Review (more like fanboying over) Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future

Review (more like fanboying over) Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future

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“Good ideas are always sounds crazy until they’re not” – Larry Page (Page 396)

If someone ask me “What was your favorite coincidence?” I would say: “discovered Elon Musk via BBC News app“.

It was in 2015, on campus’ parking lot. A story of Hyperloop and Elon Musk first popped and enter my life unwittingly. Long story short, I ran a Google search on Elon and find that he is dubbed as “real-life Tony Stark”, which I thought was overrated because nobody would ever be on par with fictitious Tony Stark and his ingenious mind.

Since then, I only know Elon Musk for being dubbed as real-life Tony Stark without ever discovering who he really is.

Last month, I strolled to Periplus, an import bookstore near the office. I have this habit of buying new books every month, but because I’m far from being financially secure, I’d run a Goodreads search on every book. The top contender was: Charles Duhigg’s the Power of Habit, Chris Guillebeau’s the $100 Startup, Freakonomics, and Adam Grant’s Originals. After finding that Ashlee Vance’s Elon Musk biography scored 4.2, which, quite rare in Goodreads, without hesitant I bought this book, snatch away the plastic cover, and start reading.

THE STORY HIGHLIGHT

Like any other biographies, the book solely focused on the life of Elon Musk. Elon Musk himself was born in South Africa, way far from the United States of America, but he moved from there to Canada, and eventually, the USA.

The story began from his childhood, as per usual, the “bullied kid” narrative could be found here, and Elon was bullied hard because he was this quiet, nerdy, and ordinary kid with no billionaire symptoms anywhere. He never took any leadership position, be on the podium beside the brightest kids from his class, or any signs of “oh-he’s-going-places”. He’s just usual.

Apparently, he’s doing that on purpose. He said “I just look at it as ‘What grade do I need to get to where I want to go?’ There were compulsory subjects like Afrikaans, and I just didn’t see the point of learning that. It seemed ridiculous. I’d get a passing grade and that was fine. Things like physics and computers–I got the highest grade you can get in those. There needs to be a reason for a grade. I’d rather play video games, write software, and read books than try to get an A if there’s no point in getting an A“.

He was fed up growing up on South Africa and went to Canada and USA instead, where he could find something more interesting. Which he did.

Long story short, he and Kimbal Musk, his brother, went to found Zip2, an online city guide company in 1995, and then sold to Compaq for $307 million.

Elon then found X.com afterwards, an email payment and online financial services company. Found a competitor named Confinity, founded by Peter Thiel, Max Levchin, and Luke Nosek. Both then merged to be the world-renowned online payment service, PayPal. Which then acquired by eBay for $1.5 billion.

With fortunes acquired by Elon from Zip2 and PayPal acquisition, he then started Space Exploration Technologies or SpaceX, holding his conviction of carrying man to Mars.

Almost right at the same time, he also start building electric cars with a company he invested on, Tesla. Up until now, Tesla has produced several cars and will produce more. Replacing gas stations, Tesla built Supercharged station for recharging, spread around US and soon, worldwide.

Together with Rive brothers Lyndon and Peter, Elon founded SolarCity, now second largest solar power system provider in the USA. Elon is the largest shareholder there.

And just recently, Elon unveiled Hyperloop, an ultra-fast transportation that looked like an MRT, but with a pod and super high speed.

MY TAKE ON THE BOOK

I will always remember this book as one canonical business book that establish my fondness of starting a business.

You can tell me Dale Carnegie’s book is all-time best, Jack Welch’s MBA book is a must-read, Stephen Covey’s 7 Habit is on best seller list. But no other biography or business books that will give me tremendous amount of effect than Elon Musk’s.

I’d have to thank Ashlee Vance for tailoring sentence after sentence eloquently that it became an obvious page-turner for me. I enjoy reading Elon’s childhood, the rising of Zip2 and X.com, and mainly the Tesla and SpaceX arc.

