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

Musk "alternated between laughter and tears," during an interview with The New York Times Thursday, and said this past year had been "excruciating" and "the most difficult and painful year of my career."  

There's so much to unpack in this interview. 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 describes a frankly 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 he claims to be working insane hours: 120 hours per week recently. (Keep in mind, there 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:

"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."

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

Reading it, I just wanted to give the guy a hug. That is a very rare feeling toward billionaire tech entrepreneurs.

Among the many striking points in the interview is the description of the 17-year stretch in which Musk describes taking no extended time off. That span goes back before SpaceX, before Tesla, obviously, and before The Boring Company. For Musk, it covers three marriages, the births of both his twins and triplets, and the tragic loss of his newborn son in 2002. 

Reading about all that activity, 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 these comments might be the entire reason for his apparently vulnerable interview.)

As for the "funding secured" tweet, 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). On 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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Published on: Aug 17, 2018