BBC Report: Patagonia Founder On Why Business Needs a Healthy Environment

BBC Report: Patagonia Founder On Why Business Needs a Healthy Environment

By Alison van Diggelen, host of Fresh Dialogues

Why should businesses even care about a healthy environment? That’s a fundamental issue for Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia, the outdoor clothing company. Chouinard and Patagonia are respected by many environmentalists who credit them for putting this philosophy into practice:

“Fundamentally, businesses are responsible to their resource base. Without a healthy environment there are no shareholders, no employees, no customers and no business. Our mission is to use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis” Yvon Chouinard, Patagonia

Chouinard is putting his money where his mouth is with a generous company “Earth Tax” devoted to environmental activism. He explained to me how he’s inspired young people and companies to protect the environment.

Nevertheless, Patagonia is arguably fighting a losing battle, especially at Christmas time, when rampant consumerism is in full swing. Here’s my latest BBC report that explores the contrast between Patagonia’s priorities and that of Silicon Valley shoppers who just want “more stuff” and wouldn’t dream of being seen twice in the same dress (dahling!)

This week, as the pro-business, “to hell with the environment” Trump administration prepares to take power, I plan to launch a new series of interviews. My aim is to profile leaders and organizations that are making the environment and climate change action a priority; and are standing up to Trump’s anti-science, anti-environment recklessness.

My report aired on BBC Business Matters on December 23rd.  The segment starts at 16:00 on the BBC podcast.

Here’s a transcript of the segment (edited for length and clarity) and a longer version of the report:

BBC Host, Roger Hearing: Alison, I know you’ve been looking at all this…the commercialization of Christmas…I imagine where you are in California, there are a lot of people being pushed into buying things they might not want to? I gather you’ve been investigating…

Alison van Diggelen: Absolutely. I had a rare interview with Yvon Chouinard…he’s the founder of Patagonia, the sustainable outdoor clothing company and is revered by many environmentalists. Chouinard explained to me why his company wants to minimize its impact on the environment and inspire other businesses to do the same. I visited one of Silicon Valley’s busiest malls to see if this green message is resonating with consumers.

[Music: Walking in a Winter Wonderland at Valley Fair Mall]

Alison van Diggelen: I’m here in the mall and there’s a tangible sense of stress as Christmas fast approaches. Shoppers crowd their favorite stores, cell phone lists in one hand, fistfuls of bags in the other. Exhausted mothers and fathers are pushing prams, groups of teenagers maraud the aisles, laughing and posing for photos.

I’m right by the “North Pole” and Santa is waving to wide-eyed children, surrounded by about a dozen Christmas trees with twinkling lights and red baubles. A baby took one look at Santa and started crying. There’s a sickly sweet smell of cinnamon and pumpkin spice in the air. People are looking for bargains: quantity not quality. For many shoppers, “the environment” is the last thing on their minds.

Eggnog gal: There are a little bit of Grinches…but that comes with Christmas. They’re very angry and hostile and they just want to get in the mall, get everything they want and leave. Maybe it’s just the crowds, the financial burden. Maybe they’re just not in the holiday spirit this year.

Young mom: My son’s closet looks like Beyonce’s…it just has so much clothing in it. I love children’s clothing and I buy him so so much. He’s two and a half and he’s so cute! [laughter]

Teen: I just feel like, if I wear a dress once, people see me wear it, like I’d rather have a new dress…something else people can see me in. I’d rather have more stuff than just like one really expensive thing.

Alison van Diggelen: This “wear once” mentality is abhorrent to Yvon Chouinard, who’s notorious for wearing the same flannel shirt for over 20 years. His company, Patagonia is known for its sustainable outdoor clothing. As a founding member of the “One Percent for the Planet” organization, it donates one percent of its sales (not just profits) to environmental causes.

Alison van Diggelen: You’ve impacted so many businesses. Steve Jobs once called you to “green” Apple?

Yvon Chouinard: We’re influencing small companies, not large companies. A lot of the green stuff is green washing.

Alison van Diggelen: Do you feel Apple’s efforts are green washing?

Yvon Chouinard: Absolutely – it’s like that with every large corporation. They’ll pick the low hanging fruit, but when it starts getting a little bit tougher…They’ll do the things that turn into more profits, but when you really have to knuckle down and be truly responsible, they’re not going to do it.

Alison van Diggelen: What do you feel has been your biggest influence in greening the world? The business or consumer side?

