By Adam Lashinsky
As Elon Musk has climbed ever higher into the stratosphere of celebrity, some have likened him to Steve Jobs, the only near-contemporary whose accomplishments can compare to Musk’s commercial derring-do.
Musk is an entrepreneurial savant who runs not one but two pathbreaking companies, Tesla and SpaceX. Jobs for a time ran the animation studio Pixar while he was rejuvenating Apple, transforming it into a global powerhouse. Musk displays the narcissistic need to sound off on whatever happens to be on his mind — hence his fascination with Twitter. Jobs was a textbook example of what psychotherapist and business coach Michael Maccoby called a productive narcissist, a visionary risk taker with a profound desire to change the world who nevertheless was able to channel his efforts into concrete tasks.
The similarities between the two are many. Both craved access to the powerful. Musk has cozied up to former president Donald Trump; Jobs lent Bill Clinton a spare house on trips to Northern California. Both were workaholics who considered their vast wealth almost as an afterthought. Both showed uncommon virtuosity in promoting their products. Long before Musk made Twitter his bullhorn, Jobs demonstrated a self-taught mastery of granting interviews to carefully selected journalists as well as paying top dollar to advertise on the back pages of national magazines. There are other similarities: Jobs was in a serious relationship with folk singer Joan Baez in his twenties; Musk has two children with Claire Boucher, the musical artist known as Grimes.
That’s where the resemblances end. Jobs was mercurial, but he also was the portrait of discipline. He reserved a day of the week for meetings at Pixar, devoting the balance for Apple. He created a company ethic of saying no: Jobs would lecture Apple executives that rejecting even good ideas was critical for focusing on the most important matters at hand. And whereas Musk’s social life becomes odder the older he gets — despite his relationship with Grimes, the 51-year-old recently fathered twin children with an executive at one of his companies and then publicly joked about it — Jobs, who was 56 when he died, settled into middle-aged respectability, with four children and an accomplished partner.
Focus, discipline and respectability hold no allure for Musk.
Even before his bid for Twitter in April, he had his hands full running Tesla and SpaceX in addition to a bevy of start-ups, including the tunneling company Boring and Neuralink, a “brain-machine-interface” outfit that aims to implant chips into humans, having already done so with monkeys.
That was before Musk decided to bid $44 billion to buy Twitter, a quixotic effort that has transfixed the political, media and investment worlds. Musk explained only a portion of his intentions for Twitter, other than preserving it as a platform where anyone, including Trump, should be allowed to speak. He quickly had misgivings about the purchase, tried wriggling out of it, concocted irrelevant reasons for walking away, and then, sensing that his legal case was weak, agreed again to buy Twitter.
Now comes word, thanks to detailed reporting in The Post, that Musk plans to gut Twitter’s workforce, sending 75 percent of the staff packing, calling into question how the social media platform will continue to collect its current levels of revenue, which are already too small to make the company profitable.
Musk’s behavior regarding Twitter is consistent, at least. In recent weeks alone, he has appeared to carry water for Russian President Vladimir Putin by promoting a battlefield compromise in Ukraine — an assertion he disputes. (Nevertheless, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was not amused.) Musk has advocated for Taiwan being turned into a special administration region, naively suggesting the Taiwanese might fare a bit better than Hong Kong has. (Taiwan was not amused.) He whined about underwriting his Starlink’s internet service for the Ukrainian military. Then he agreed to continue footing the bill.
Friday, in what Musk appears to believe passes for droll humor, he praised Dmitry Medvedev, former president of Russia, for using Twitter to tease British Prime Minister Liz Truss, who announced her resignation Thursday.
Continue reading at Washington Post
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