An emotional Elon Musk admits he’s only ‘tried’ to take two weeks off in past 12 years
By Kim Lachance Shadrow, Entrepreneur
Elon Musk has no time for vacation. He’s too busy saving humankind, or at least trying to. Keeping the “light of consciousness” from forever dimming requires a lot of overtime.
It also doesn’t help that the Tesla (TSLA) and SpaceX founder and CEO has really bad luck when it comes to taking time off, something he’s only attempted to do twice in the last 12 years. The admitted workaholic fessed up to that sad, sad fact during an emotional TV interview that aired in Denmark last Sunday.
“The first time I took a week off, the Orbital Sciences rocket exploded and Richard Branson’s rocket exploded,” Musk said. “In that same week, the second time I took a week off, my rocket exploded. The lesson here is don’t take a week off.”
Back in 2000, the visionary entrepreneur-inventor learned another painful lesson from going on holiday. The 44-year-old nearly succumbed to a terrible bout of malaria after traveling to Brazil and his native South Africa. “That’s my lesson for taking vacation: vacation will kill you,” he quipped in the controversial eponymous book recently penned about him.
That which doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger. Vacation can also recharge your batteries, a notion the electric battery pioneer might finally be coming around to. Surprisingly, he seems to be toying with the idea, maybe even seriously considering it. “My priority right now is to try to add some more management bench strength to Tesla in particular so that I can take a vacation,” he also told the Danish Broadcasting Corporation. “In the last 12 years I’ve only tried to take a week off twice.”
The sitdown interview exposed a softer, markedly more emotionally vulnerable Musk than we’ve seen in the past. During the candid exchange, the bleary-eyed billionaire welled up with tears at times, his bottom lip quivering, as he described launching SpaceX and Tesla as “a very difficult journey.” At one point, when recalling Tesla’s brush with going belly up during the 2008 financial crisis, he was so overcome that he asked his interviewer for a break.
“I thought that I would probably fail,” he said when asked if he was “a little naive” in thinking he could build an electric car and a rocket. “Creating a company is almost like having a child,” he said. “So it’s sort of like, how do you say your child should not have food?” But, as any parent can tell you, it’s hard to care for your children if you don’t care for yourself. Carving time out to refresh and restore is critical, which the harried father of five might at long last do.
As to whether Musk really intends to pencil in some rare downtime, we reached out to Tesla’s press office to find out, but haven’t received an answer yet. We do know, however, that he’s not going off the grid tonight. He will be on hand at Tesla’s Fremont, Calif. factory to personally unveil the hotly anticipated Model X SUV. If you’re not one of the lucky guests at tonight’s glitzy red carpet affair, you can still watch the big reveal as it happens here.
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(Correction: an earlier version of this story misidentified the location of a Tesla event scheduled for tonight. It will be in Fremont, Calif.)