Yvon Chouinard: Young people. I wrote this book “Let my people go surfing” that has gone around in nine languages and that has influenced a lot of young people and small companies are really paying attention.  The idea of changing large corporations is pretty naive of me.

Alison van Diggelen: I spoke with Jesse Simons of the Sierra Club, an environmental group founded by Scottish naturalist John Muir. He praises Patagonia’s eco leadership but feels it could do more…

Jesse Simons: I’d like to see Patagonia go “all in” on their work on clean energy (and follow Apple’s lead by) committing to 100% clean energy and doing it all the way up the supply chain to ensure that every piece of clothing, zippers, everything are coming from a manufacturing site powered by the wind, the sun and the earth.

Alison van Diggelen: Gary Cook at Greenpeace credits Patagonia’s efforts against our “throw away culture” with its “don’t buy this jacket” campaign and its repair and recycling services. But he points to the company’s continued use of toxic chemicals and he’d like to see them eliminated from its supply chain.

Although Patagonia is seen to be raising the bar on corporate sustainability practices, its prices are out of reach for many consumers. Back at the mall, I spoke with another bargain hunter…

Diana V: We went to check out the Patagonia store in Reno, Nevada and couldn’t find anything for under $100, so we left…We’re just being very cautious right now with our money. Waiting to see what happens with our economy and our national political situation.

End of Report

Bonus material 

This part of our interview didn’t make the final cut:

On Patagonia doing more

Sierra Club’s Jesse Simons: I’d like to see them (Patagonia) work with other outdoor industry brands to show them how it actually makes biz sense to stand up to bad trade deals. It would be great to see them take their leadership and use it to get other companies to similarly pay a living wage, take care of the environment in countries where they’re manufacturing their goods, so that they can feel good about saying no to bad trade deals.

Chouinard talks on Earth Tax, Agriculture and Death (I’ll post the full interview here soon for your listening pleasure)

A: Tell me about your trip to Scotland in 1970 – why was that the inspiration for Patagonia clothing?

Y: I was in business of making climbing equipment. I came to Scotland to climb Ben Nevis and saw a rugby shirt in Dept store in Edinburgh. At that time, active sportswear was basically grey flannel sweatshirts, pants. Men didn’t wear colorful sports clothes. It had a blue body, yellow stripes. I was wearing it around Yosemite, everyone said “Woah!” A light went off…I imported a few…I said, maybe I’ll get into the clothing business.

A: Tell me about that 1% for the planet? An earth tax?

Y: Your typical large corporation is out to make as much money as they can for the shareholders. And what the shareholders do with their profits is their biz. We believe it should be done in the business as well.

I believe in taxes. Especially the kind of taxes where you get to decide where the money goes. So we just tax ourselves 1% of our sales – not our profits – 1% of revenue given away to 900 different small activist organizations working to save our planet.

A: Some people say there’s a conflict here: you are an environmental company. You’re saying: save the planet but at the same time, you’re saying: buy our products. You have to make your products, you have to sell your products. You have to make a profit in order to stay in business. Otherwise you go belly up. So talk about that conflict between being a company, a business and doing good for the planet.

Y: Well, to put a spin on it. I’d say buying a jacket from us causes less harm to the environment than buying a jacket from another company that doesn’t put all the thought and processes causing the least amount of harm. For instance, we only use organically grown cotton. That’s fine. Growing cotton organically causes less harm but it doesn’t do the world any good. It still causes the world a lot of harm. That’s why I decided to go into the food business. I want to go beyond organic foods, organic cotton to what’s called regenerative agriculture. The difference is, regenerative agriculture builds soil and captures carbon. And so now I have to go to my cotton farmers – who supply us with cotton – and say: you can’t plow any more because every time you plow, it releases all the carbon you’ve captured back into the air. So agriculture is one of the biggest causes of global warming so it’s probably the biggest thing we can do to save this planet.

A: So is that going to be a major focus for Patagonia?

Y: It’s a major focus for me, that’s for sure. I’m really excited about this. I think it’s our only hope to regulate the climate. We’re not going to do it any other way. Agriculture has a chance of sequestering so much carbon out of the air through changing our grazing practices and our farming practices; and basically going back to the old way of doing things. And that’s what gets me excited.

A: Tell me about the long term future. How are you going to make sure, beyond your lifetime, that Patagonia keeps the environment central to its mission.

