NOT-Elon Musk Interview Part 3 — The Women in His Life

In our experience, not many people, even innovators, rate three interviews. But NOT-Elon Musk is a complex, often misunderstood or maligned, crazy brilliant innovator. He is not just a “visionary” (sees the future). Musk is a Vision Master (makes it happen). How does he do it? This week’s topic is about the women that Not-Elon surrounds himself with to empower his Vision Mastery. We’ll be talking about his personal life but the focus is on his widely successful business life.

You might say that Not-Elon, sometimes a Jerk, sometimes even an Asshole, has a not-so-secret formula, and it involves an entirely different part of his visionary thinking. He recognizes that women hold belief in him like nobody else does, and therefore make extraordinary Execution Masters. Without an Execution Master (or several), a Vision Master is not likely to succeed, let alone to an atmospheric level (pun intended).

Enjoy this interview either via podcast, video or transcript and let us know what you think.

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Robert Steven Kramarz (Rob)       Well, hi again, NOT-Elon Musk. How are you?

NOT-Elon Musk:             Hey, Rob. How are you doing?

Rob:        We have Not-Elon Musk again here on the Vision Master podcast. I’m Robert Steven Kramarz, founder of Intelliversity, cofounder of Intelliversity, and we’re proud to … And actually, we’re going to have some fun today in interviewing Not Elon Musk on the subject of the women of Not Elon Musk. And it’s going to really be interesting, but this not going to be a Hollywood gossip column podcast, we’re really going to bring this right back to business.

Not-Elon Musk:             Perfect.

Rob: Yep. Because I know you don’t like to talk about your personal life very much, do you Not Elon?

Not-Elon Musk:             I do not not.

Rob: So if I ask you some personal questions, are we going to answer them?

Not-Elon Musk:           Well, I’ll tell you to piss off if I think you’ve gone too far.

Rob: All right.

Not-Elon Musk:      All right?

Rob:        I expect that.

Not-Elon Musk:             Okay.

Rob:       Because the women, there’s kind of two, well, actually three categories of … No, I’m going to make that four categories of women in the life of you, of Not Elon.

Not-Elon Musk:            Okay.

Rob:       One, there’s your mother, Maye.

Not-Elon Musk:            Right.

Rob:        Who I always want to say Mae West, but I know it’s Maye Musk. There’s Maye, there’s your wives, Talulah and Justine, with whom you had five kids, there’s your current relationship with Claire Boucher aka musician Grimes.

Not-Elon Musk:            Well there’s more than five, but that’s all right.

Rob :      What’s that?

Not-Elon Musk:             I think you lost track of a couple kids, but that’s okay.

Rob:      Oh yeah, well you have five living kids with them. And then the women in your business life, which is really where I want to go with this, which are women like Gwynne Shotwell and Robyn Denholm, and a number of others that presently I’m not familiar with their names, but I know you work with them. But focusing on Gwynne and Robyn Denholm. So there’s a kind of family similarity or family resemblance between all these women, not in the physical looks, but in the way they are with you. What would you say that is, starting with your mom and all the women you work with and the women you’ve married?

Not-Elon Musk:            My mother was a very strong woman. She was not just strong emotionally, but she was intellectually, and she still is intellectually very powerful. So I grew up in the presence of accomplished women. My mother believed in me when others did not, and that’s certainly, without becoming too much of a cycloid freak, we tend to try to find women that look like our mothers or they are the exact opposite. It’s kind of one of those things.

And so I’ve always found that all the women in my life were intellectually powerful and very talented people in their own right. So I think that that would be a common landscape for all of them.

Rob:      All right. And what does that enable them to give you that’s so valuable to you?

Not-Elon Musk:            What’s interesting is that I think I touched a little bit about that belief, all the women in my life believe in me, even when those rare instances when I don’t believe in myself, like in the very dark years. So I’ve found that those women make me a better man and make me a better Elon, so I think that in the presence of that kind of person, I’m better off and much more productive as a benefit of that.

Rob:        So would it be accurate to say, and I’m going to look into this more closely when it comes to the women you work with, but that it’s one plus one equals three?

