The Man Who Called Trump “dumb ass”
It’s no hyperbole to describe the South Africa-born and now a US citizen Leon Musk as an enigma. He fits the bill perfectly. Not for nothing, Time magazine and the Financial Times have named him as the Person Of The Year 2021.
He is an engineer first with an unusually inquisitive mind coupled with hard work and a large dose of devil-may-care attitude. But for this cocktail of traits, he would not be where he is today: the world’s most well-known electric vehicle evangelist-cum-manufacturer. And successful at that.
Tesla and Musk are synonyms; the space explorer in whom the most cerebral NASA has entrusted the responsibility of sending astronauts to space after years of abandonment, bypassing the aerospace czars like Boeing and others. On his own, Musk is aiming to colonize Mars, the red planet.
Global auto giants had to eat crow and were left with no alternative but to jump into the new realm of electric vehicle manufacturing after Musk demonstrated it is doable, marketable, and showcased the huge pool of potential buyers worldwide not by talking, but through selling in the marketplace. For too long, they pooh-poohed the Tesla man and tried to wriggle out of internal combustion engine or ICE engine dalliance, despite the global warming threat looming large. Such a don’t-care attitude proved costly, with all ICE vehicle makers losing market share. Now they are jostling with one another in the EV race.
So, Musk fully deserves the awards. FT succinctly explains its rationale for choosing him: It picked him as its Person of the Year “because he has triggered a historic shift in the world’s auto industry towards electric vehicles. Even if Tesla were to collapse next year somehow — something that unlike two years ago, no one is now predicting — Musk would have transformed one of the world’s most important industries in ways that could have profound implications for governments, investors, and for the climate.”
Financial Times restricted its eulogy to one single broadsheet page. On the other, Time magazine profiled Musk in 15-odd pages between covers. An exhaustive coverage. Editor-in-Chief and CEO of Time Felsenthal go ga-ga in explaining his selection. “We don’t yet know how fully Tesla, SpaceX, and the ventures Musk has yet to think up will change our lives. At 50, he has plenty of time to write the future, his own and ours. Like it or not, we are now in Musk’s world. For creating solutions to an existential crisis, for embodying the possibilities and the perils of the age of tech titans, for driving society’s most daring and disruptive transformations,” TIME has picked Elon Musk as its 2021 Person Of the Year.
Musk is the world’s richest man with a personal asset of US$300 million, and Tesla’s market capitalization is over a trillion dollars. Mind you, he was broke multiple times over the years and almost on the verge of bankruptcy. Luckily Dame Luck smiled and came to his rescue every time. He is a maverick, no doubt.
A man with 67 million followers on Twitter, his thoughts in as few as 140 or lesser characters are consumed and acted upon instantly, causing a tsunami on Wall Street. A decade ago, he was laughed at and called “fraud” or “looney” by many. He has the gumption to call Donald Trump during his Presidency “dumbass” publicly via social media! He brushed aside those innuendos, and through a focus on the work at hand, he smashed his critics mercilessly
Perhaps he never heard the word “impossible.” And, he was never afraid of risk-taking, an essential ingredient to being a successful entrepreneur. Not everything one touches would turn into gold. Some may flop. Some may succeed. Musk knew his onions well. Yes, at times, he overpromised and under-delivered. Even then, what he offered was attention-grabbing.
All these wealth and accolades do not mean that he is hoisted on a pedestal for worship. He has his quota of opponents. Life will never be the same for him. Now that the auto giants have woken up and joined the competition to embrace the EV race to tame the global climate crisis, Musk may spend more time on the shop floor of his projects, risking his personal life as two women have walked out of his life due to his miscued work-life balance. Is he right? Who knows.
We may visit or even migrate to Moon or Mars, courtesy of Musk. But one thing is for sure. The future generation can breathe easier with less carbon emission due to Musk’s EV evangelism. That’s a big gift to humanity. Thanks, Musk!