Y: We’ve become a B-corporation company. That’s different than a regular corporation. In a B-corporation you can put down what your values are and they have to be values that are good for the planet, good for society. So the way the law states: if I die tomorrow, the stock is in a trust and this trust would have 8 years to divest 80% of that because the law doesn’t want you to have all your stock, your foundation have all your stock in one corporation. (In) a B-corp you wouldn’t necessarily have to do that and we wouldn’t have to sell to the highest bidder which would be to go public. All the laws force you to go public, pretty much…we wouldn’t have to do that

A: But would it keep the environment central to its mission?

Y: That’s part of the values that we’ve inculcated in our charter, under being a B-corporation.

A: Will your son or daughter stay at the helm?

Y: I don’t know…I have no idea what’s going to happen after I’m dead.

A: Are you grooming them to do so?

Y: Yeah, they are slowly taking over more responsibility, absolutely. My daughter is head of sportswear design right now and my son is on the board. They both have the same values that my wife and I have.

A: One last question: going back to Scotland – John Muir, I know he’s been an inspiration to you. Do you have a favorite quote or inspiration from him?

Y: (laughter) When I was a climber, it was John Muir and Emerson, Thoreau and the transcendentalists, philosophers which had a different attitude to climbing mountains than say the Europeans did, which was to conquer the mountains; and our attitude was you climb them and leave no trace of having been there.

Elon Musk Explains Why Reusable Rockets Will Change The World

Elon Musk Explains Why Reusable Rockets Will Change The World

By Alison van Diggelen, host of Fresh Dialogues

Last night, Elon Musk’s SpaceX achieved a spectacular milestone in the history of space travel: its Falcon 9 rocket launched 11 satellites into orbit, performed a spin and landed back on earth, six miles from where it launched. Why is this ultimate recycling feat so consequential?

Quite simply, this could revolutionize space travel as we know it today.

During our in-depth 2013 interview, an emotional Elon Musk told me of his disappointment at the progress of space exploration and his ultimate goal: to make human life multi-planetary.  He explained that if he could “show the way” by making rockets as reusable as airplanes, this would:

1. dramatically reduce the cost of space travel

2. re-energize support for NASA’s mission

3. increase NASA’s budget

and “then we could resume the journey”…to Mars and beyond. Watch the interview, starting at 35:00

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The back story of SpaceX

“I always thought that we’d make much more progress in space…and it just didn’t happen…it was really disappointing, so I was really quite bothered by it. So when we went to the moon, we were supposed to have a base on the moon, we were supposed to send people to Mars and that stuff just didn’t happen. We went backwards. I thought, well maybe it’s a question of there not being enough intention or ‘will’ to do this. This was a wrong assumption. That’s the reason for the greenhouse idea…if there could be a small philanthropic mission to Mars…a small greenhouse with seeds and dehydrated nutrients, you’d have this great shot of a little greenhouse with little green plants on a red background. I thought that would get people excited…you have to imagine the money shot. I thought this would result in a bigger budget for NASA and then we could resume the journey…”

On negotiations with the Russian military to buy two ICBMs

“They just thought I was crazy…I had three quite interesting trips to Russia to try to negotiate purchase of two Russian ICBMs…minus the nukes…I slightly got the feeling that was on the table, which was very alarming. Those were very weird meetings with the Russian military…’remarkably capitalist’ was my impression (of the Russians).”

Why he chose to create his own rocket company, SpaceX

“I came to the conclusion that my initial premise was wrong that in fact that there’s a great deal of will, there’s not such a shortage. But people don’t think there’s a way. And if people thought there was a way or something that wouldn’t break the federal budget, then people would support it. The United States is a distillation of the human spirit of exploration. People came here from other places…people need to believe that it’s possible, so I thought it’s a question of showing people that there’s a way…There wasn’t really a good reason for rockets to be so expensive. If one could make them reusable, like airplanes then the cost of rocketry (and space travel) would drop dramatically.”

Read more about Elon Musk’s space ambitions

BBC Dialogues: Steve Jobs Movie – Lisa’s Mother Speaks Out For Single Moms

BBC Dialogues: Steve Jobs Movie – Lisa’s Mother Speaks Out For Single Moms

This week, Steve Jobs, the movie directed by Danny Boyle and written by Aaron Sorkin, will be released. How will it impact Jobs’ legacy?

Several Steve Jobs allies say the movie portrays him as cruel and inhumane and tried to stop its production. Chrisann Brennan, the mother of Lisa, his first child, witnessed that cruelty. She was marginalized and neglected by Jobs for many years. Last month, she joined me for an intimate Fresh Dialogues interview to share her perspective.

Despite the hardships she endured, Brennan has enormous respect and even forgiveness for Jobs. She says her memoir’s universal message is about the plight of single women and she’d like to see the business world be more family-friendly.