Pestering is what I loather, but I share some trait with Elon, albeit his 14 hour work per day is unparalleled, his love of technology, being geeky, likes to be different, are traits I share with him. That made me feel like I was standing in the same ground (but different dimension) with the business magnate, and every time I read a page, I feel a significant increase in confidence.

It is somewhat blasphemous to place Elon with other big business owner, I mean, in terms of net worth, they are probably on par or even above the par from Elon, but if we’re speaking vision, Elon has the upper hand.

Elon said that human could be a multiplanetary species, he work on it, he incrementally make it true. That’s the thing I admire the most from him. He walk the talk–no, he run the talk, in lights speed.

The fact that he hold a top management position in 5 different companies is beyond imagination,  even being a CEO in one company is tremendously difficult and a hair-falling journey.

His work ethic is…. ineffable. Putting 100 hours a week for years straight is insane! But he nailed it anyway.

Oh, I couldn’t even tailor words properly to describe how I admire Elon Musk. Not merely because he’s a business magnate and I’d like to be on his position sort, but more like he’s a prove that being geek is starting to be cool and outplay the quarterbacks and muscular and shredding guitarists with eargasmic riffs.

But even with all that winnings in life, a price must be paid, too. All that relentless hard work and demand for perfection makes Elon’s attention to human relation a bit abandoned. He had two wives, Justine Musk and Talulah Riley which had divorced him because of different way of life. Justine had been with Elon for eight years, while Talulah spent an on-off four years.

Elon is also known for having sky-high demand for his employees, high standard, high working hours, despite high earnings. Temper problem is his feat, too. He had some quarrel with former co-founders such as Martin Eberhard of Tesla, former designer of Tesla, Henrik Fisker (who eventually establish his own electric car company, Fisker Automotive) and a lot more.

It was Mary Beth Brown, former right hand of Elon Musk, a woman who devoted her 12 years to SpaceX and Elon, who witness this first hand. She was indirectly fired from her job for asking a raise. There were two version of this story, one from Elon’s side (written in the book and a Quora answer written by Justine Musk herself) and other narratives who said that Brown was fired right away by Musk. From the book, Musk said this:

“As Musk recalled, “I told her, ‘Look, I think you’re very valuable. Maybe that compensation is right. You need to take two weeks’ vacation, and I’m going to assess whether that’s true or not.’ Before this came up, I had offered her multiple all-expenses-paid vacations. I really wanted her to take a vacation. When she got back, my conclusion was just that the relationship was not going to work anymore. Twelve years is a good run for any job. She’ll do a great job for someone.” According to Musk, he offered Brown another position at the company. She declined the offer by never showing up at the office again. Musk gave her twelve months’ severance and has not spoken to her since.”

Former employees found that Elon’s harsh, too. He would fire someone whom he think being an obstacle.

However, most of people, including me, found that it was not because Elon is a major league asshole. More like because he’s so driven that he knows what to do and sweep away the gravels from his road. Besides, when you work at the company who wants to move humankind to a new planet, which CEO would love to see you be a laid back person?

I found it funny and feel honored when Musk said that Artificial Intelligence is a threat to humankind, this may not be widely covered in the book but, my bachelor thesis covered that same concern, too. Yet people still being pessimistic and skeptical about that. I was wondering why, but now I know.

VERDICT

For those who wanted to get motivation on business and previously feel like “okay, this idea is not gonna work”, I’d recommend this book in any given day for your panacea. The only flaw of this book was you’d feel like you read a writing of someone who has a crush, fangirling/fanboying. But I jumped on the bandwagon, too. I couldn’t help but be a cheer squad for Elon.

This is a book that I would read more than twice, because it is my surefire panacea for being insecure about starting a business.

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Apa Yang Menarik dari 300++ Halaman Kertas Tanpa Gambar?

