draw from this episode.

1.Everything, fame and fortune included, comes with a price; sometimes it is too high to be worth it.

2. It’s not just about Work-Life Balance; it’s about an overall sense of proportion in life.

3. A single man working 120 hours a week cannot achieve disproportionately good results on a sustainable basis.

4. Personal events, relationships and your health may not wait for your organizational objectives/ financial targets to be achieved.

5. One may seem to be in a cruise-mode, too safe and too good to fail. However, one false-step can trigger a rapid downfall. Don’t be brash, stay humble.

6. A missed wedding of your brother and a ruined birthday cannot be compensated in terms of money. Regret is killing.

7. You may look invincible and invulnerable but we are all very fragile and brittle. Plus, no one is indispensable.

8. Short-sellers of your stock are not your sworn enemies; it’s just about their beliefs pitted against yours.

9. You can’t talk the market up; it is heartless but not mindless.

10. When shit happens, you encounter challenge from unexpected quarters.

11. Don’t mortgage your present health and fitness — both physical and mental — for future work targets.

12. Never put yourself in a situation where the option is between “no sleep” and Ambien.

We see, not the famous people, but rather their public image. We may get envious or even jealous of this image. But let us not forget that beneath the façade of a smiling handsome face, may be a troubled mind, body and soul — a personality crying out loud for help. Someone who lost track somewhere down the line, while being guided by their solitary “Northern Star”. We obviously can’t live their life for them but if we can learn some lessons of life from their experiences, I’d think we are pretty lucky.


K.B.S. Sidhu. The author is an IAS officer of 1984 batch of Punjab cadre. The views expressed are his own.

He can be reached on or @kbssidhu1961 or





Dad, Leo, Mentor, ex-IAS, 1984 batch, superannuated as Spl. Chief Secretary, Punjab. Electronics Engineer, University of Manchester, UK, and Harvard Alumnus.

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KBS Sidhu, ex-IAS

KBS Sidhu, ex-IAS

Dad, Leo, Mentor, ex-IAS, 1984 batch, superannuated as Spl. Chief Secretary, Punjab. Electronics Engineer, University of Manchester, UK, and Harvard Alumnus.

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