On September 11, I was interviewed by the BBC about my interview with Brennan, who describes herself like this:
“I’m a modern Mary Magdalenethe truth of who I am was blacked out. Steve fancied himself a Christ figure, but hated women.” Chrisann Brennan
Here’s my conversation with Fergus Nicoll, host of the BBC’s Business Matters. The transcript has been edited for length and clarity.
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Fergus Nicoll: Whenever a biopic comes out, especially when its subject is not long gone, you better believe there is going to be a noise from those screaming about “Mount Rushmore scale hype” and a counter noise from those complaining that a genius has been traduced. So get ready everybody for Jobs, the Dannie Boyle movie with Michael Fassbender as Steve Jobs, scheduled for November (US release is Oct 9th).

I’ll toss the ball to Alison, because I know you’ve been talking to somebody with a personal interest in this story – that’s an understatement. Tell us first about expectations for the movie.

van Diggelen: It was shown at the Telluride Film Festival to rave reviews. But I did read a Guardian review that said that you have to be an Apple fan to really enjoy it. So take the reviews with a pinch of salt.

I had the opportunity to interview Chrisann Brennan, Steve Jobs’ first love and the mother of his child Lisa Brennan Jobs…they met in high school in 1972 and they had a very passionate affair. She got pregnant and he denied the paternity and she had a very rough life. He was very miserly about looking after her. She talked to me at length about this very painful time in her life and how he treated her, and yet she does respect him in her way.

Clip airs from Fresh Dialogues interview 

Chrisann Brennan: I was interviewed for five hours, they told me I was the emotional heart of that movie.  I don’t want to judge Steve because he did what he did, it was fabulous… I like the fact that the (movie) spectrum shows we are different people now. We value different things. We will expose these things because we want to have a dialogue in the world about the whole picture…not just the ‘Mount Rushmore picture’ of people who do well.

Alison van Diggelen: So you can contribute that fully faceted perspective?

Chrisann Brennan: Yes, I do feel that.

Alison van Diggelen: You said “I don’t want to paint me as the victim, and Steve as the villain.” Is there an alternate way you’d like to frame it?

Chrisann Brennan: That will continue to evolve. I survived it…I have more than survived it…I survived him…

Alison van Diggelen: And do you feel that is a victory right there?

Chrisann Brennan: I feel it says if you hold onto the truth, it actually starts to amount to something.

Alison van Diggelen: Is there anything you wish you’d done differently?

Chrisann Brennan: Oh, yeah…but I couldn’t have. When I was living with Steve and he was showing me his poetry, I really wish I’d taken it to heart more deeply.

Alison van Diggelen: Was this his Bob Dylan poetry?

Bite in the Apple - Chrisann Brennan and daughter Lisa Brennan-Jobs -- Steve Jobs - from book from PR/author

Chrisann Brennan: Mm hmm. When I grew up enough to be an adult and understand that 17-year-old, I felt oh. There’s just so much. If we had a chance to talk now, it’d be great…

Alison van Diggelen: What would you ask him?

Chrisann Brennan: I think I would just express some kind of love…

Alison van Diggelen: You would tell him you loved him?

Chrisann Brennan: In some form…

Alison van Diggelen: That’s beautiful…

One last question: what do you feel was Steve’s greatest legacy?

Chrisann Brennan:  Yes, he made a technological device that freed people up…but mainly the message is to be who you are. Now a lot of people are running around trying to be like Steve Jobs. They miss the point…it is to individuate enough, to understand what you need to go out and do. He was just a fabulous example of it in so many ways.

Fergus Nicoll: Well that seems, Alison, like an amazingly forgiving person… From what I’ve seen of the movie, this is very much part of the story of the movie. There are some explosive scenes related to this. But it’s always difficult…there have been massive tomes about Steve Jobs, some have been less revelatory than some hoped for, but (Jobs is) a man who appears to tower over Silicon Valley, even in his absence?

Alison van Diggelen: He’s absolutely idolized here and around the world, and in fact a documentary just came out here in the United States: Alex Gibney’s documentary Steve Jobs, the Man in the Machine. Chrisann was interviewed for five hours for that and she talks at length about just how cruel he was to her and yet, she is incredibly forgiving. She has respect for what he’s done, his visionary powers, but she does describe herself as “a modern day Mary Magdalene…Steve saw himself as a Christ figure,” that’s what she wrote to me this week.