Dulu, pre-kuliah, buku yang paling seneng saya lihat (dan baca) adalah ensiklopedia buatan Time tentang dinosaurus, yang isinya 80% gambar, 20% teks. Ensiklopedia itu berjasa mengisi otak saya dengan pengetahuan tentang Allosaurus yang dielu-elukan sebagai saingannya Tyrannosaurus Rex. Diplocaulus (bukan DJ) yang kepalanya segitiga. Plesiosaurus yang lehernya panjang dan musuh paling ngeselin di Dino Crisis 2, dan lain-lain.

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Kurang lebih begini bentuknya

Kuliah semester 2, saya mulai baca buku yang porsi gambarnya lebih sedikit dibanding tulisan. Mau tahu apa? Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Last Straw. Mungkin itu buku pertama yang saya baca dengan 217 halaman. Isinya sendiri enggak ada serius-seriusnya. Cukup miris juga, waktu itu hampir 18 tahun umur saya tapi enggak pernah baca buku selain Biologi Kelas 1 SMP/SMA. Paling mentok? Bagaimana Cara Menjadi Cepat Kaya Dengan Beternak Kecoak Madagaskar. Enggak deng, boong.

Setahun setelahnya, di semester 4, tepatnya tahun 2014, saya mulai baca-baca buku yang teksnya penuhin satu halaman dan tebalnya bukan main. Waktu itu, saya sering disuruh baca buku-buku hubungan internasional karena mahasiswa hubungan internasional senjatanya hanya baca dan nulis. Enggak gampang, karena terbiasa lihat gambar-gambar lucu, sekarang disajiin gambar korban perang dan paling mentok, diagram hutang luar negeri.

Pelan-pelan, saya mulai terbiasa baca buku-buku yang teksnya banyak karena terdorong kewajiban kuliah. Ditambah, saya enggak mau kuliah hanya untuk mejeng tanpa sadar duit orang tua udah kekikis. Jadi ya mau enggak mau harus baca.

Di tahun yang sama, portofolio buku bacaan saya mulai nambah pelan-pelan. Dari baca buku melankolis kaya The Fault in Our Stars, sampe buku filsafat seberat The History of Sexuality karya Michel Foucault. Banyak waktu saya mulai keambil untuk baca. Di TransJakarta, di kampus, di kelas, di rumah, dan termasuk, kamar mandi.

Salah satu sensasi yang paling memuaskan dari membaca adalah, perasaan masuk ke dunia dan pandangan orang lain.

masa sih? Itu kan cuma tulisan doang?”

Ada beberapa kutipan yang sejalan dengan apa yang saya bilang:

“A book is a dream that you hold in your hand.”

–Neil Gaiman

“Whenever you read a good book, somewhere in the world a door opens to allow in more light.”

–Vera Nazarian

“Great books help you understand, and they help you feel understood.”

–John Green

“A book is a version of the world. If you do not like it, ignore it or offer your own version in return.”

–Salman Rushdie

Sensasi yang paling kuat saya rasain waktu baca buku-bukunya Haruki Murakami. Murakami dikenal sebagai penulis yang karakter-karakter di bukunya selalu sendiri, pendiam, enggak tertarik dengan apapun, dan berlatar belakang agak sedih. Uraian kata-kata yang ia tulis selalu membuat saya rasanya ada di dalam dunia yang Murakami tulis, lengkap dengan suasana yang digambarkan oleh Murakami di setiap tulisannya. Dan ini adalah bagian yang paling saya suka dari membaca buku.

Oke, stop ngomongin tentang apa yang saya alami. Rasanya terlalu narsistik kalau ngomong tentang diri sendiri.

Di Indonesia, buku jadi salah satu hal yang paling ditakutkan. Kalau diurut, mungkin begini:

HAL YANG DITAKUTKAN MASYARAKAT INDONESIA

  1. Kecoak terbang
  2. “Ada yang pengen dibicarain”
  3. Anak Jalanan/Tukang Bubur Naik Haji tamat
  4. Buku
  5. Raffi Ahmad – Nagita Slavina cerai

Buktinya, ada di beberapa artikel ini The case of reading and preserving Indonesian literature90 persen orang Indonesia tak suka baca buku, dan Why Indonesians Don’t Read More Books.

