Apple’s Steve Jobs had his “reality distortion field” which was used by the tech media to describe Job’s “ability to convince himself and others to believe almost anything with a mix of charm, charisma, bravado, hyperbole, marketing, appeasement, and persistence. It was said to distort an audience's sense of proportion and scales of difficulties and made them believe that the task at hand was possible. Jobs could also use the reality distortion field to appropriate other's ideas as his own, sometimes proposing an idea to its originator after dismissing it the week before."
A spot-on description of Elon Musk!
How else could you describe Wall Street’s reaction to the news that Tesla posted the largest quarterly loss in the history of the company, burning through $430 million in cash in the quarter, but was virtually discounted because Musk apologized for his past ill-mannered behavior at a prior investor’s phone call AND Wall Street was expecting an even worse quarter? Especially when the company diverts their attention from making cars to selling limited edition flame-throwers and surfboards?
Many, myself included, believe Musk’s greatest invention as a financier is his Hype Machine which projects a reality distortion field that suspends belief in otherwise serious and sober individuals.
How does he do it?
It appears that Elon Musk apparently believes that perception is reality and if you speak like the difficult task has been accomplished or is nearly finished except for a minor setback, others will pick-up on his confidence and start to put aside some of their skepticism. Musk does not hesitate when speaking, nor does he show fear. He puts on a bold, confident front that conveys sincerity and credibility -- even when the evidence demonstrates otherwise.
It appears that Elon Musk is a master manipulator of the media, knowing that the media looks for the bright shiny object, the sound-bite, the compelling visuals, and thus will discount the truly horrific news in favor of an audience-grabbing gimmick. Watch Musk at work and you will see a media magician, misdirecting and diverting attention to that which he wants you to see.
It appears that Elon Musk has no shame in taking credit for the hard work and long hours of others. Truth-be-told, Elon Musk is more a financial engineer than an engineer. PayPal was started by others. Tesla was started by others. SpaceX was started by others. Solar City was started by others. And what they all have in common is that Musk used his story and charisma to attract the capital to help them grow -- and in the process taking key leadership positions and putting his name out as the "man in charge." How many people, even in the media, can name the real power behind the throne in each of these enterprises. Simply put, shame and fairness play no part in creating your own myth.
Will it last? Nobody can really tell until the bubble bursts and there is no longer a willing source of additional funds or people to believe in Musk's leadership skills. The fact is that there are a number of capable vehicle manufacturers who have proven over the years that they can mass produce cars. And, if they produce a compelling design, power it with conventional electric technology, have the supporting charging station infrastructure, Tesla may very well evaporate.
As for the employees at the various Tesla ventures, they might be wondering, Am I Next?