Mary Magdalene Christ sculpture by Rodin

Fergus Nicoll: That’s a pretty powerful image…I’m always amazed that we expect the visionary leaders in tech, in industry, in politics to be good guys. Why should that be necessary?

Alison van Diggelen: Well, I think that’s the ideal. What concerns me about the idolization, almost canonization of Steve Jobs, is the fact that young people might think of him as the perfect role model…i.e. the more “jerk-like” they are, the better. And I think that’s a very dangerous role model. I think it’s important that people like Chrisann Brennan speak up to show the contradictions in his life. She wants to get out this universal message about the plight of single mothers and how Steve Jobs made her peripheral, almost invisible and it plays into this bigger question of business attitudes to families and what are our values?

Fergus Nicoll: Alison, who’s the equivalent now…And are there woman poised to achieve such dominance in Silicon Valley?

Alison van Diggelen: The first person who comes to mind is Elon Musk…Females that I would cite are Marissa Mayer, Sheryl Sandberg.

And of course there’s Bill Gates. He’s probably going to be canonized for the second half of his career as a philanthropist, not a tech guy.

Fergus Nicoll: There’s a parallel there with Jimmy Carter, the most famous ex-president probably because of what he’s done…and Bill Gates has done the same: an extraordinary first career and then this amazing philanthropic career with his wife Malinda and their many campaigns….

Do you buy that Silicon Valley is a counterpoint to Wall Street (making giving money away popular)?

Alison van Diggelen: I’m delighted to hear that the message is getting out about the generosity of people in Silicon Valley. It’s so easy to point fingers and say that the wealth isn’t being shared. It is, but I’d say, probably not enough.

On the question of behavior of CEOs, there is growing transparency, thanks to social media, 24/7 news coverage. CEOs can’t get away with what they used to. Steve Jobs, if he was doing what he did to Chrisann Brennan today – denying paternity and saying 10% of the (male) US population could be the father of this child – he just wouldn’t get away with that today. The evidence would be there.

Fergus Nicoll: Alison, thanks so much for bringing in the interview for us on the Steve Jobs story.

Alison van Diggelen: My pleasure indeed. Thank you.

Steve Jobs’ First Love: Why The Whole Truth Matters

Steve Jobs’ First Love: Why The Whole Truth Matters

By Alison van Diggelen, host of Fresh Dialogues

Chrisann Brennan has been described as the “emotional heart” of Alex Gibney’s new film, Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine. She came to the Fresh Dialogues studio for an intimate conversation about her relationship with Steve Jobs and their child, Lisa Brennan-Jobs. In this video clip, we discuss why, despite being burned by other journalists, she chose to take part in Alex Gibney’s documentary. She also shares her unique perspective on why the whole truth matters. As Andrew Ross Sorkin explores, Steve Jobs can be both hero and villain.

Here’s the transcript of our conversation (edited for length and clarity):

Alison van Diggelen: What are you hoping to achieve by contributing so fully in the documentary (Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine)?

Chrisann Brennan: When they first approached me, they said Alex Gibney did not manipulate content and in the spirit of what I intended, he would uphold that. I’ve had a lot of experience, because of Steve, where people…run on their own agenda…but I found that Alex Gibney did uphold what I said.

Alison van Diggelen: What message are you hoping to get over?

Chrisann Brennan: I don’t want to judge Steve because he did what he did, it was fabulous…but I like the fact that the (movie) spectrum shows we are different people now. We value different things. We will expose these things because we want to have a dialogue in the world about the whole picture…not just the ‘Mount Rushmore picture’ of people who do well.

Alison van Diggelen: So you can contribute that fully faceted perspective?

 Chrisann Brennan: Yes, I do feel that.

Alison van Diggelen: You said “I don’t want to paint me as the victim, and Steve as the villain.” Is there an alternate way you’d like to frame it?

Chrisann Brennan: That will continue to evolve. I survived it…I have more than survived it…I survived him…

Alison van Diggelen: And do you feel that is a victory right there?

Chrisann Brennan: I feel it says if you hold onto the truth, it actually starts to amount to something. This was twisted love…we would have done better if we could have.

Alison van Diggelen: Is there anything you wish you’d done differently?

Chrisann Brennan: Oh, yeah…but I couldn’t have. When I was living with Steve and he was showing me his poetry, I really wish I’d taken it to heart more deeply.

Alison van Diggelen: Was this his Bob Dylan poetry?