Dari artikel di Jakarta Post, menurut studi yang dilakukan oleh Central Connecticut State University di Amerika Serikat, Indonesia ada di urutan 60 dari 61 negara dalam minat membaca. Mau tahu di bawah kita siapa? Botswana.

BotswanaBot-swana. Bot-swa-na.

Bukan berarti Botswana jelek lho ya (meskipun masih sering ada gajah nyebrang jalanan), tapi, Botswana?

Hal itu yang bikin saya merasa agak miris, sebenarnya. Karena ketidaksukaan membaca ini ngaruh ke banyak hal.

Salah satunya, adalah kurang berwarnanya pemberitaan di Indonesia, terutama di kolom-kolom yang harusnya berisi berita menyenangkan.

Kita banyak juara olimpiade fisika, matematika, robotika, dan -tika -ika lainnya. Beberapa kali orang-orang kita dikirim ke luar negeri untuk belajar, ikut ini-itu, dan banyak lagi.

Tapi hanya sedikit dari pemberitaan di Indonesia yang meliputi anak-anak yang inovatif, kita pernah ditiup angin segar dengan hadirnya Esemka, baru-baru ini Pesawat N219 yang bakal mulai mengudara April nanti di Makassar.

Enggak sampai di situ, dulu kita punya Laras dan Luthfia yang berhasil membuat tusuk gigi pendeteksi boraks. Lalu ada juga senjata elektrik tanpa suara, penyaring udara dari kotoran sapi, canting batik otomatis, detektor telur busuk, dan lainnya. (Ini sumbernya)

Kemana itu semua?

Berita hari ini lebih banyak bicara soal Anak Jalanan, Tukang Bubur Naik Haji mau tamat, segala hal berbau “mantan” (Seriously guys, it’s overused.), om telolet om yang mendunia (selama beberapa hari), sampai Raffi Ahmad.

Kenapa?

Karena permintaan pasar. Media juga cari untung, dong. Alhasil berita yang dimuat harus bisa menjual ke orang-orang yang membaca dan menonton. Sejauh ini, berita yang dimuat terus-menerus soal artis yang selingkuh, dan politik yang enggak ketolongan bikin enegnya. Artinya? Orang-orang masih banyak yang menikmati hal-hal itu.

Ya, kita masih senang melihat Stefan William berakhir dengan Celine Evangelista, bukan Natasha Wilona. Dibanding khawatir dengan kondisi dunia yang begitu cepat berubah (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous (VUCA)).

Kita masih lebih sedih lihat Anak Jalanan tamat. Dibanding berpikir soal solusi macet Jakarta yang enggak ada selesai-selesainya.

Kita masih lebih tertarik dengan menghujat orang-orang yang sekarang lagi bermunculan di TV. Dibanding berpikir gimana cara jadi Steve Jobs atau Elon Musk selanjutnya.

Kalau melihat daftar 30 under 30 dari Forbes, saya suka minder sendiri. Seumuran saya rata-rata udah bikin produk yang seengganya mengubah hajat hidup orang jadi lebih mudah atau baik.

Minimnya niat membaca juga berpengaruh ke buku-buku yang dijual, karya orang Indonesia, di toko-toko buku terdekat.

Banyak tulisan-tulisan yang incredible. Eka Kurniawan, Tere Liye, Ika Natassa, Pramoedya Ananta Toer, Andrea Hirata, misalnya. Belum lagi kalau menghitung yang enggak keliatan di permukaan.

Sayangnya, buku-buku bagus ini seringkali ketutup sama buku-buku yang–dengan 900++ halaman–membicarakan soal iluminati, atlantis, Rothschild, dan buku-buku konspirasi lainnya.

