An Open Letter From Huffington To Musk

On August 16, 2018 Elon Musk revealed the personal toll of his past year to the New York Times. The next day, Ariana Huffington tweeted Elon an open letter asking him to work smarter not harder, to take time to recharge his body and mind, to be better, more productive, and more careful regarding his physical, emotional, and mental health.

During the small hours of the next day, presumably after returning home from a long day of work, Musk replied:

Tesla In For The Long Run

It seems that Elon Musk is suffering from a lot of pressure. Musk has faced both engineering and financial challenges in building an affordable electric car, and there are many obstacles yet to overcome. Musk’s original misstep might have been seriously underestimating the lack of capable talent available to replace him once he made it to the top.

Tesla will definitely face opposition from the guilty parties of, “Who Killed The Electric Car?”, as well as short sellers, who aim to devalue the stock price of Tesla. Lastly, Musk faces criticism from both detractors and allies like Arianna Huffington, renewing attention to the issues of work-life balance, work ethic, and individual autonomy.

Are You Betting On Humanity or Against It?

If the reader can suspend their disbelief that Elon Musk is an ordinary human being, I think we can agree that no one alive is immune to such a damaging parade of intense and constant stress. Maybe that’s why Tesla is one of the most shorted stocks on the New York Stock Exchange. However, before this woeful doubt devolves into talk about stopping assembly of electric vehicles and pulling cars off the streets, let’s please take a history lesson from 2002 and try hard not to repeat our same obvious mistakes.

Possible outcomes for Tesla:

  • Tesla could succeed, leaving Musk sitting comfortably as one of the most helpful and influential figures in the history of human society.
  • Tesla could fail and be forced to shut down the factory due at least in part to actions taken by short sellers to devalue the stock of the the company.
  • Tesla stock prices flag, and equity might be sold to the next big autonomous or electric vehicle company. Innovation would continue to some extent as usual. 
  • Tesla stock prices flag, and equity might be sold to a short sale interest that shuts down the factory, recalls products, and compacts all the cars currently on the road today.

“Are you betting on humanity or against it?” The short seller’s motives are inherently at odds with a viable solution to a growing energy crisis. If their short positions are right, the future would be even more dismal than the 2002 discontinuation and repossession of the GM EV-1. The short sellers are strongly incentivized to kill the electric car again, and that causes a troubling conflict of interest when an existential humanitarian threat could be at stake.


Strivers and Thrivers

There are two sides to the topic of work-life balance, strivers like Elon Musk and thrivers like Arianna Huffington, and camps have formed on both sides of the polarizing issue, sparking a conversation on the topic among many thought leaders in the industry.

Strivers

Elon Musk is by no means alone in setting audacious goals, and being fanatically obsessed with achieving them. His situation demands high expectations, and building consumer faith in the breakneck speed that he employs to achieve the seemingly impossible. Strivers can land rockets, and strivers have an unshakable belief in the importance of hard work. Strivers talk about “hustle”, as in putting in the right kind of effort, and for strivers when it comes to success, “hustle” is just another part of the equation.

Thrivers

Arianna Huffington, and her new startup Thrive Global represent the thrivers. Thrivers prioritize health, wellness, family, and friendships above work. Thrivers like Robert Owen and Karl Marx deserve credit for winning the eight hour workday, and now a new generation of thrivers is pushing back against the memetic voluntary 80 hour work week. Alexis Ohanian, co-founder of Reddit, took a stand against “hustle” culture at the Web Summit 2018 in Lisbon, and he’s asking thrivers to join the fight:

“This idea that unless you are suffering, grinding, working every hour of every day, you’re not working hard enough … this is one of the most toxic, dangerous things in tech right now,”

It begs the question, who is responsible for the consequences when lifestyle advice can be packaged with hidden risks, marketed, and sold, often times to a vulnerable audience? How do we hold purveyors and consumers of advice accountable when, like the lending of a subprime loan, some of the packages of that advice eventually implode, leading to catastrophic results?

Whitman’s Idea

How much are “strivers” and “thrivers” born that way, and how much do they learn along the way? Can we both understand our true selves and adopt the traits that best suit our circumstances – not blindly follow prevailing cultural norms or presume to know how others should live their lives? Can strivers and thrivers coexist? Can the two opposing worldviews be reconciled in the individual? Maybe so, maybe that’s what Whitman meant, “If I contradict myself, very well then I contradict myself.” That was quite a supreme idea he had there.

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Categories: Productivity