Not-Elon Musk:           Absolutely. I don’t know any other way to say it. I’m better off as a result of being around those people than I would be on my own left to my own devices.

Rob:        So that’s this one plus one plus one, so the three ones make three. So you’re the first one, one plus one is the talent and ability of the woman in your life, and the third one would be the fact that they make you into a better Elon.

Not-Elon Musk:            Yes.

Rob:        That’s how you get three out of the two ones.

Not-Elon Musk:            And also, if you think about the Mission Impossible management style, I give them an impossible mission, and often when they come back, they come back with something better. So that’s another part of that.

Rob:       Maybe that’s a one plus one equals four.

Not-Elon Musk:           Could be. We are doing extraordinary things. We get that to a 10, and I think we’re going to be right where we need to be.

Rob:        Maybe we’re already at one plus one equals 10, we haven’t even defined the other. We’ll let the listeners come up with the other six ones.

Not-Elon Musk:         Right.

Rob:        But certainly one plus one equals three, because they make you a better Elon, plus they bring their own skills and magic into the relationship, right? So your mother was the first example of that?

And then a little later, you met Justine.

Not-Elon Musk:           I would have to say so. Right.

Rob:       Justine Wilson, who’s the mother of five of your kids. There was also a child that was lost along the way?

Not-Elon Musk:           Yeah.

Rob:      Right?

Not-Elon Musk:            Terrible.

Rob: But anyway, she’s the mother of your five kids, but that didn’t really work out that well, that marriage. What are you going to tell us about what went wrong there?

Not-Elon Musk:             Nothing.

Rob:        Nothing went wrong, or you’re not going to tell me anything?

Not-Elon Musk:           I’m not going to tell you. Look, that’s just not my shtick. I’m not going to go there. She’s the mother of my children, we have a relationship, I’m not going to interfere with it in any way, and I promise you there are no business lessons there.

Rob:        Okay. Well the interesting thing was that she’s a novelist.

Not-Elon Musk:            Right.

Rob:        And you’re a technologist and a business leader, and you both went off at the very beginning of your relationship in your professions, right?

Not-Elon Musk:            Absolutely.

Rob:        And she claims that it was just you didn’t have enough time for her. Any truth to that?

Not-Elon Musk:           Absolutely. We were building a lot. We were building PayPal, we were building all kinds of things at those times, so she’s probably right. What else you got?

Rob:        But you got the five kids, and they’re the love of your life, right?

Not-Elon Musk:            Right.

Rob:        That’s what you say.

Not-Elon Musk:            Right.

Rob:       What’s that like for you?

Not-Elon Musk:            I love my kids. I think it’s when I’m the happiest when I’m around them, and to have a new baby as well as those five, that’s pretty wonderful.

Rob:       So then you married Talulah Riley, and there’s no kids there. Actress.

Not-Elon Musk:          Right.

Rob:      And your first wife says that she thinks that … Justine says that Talulah’s probably better matched to you than she was. Why do you think that is?

Not-Elon Musk:            Oh. I don’t know, she’s probably better able to understand my drive and my schedule having whatever run because she’s a talented actress in her own right, so she probably understands what it’s like to be very busy.

Rob:        So there’s a degree of acceptance there from Talulah that just you’re who you are and you’re not going to try to change it.

Not-Elon Musk:             I’m cooked. I am Elon Musk and I think nobody’s really going to be successful in changing me.

Rob:        Right. And that’s what we get from all of them… we get that message from your mom, from Justine, from Talulah, and from the women you work with, that in order to make you a better Elon Musk, they’ve got to begin by accepting your jerkhood, right?

Not-Elon Musk:            Amen, brother. I’ve been knighted. I’m a knighted jerk.

Rob:        Sir Jerk?

Not-Elon Musk:             Sir Jerk.

Rob:        Sir Elon Jerk?

Not-Elon Musk:            Sir Elon Jerk the First.

Rob:        So why do you … I guess that’s a stupid question, but why are you a jerk?

