Elon Musk’s Biographer Saw Him Flying into ‘Demon Mode’


According to Elon Musk’s biographer, Walter Isaacson, the billionaire entrepreneur has a tendency to enter what Isaacson describes as “demon mode” – a state characterized by intense productivity but also a dark and empathy-deficient demeanor.

During a recent interview on Twitter Spaces, Isaacson revealed that the term was coined by Grimes, Musk’s former girlfriend and mother of his two youngest children.

Grimes acknowledged that being around Musk in demon mode could be unpleasant but recognized its effectiveness in getting things done.

Isaacson, known for his biographies on innovators such as Steve Jobs and Leonardo da Vinci, plans to release his biography on Musk in September.

He points out that many brilliant and successful individuals, including Musk and Jobs, possess a “dark streak” that allows them to prioritize their larger mission by sacrificing some empathy.

In Musk’s case, this manifests as a maniacal sense of urgency that can intimidate his employees. Isaacson notes that Musk’s demeanor changes when others fail to match his level of urgency, often resulting in harsh criticism and verbal attacks.

During his two-year observation of Musk’s daily life, Isaacson found these moments of rage to be uncomfortable to witness.

He describes Musk as brutal and recounts instances when the billionaire tore into individuals, albeit never physically and usually in a flat monotone.

Isaacson notes that Musk would attack people relentlessly but, if they absorbed the lesson, he would quickly move on and forget the severity of his actions.

While Musk’s criticism proves effective around 80% of the time, it can be problematic in the remaining 20%, creating an atmosphere where people may become fearful of delivering bad news.

Isaacson provides an example of an employee whom Musk chastised but later discovered had made a mistake due to personal issues, such as recently losing a child.

Musk rationalizes his lack of empathy by considering it egotistic to prioritize an individual’s emotions over the larger mission at hand.

Isaacson aims to depict the complexity of Musk in his biography, exploring the balance between his dark streak and the remarkable achievements he has accomplished at Tesla and SpaceX.

He attributes Musk’s dark side and willingness to take risks to his troubled relationship with his father and the bullying he endured during his youth.

Musk’s mother, Maye Musk, has expressed concerns that her son, while exceptional, may be heading down a similar path as his abusive father.

The fact that Musk can display bouts of anger is not a new revelation.

Martin Eberhard, a co-founder of Tesla, has previously mentioned Musk screaming at him over press coverage.

Tim Higgins, in his previous biography on Musk, detailed instances where the billionaire exploded at top executives and employees on the Tesla assembly line, even leading to rage-fired dismissals.

Musk has denied allegations of rage-firing employees, calling them false and asserting that he provides clear and frank feedback to his team.

As Isaacson’s biography delves deeper into the complexities of Elon Musk’s personality, it sheds light on the balance between his remarkable achievements and the darker aspects that contribute to his drive and ambition.


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