Meskipun jumlahnya enggak keterlaluan banyak, tapi ini juga mencerminkan keinginan pasar yang cukup tinggi atas buku-buku senada Garut Kota Illuminati.

Buku-buku yang diterbitkan karena penulisnya terkenal pun marak. Jadi, kadang enggak perlu perhatiin kontennya, karena terkenal, ya pasti banyak yang beli. Jadi urusan konten urusan belakangan.

Selanjutnya, kurangnya minat baca juga bikin kita kekurangan bahan obrolan, referensi data, kesempatan untuk keliatan geeky, dan, enggak ganti-ganti candaan selain soal mantan dan om telolet om.

Kalau mau bukti, coba ketik “mantan” di Google. Hasilnya kaya begini:

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Dan soal om telolet om, I hate to rain on your parade, but this is…… embarrassing.

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Inilah kenapa kadang rentang waktu candaan kita lebih panjang…..

Selain itu, seperti dilansir di Harvard Business Review, dalam artikel berjudul The Business Case for Reading Novels, ada satu kalimat yang berbunyi:

It’s when we read fiction that we have the time and opportunity to think deeply about the feelings of others, really imagining the shape and flavor of alternate worlds of experience

Artinya, kalau kita mbaca buku (terutama fiksi), kita jadi bisa lebih memahami perasaan orang lain dengan menempatkan kita di posisinya.

Di satu media berita terbesar di dunia, Line Today, saya nemu satu berita yang berjudul “Pakai Apple Watch, Ketua MK: Jam Rp13 Juta Sudah Cukup”. Bagi warga Indonesia, komentar apa yang Anda kira akan muncul di kolom komentar? Ya, kurang lebih komentar yang bernada iri-ditutupi-sarkastik macam begini

Ayolah. Rp13 juta untuk jam buat sekelas pejabat eselon atas bisa dibilang masih murah. Nih ya, untuk referensi, salah satu merek terkenal yang biasa dipakai banyak orang-orang kelas atas:

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dan ini barang second.

 

Jadi ya… Kalau ditanya Apa Yang Menarik dari 300++ Halaman Kertas Tanpa Gambar? Jawabannya bisa diambil kesimpulan oleh masing-masing dari sepotong uraian yang saya tulis di atas.

Saya sendiri belum begitu banyak baca buku, per buku saya bisa habis 3-4 minggu. Cukup lama, tapi masih bisa ditingkatkan. Warren Buffet, investor terkenal dan pemilik Berkshire Hathaway, setiap hari baca 500 artikel setiap pagi. Mantan Presiden Amerika Serikat, Theodore Roosevelt selama hidupnya baca lebih dari 2000 buku (itupun yang dia ingat), Steve Jobs pun terinspirasi dari buku (14 books that inspired Steve Jobs), begitu pula Elon Musk (The Transformative Effects of Reading + Elon Musk’s Reading List) (P.S. Elon Musk tahu cara bikin roket karena baca buku).

Mengambil kutipan dari salah satu artikel di atas, yang diambil dari penulis Nora Ephron di buku “I Feel Bad About My Neck”

“Reading is everything. Reading makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something, learned something, become a better person. Reading makes me smarter. Reading gives me something to talk about later on. Reading is the unbelievably healthy way my attention deficit disorder medicates itself. Reading is escape, and the opposite of escape; it’s a way to make contact with reality after a day of making things up, and it’s a way of making contact with someone else’s imagination after a day that’s all too real. Reading is grist. Reading is bliss.”

Review: Pinball, 1973 by Haruki Murakami

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After a quite rocky start in Hear the Wind Sing, Murakami finally did some justice in his second novella that came right after that.

Firstly, I have this strange aficionado towards a novel with unique title that doesn’t tell the big picture of the book content. I mean, somehow I feel annoyed by a novel title that clearly tell the reader in only one glance. You know, something like “The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo” or “Hunger Games” or “Mr. Mercedes” will not catch my eye unless highly recommended. Probably irrelevant with the content, though. But that’s just me.