Not-Elon Musk:            I think if you’re as committed to the things that I’m personally committed to, it takes an extreme amount of focus, dedication, and time. And I think if I were to be distracted by a million little things in a day, I wouldn’t be able to do those things. So sometimes when you say no to people, they take it personally or they don’t understand that you just don’t have the bandwidth for their silly little thing. And so that comes across as being a jerk.

Rob:       Yeah, it does. Because the very fact that you say it’s they’re silly little things.

Not-Elon Musk:             Right.

Rob:        So one would not describe you as high on emotional intelligence, right?

Not-Elon Musk:          Well, I don’t know if emotional intelligence, but I’m not high on … Look, I’m trying to save the planet, and I don’t really care that you don’t like the shade of pink that those flowers are. And so, I understand that I’m not the perfect person to hang out with when I’m in one of my very, very frequent modes of getting stuff done.

Rob:       Right, getting stuff done, which is most of the time, right? But you’re also not very diplomatic about it, but you don’t give a shit whether you’re diplomatic about it or not, that’s just who you are.

Not-Elon Musk:            Well, it takes time and mental energy to be diplomatic that I’d rather spend on other things.

Rob:      Yeah. I got it. So that’s why that would come up as an element of your jerkhood. So now we turn to the women at work, and the two that I want to highlight are Gwynne Shotwell at SpaceX, and now we have Robyn Denholm, who technically is your superior, over at Tesla. But on the other hand, you’re the major stockholder, so no one is your superior, really.

Not-Elon Musk:            Right.

Rob:        And we don’t really know much about Robyn’s personality, but I think one thing we can be sure of is that she, like Gwynne, are execution masters.

Not-Elon Musk:            Correct.

Rob:        To your vision master.

Not-Elon Musk:             Correct.

Rob:        And there’s a relationship between that and your mom and your ex-wives in that in order to function as your execution master, they’ve got to pretty much, on the one hand accept you, and actually … What do you like to say? Build you up?

Not-Elon Musk:            Believe.

Rob:      Believe in you. Believe in you, yes. Yes.

Not-Elon Musk:            It’s very much a symbiotic relationship, which is I think what you’re getting at when you say one plus one equals three. Both of those women are very, very talented women who have great capacity, great skill, and intellect. So they come with a respect on my part where I actually truly can value their input.

Rob:        So it’s their excellence, independent professional excellence, and that makes it possible for you to believe that they do believe in you, right?

Not-Elon Musk:            Otherwise I would think they were pandering.

Rob:       Right, right, right. They’re not pandering, right.

Not-Elon Musk:             So if you think about it, that’s a very tricky relationship, but it’s one that I’m very glad I have, because I couldn’t do what I do without those two women in those two positions.

Rob::        So one thing that makes them useful to you and powerful is that you are clearly a disrupter, disruptive type personality.

Not-Elon Musk:             Guilty as charged.

Rob:      What’s that?

Not-Elon Musk:            Guilty as charged.

Rob:        Guilty as charged. And you like the spotlight. You like the limelight, no question about that.

Not-Elon Musk:             Right.

Rob:       Whereas they, while carrying out your vision, don’t seek the spotlight, and they act as more of a stabilizer, whereas you’re rocking the boat all the time, they view their job as stabilizing the boat.

Not-Elon Musk:             Right.

Rob:        There’s some tension there obviously like, “Stop rocking,” and you go, “I’m rocking,” and they’ll-

Not-Elon Musk:            I’m rocking.

Rob:        … go, “Okay, well then I’m going to stabilize.” And it seems to work pretty well, but you have to pick well. And of course, they carry out the vision, they’re integrators, they are better at managing people. So talk to me for a moment about how they help you manage your organization. What can you say about that?

Not-Elon Musk:             Well, and I’m going to step on some dangerous territory here, but in general, I would say that women are better at relationships than men are. Business is a lot about relationships. It’s maybe all about relationships. But women are better at relationships than men, and she’s certainly better at relationships than I am, so I’m able to rely on her to make sure that they do that. Women are also more detail-oriented, so I think there are differences between men and women, thank God. There’s a few I’m very, very, very supportive of, but it’s those differences that may make women better execution masters than men.

