Elon Musk Says He Isn’t Sleeping and Hasn’t Taken Off More Than a Week Since 2001. But He Just Can’t Stop

Elon Musk Says He Isn’t Sleeping and Hasn’t Taken Off More Than a Week Since 2001. But He Just Can’t Stop

Elon Musk is completely burned out. Somehow, he’s apparently still going.

I was about to go to bed, and then I read the New York Times article that came out tonight about how Musk “alternated between laughter and tears,” while talking with a reporter Thursday, and how said that this past year had been “the most difficult and painful year of my career,” and called it “excruciating.” 

There’s so much to unpack in this. Musk explains the circumstances around his controversial “funding secured” tweet from earlier in the month–we’ll get to that in a second–but also quite frankly describes a bleak existence and a lifestyle that makes you wonder how much longer he can possibly keep it up.

It’s not just that he’s barely sleeping, and relying on Ambien when he does have the time to sleep, which he says partially explains his Twitter habit.

It’s not merely that claims to be working insane hours: 120 hours per week recently. (Keep in mind, are only 168 hours in a week to begin with.)

It’s that he sounds miserable, driven, obsessed, to the point that even he acknowledges the toll it’s taking on his health. Consider this passage from the article, which sums its tone pretty well:

Mr. Musk said he had not taken time off of more than a week since 2001, when he was bedridden with malaria.

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

Mr. Musk stopped talking, seemingly overcome by emotion.

He turned 47 on June 28, and he said he spent the full 24 hours of his birthday at work. “All night — no friends, nothing,” he said, struggling to get the words out.

It’s followed by how he very nearly had to miss being best man at his brother’s wedding, and just slipped in and out of the celebration before getting back to the factory, and it makes you wonder anyone could live like that for years at a time.

Mostly (and this is a very rare feeling for me toward billionaire tech entrepreneurs), I just wanted to give the guy a hug.

I kept thinking about that 17-year stretch with no extended time off since 2001: that goes back before SpaceX, before Tesla, obviously before The Boring Company. For Musk, it covers three marriages, the birth of both his twins and triplets, and also the tragic loss of his newborn son. 

You read all that frenetic activity, and you can start to fill in a lot of context around some of the frenetic tweeting he’s done: including both “pedo guy” and “funding secured.” (I am aware of course that this might be the entire reason for his apparently vulnerable interview.)

As for “funding secured,” as it’s now known, Musk says he woke up on Aug. 7, worked out, and drove to the airport (in a Tesla Model S). One the way, he tweeted, “Am considering taking Tesla private at $420. Funding secured.”

No, he said, he hadn’t shared his tweet with anyone before posting it. Yes, he said, he chose $420 because 420 is slang for marijuana–although he also said he hadn’t been high.

Tesla’s stock soared, before trading was stopped and the SEC started issuing subpoenas. Now, Tesla’s board is apparently trying once more to recruit a chief operating officer to take some of the pressure off of Musk.

But you wonder if he could step away even if he had the opportunity. 

Did he regret the “funding secured” tweet? the Times asked. Would he scale back his social media use?

“Why would I?” Musk reportedly replied.

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