I’d prefer a book with mysterious title and a good wordplay, “Slaughterhouse-Five”, “A Clockwork Orange”, and of course, “Pinball, 1973” are the kinds of title I would fall for, the kinds of novel I would take a look at when I’m at a bookstore. Mysteriously, these titles gave me a sort of proud sensation when people ask me “what are you reading currently?” then I can vehemently answer “Pinball, 1973”.

Okay, enough with the strange favorite.

I have to say the novel gave me the same sensation and feeling like when I read Murakami’s later works. The joy of being lonely, the joy of listening to old jazz, the overly-accurate description of almost anything. Murakami’s ability of describing things is probably on par with that of a poet. I mean, I can vividly imagine what he describe.

That overly-accurate description of things can be seen in this novel. Like a plane that just about to take off, 45 degrees bending its body towards the sky, you can feel that there are a change in how he describe things, compared to Hear the Wind Sing.

It is the pleasure I always feel whenever I read Murakami. You can almost feel that you live in the book, especially knowing that the character doesn’t have a name, if it has, you probably end up feeling like you are always beside the main character, observing his/her life.

Plot-wise, unlike its predecessor, Murakami stitched the plot in a careful fashion, you can see the flow clearly, how the narrator tells the story about him and The Rat and J’s story alternately. From a translator that lived an abnormal days with a twin girl we never know to how the narrator ends up being in love with an inanimate object, a pinball.

The Rat’s story is somewhat interesting, too. Sadly I didn’t put that much amount of attention towards his story line.

Unfortunately, the novel didn’t 100% live up to its name, “pinball, 1973” because the pinball-human love story just started at page 1-2 and 80-ish, the page between them rarely mentioned about pinball, rather than a quite long introduction to narrator’s life and about The Rat.

But overall, I found it delighting reading Pinball, 1973. Why? Because when I read it, I find myself sinking into the novel and lost from my world to that world. I almost didn’t feel I was on a motorcycle because I was too focused on reading it.

For Murakami fans, this book shows exactly the transition from a mere writer to a great writer of our time.

Review: Hear the Wind Sing by Haruki Murakami

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If you are a fan of Haruki Murakami’s writing and happened to be inspired by how he creates a wholly new and strange world, this should be included in your mandatory reading list.

This very book is the first ever novella written by Murakami himself as a reaction to his sudden epiphany while watching a baseball game. That sudden epiphany was written in the prologue section. In that section, Murakami tells us readers a story on how he got into the world of writing.

I believe I wrote a bit about that in this post. Briefly, Murakami attended a baseball game and right when a batter hit the ball thrown by the pitcher, that exact moment Murakami told himself “I think I can write a novel” and that became a drive for Murakami to write novels up until now.

(if you are curious with the complete passage, go here)

As common for the first-timer, this novella hasn’t show the signature Murakami strange-world-plot where Colonel Sanders can give an advice how to get girls or your bestfriend accused you of raping them in a dream. Instead, what you get is a confusing plot. Suddenly there’s a radio broadcast which you (at least me) will never know what connects with that, plus several pretentious (at least in my view) dialogue and words. Plus several cliffhangers for the bonus.

You can see, however, a spark that leads to present-Murakami in this book. The start of a scene where the protagonist naked with unknown woman on his side and meticulously-described sex scene; The lone ranger who likes old jazz and read books voraciously; Mysterious personality of the protagonist who likes answering people with one or two liner.

This novella could somewhat relieve people who dreams on becoming a writer as prolific as Murakami in terms of making words flow like a diarrhea, because the novella (plus the prologue) gave you a picture of how Murakami starts with nothing than a sudden epiphany with no empirical evident. Murakami didn’t know a lot of vocabularies, even grammar.

But for those who are about to start reading Murakami, I don’t recommend this novella as a starter, read his latest but light novels instead. I started with Norwegian Wood and Kafka on the Shore, successfully gives a kick to read more from him. Because you might end up not liking him due to his first book