Rob:        Well, I’ve got to say this. Look, I have been an advocate of diversity on management teams for many years, so I can’t disagree with you, I fully agree with you. I just want to add to this that you’re talking about generalities here, that there are some women who are not good execution masters, some men that are great execution masters, some women are better at being vision masters, we’re just talking about averages here. The generalities, right?

Not-Elon Musk:            Well, it’s funny, I get a kick out of everybody that talks about diversity, because I embrace diversity, but it’s the diversity that I embrace. In other words, if everybody’s the same, then you can’t have diversity. So by its very nature, it’s the differences between myself and others that create the diversity, so you can’t bring on people that are exactly like you all the time or you won’t have any diversity.

Rob:       And then you have been really good at that, I’ve noticed. We’re not talking here about diversity strictly by gender diversity or racial diversity or age diversity alone, what you’re looking for and what I seek is diversity of how you work, how they work, how they think, how they lead, how they manage. You need diversity in all those areas, which is best accomplished by bringing in diversity of races and genders, but you could just as easily have a team of men and women that are all acting like vision masters that still wouldn’t work.

Not-Elon Musk:            Would not work.

Rob:       So it’s the diversity in style and thinking style and method and preferences, life preferences, that you really want to see, I take it.

Not-Elon Musk:            Yeah. We label, you label, vision master, execution master, but what you’re really describing is two very different methods of business. So that’s diversity right there, whether that person’s Black, pink, or yellow.

Rob:        Yeah. We totally agree there. Sheryl Sandberg and Mark Zuckerberg are the archetype of that.

Not-Elon Musk:             Yes.

Rob:      They share a vision, completely different styles. He likes the spotlight, he likes to disrupt, she likes to stabilize and make things work.

Not-Elon Musk:            They do very well for themselves.

Rob:       Yeah. So all right, awesome. Now the question that we have here is, we’ve made a distinction between someone supporting you and someone believing in you. And I just would like you to elaborate on that a little bit, because you’re not looking for a sycophant, someone who’s just a yes person, right?

Not-Elon Musk:            Absolutely not. Supporting, there’s something just I don’t like about the term supporting, because that implies they’re going to support me right or wrong, but believing is much more empowering or powerful because they believe that I’m going to come up with the right solutions. And that’s very, very different. It’s as fundamental as the definition of the two terms.

Rob:       I think we’ve come to a conclusion here that a vision master, a disruptor like you is optimally paired with a execution master who believes in you, and who provides diversity in style and management skills and interpersonal skills that you lack, and who doesn’t compete with you for the spotlight, but can actually further your vision beyond what you even expected to be able to do.

Not-Elon Musk:            Yeah. It’s important for people understand that an execution master doesn’t just execute everything that the vision master says.

Rob:        They add a great deal. They add a great deal, yeah.

Not-Elon Musk:             They add a great deal, and it’s that great deal that makes the difference for us.

Rob:       I remember hearing that about Gwynne once that, figuratively here, if you ask her to get you to the moon, she’ll get you to Mars.

Not-Elon Musk:            Amen, brother.

Rob:       Right. All right. Well, this is awesome. I’d love to talk to our Vision Master listeners and watchers further about this subject, so feel free to make an appointment with me. This whole subject is detailed and at great length in my book, Born to Star, where you are featured Elon, as well as some of the others like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. Born to Star can be found on the Intelliversity.org website, and I invite you to go and download that as well.

Not-Elon Musk:             Great.

Rob:       Now you’ve read it and you love it, right?

Not-Elon Musk:            I love it, I read it, and again, [inaudible] I said before. Thank you.

Rob:       Got you. Thank you for your time, Not Elon. So this is your Vision Master podcast brought to you by Robert Steven Kramarz as host for Intelliversity, and we will be seeing you next week with a new Not, and I think we’re doing next week not Steve Jobs, but I’ve got to see who’s on the schedule. Looking forward to talking to you further, Not Elon.

Not-Elon Musk:            All right. Take care, Rob. Thanks for having me.

Rob:      Take care.

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