Bite in the Apple - Chrisann Brennan and daughter Lisa Brennan-Jobs -- Steve Jobs - from book from PR/author

Bite in the Apple – Chrisann Brennan and daughter Lisa Brennan-Jobs — Steve Jobs – from book from PR/author

Chrisann Brennan: Mm hmm. When I grew up enough to be an adult and understand that 17-year-old, I felt ohhhh. There’s just so much. If we had a chance to talk now, it’d be great…

Alison van Diggelen: What would you ask him?

Chrisann Brennan: I think I would just express some kind of love…

Alison van Diggelen: You would tell him you loved him?

Chrisann Brennan: In some form…

Alison van Diggelen: That’s beautiful…Now I want to find that passage…(that shows) the side of Steve that is not well known: this goofiness.

Chrisann Brennan: (Reading from her memoir, The Bite in the Apple) Running into the kitchen one day, he took the phone off the hook, pressed the # key and told me he’d just blown up the world! (laughter)

Alison van Diggelen: It’s very powerful…

One last question: what do you feel was Steve’s greatest legacy?

Chrisann Brennan: He showed people how to free themselves up…how to be who they were. Yes, he made a technological device…but mainly the message is to be who you are. Now a lot of people are running around trying to be like Steve Jobs. They miss the point…it is to individuate, to understand what you need to go out and do. He was such a fabulous example of it in so many ways.

Alison van Diggelen: Chrisann Brennan, thank you so much.

***

Read more at Fresh Dialogues about Brennan’s perspective: “I am a modern Mary Magdalene, the truth of who I am was blacked out. Steve fancied himself a Christ figure…” 

Check back soon for more video highlights at Fresh Dialogues:

On the profound gift Steve Jobs gave her when they first met

On their experiments with LSD; and what made him wildly fearful

Oh how he changed from the deeply in love teenager to the ruthless businessman who “lost his humanity.”

On their daughter Lisa Brennan-Jobs and how Jobs was “wowed” by her, yet denied paternity for many years

Brennan says the universal message in her book “The Bite In The Apple” is the plight of single mothers and why things need to change

Elon Musk: 6 Things You Can Learn From “Fantastic” New Bio

Elon Musk: 6 Things You Can Learn From “Fantastic” New Bio

By Alison van Diggelen, host of Fresh Dialogues

The new Elon Musk biography by Ashlee Vance will “likely serve as the definitive account” of the most successful entrepreneur in the world, writes Jon Gertner in the New York Times. But it can also be read as a manual of how to succeed in business. Here are six big lessons for entrepreneurs, young and old:

1. Think Big

While Musk was at college, he decided the three things that would have the biggest positive impact on the human race were: sustainable energy, the Internet, and making life multi-planetary. 

Here’s how Vance describes Musk’s big thinking:

“What Musk has developed that so many of the entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley lack is a meaningful worldview. He’s the possessed genius on the grandest quest anyone has ever concocted. He’s less a CEO chasing riches than a general marshaling troops to secure victory. Where Mark Zuckerberg wants to help you share baby photos, Musk wants to…well…save the human race from self-imposed or accidental annihilation.”

This passage comes early in the book, and feels as though Vance has been drinking Musk’s Kool Aid. By the last page, however, he’s painted a vivid and balanced picture of a driven man, focused intently on changing the world in a big way, no matter the cost to himself or his family (see No.6 below). So, if you want to succeed like Elon Musk, don’t waste time building a widget that’ll be 10% better than the competition:

Think big, really big, and go for it.

2. Learn to be a Better Boss

Elon Musk was ousted as CEO from two early startups Zip2 and X.com (the precursor to PayPal) because he was a bad boss.  In his early days, Musk was a controlling, micro-manager whose “one upmanship” tactics were brutal.

Vance writes,

“Musk’s traits as a confrontational know-it-all and his abundant ego created deep, lasting  fractures within his companies.”

According to a colleague at Zip2, he’d rip into junior and senior executives alike, especially when employees told him that his demands were impossible.

“You would see people come out of the meetings with this disgusted look on their face…You don’t get to where Elon is now by always being a nice guy, and he was just so driven and sure of himself.”

These days, he’s still very demanding but has got better at being a decent boss at Tesla and SpaceX and his longtime employees are fiercely loyal.

Of course, part of being a good boss is inspiring your team with an awesome mission (see No.1 above) and articulating that clearly. Early employees of SpaceX were told that “the mission would be to emerge as the South-west Airlines* of Space.” More recently of course, the Mars mission dominates the company’s focus. Who wouldn’t be on board with the mind-blowing goal of making humans a multi-planetary species?

So don’t fret if you’re not getting “Boss of the Year” awards in your early days, but learn from your mistakes, and motivate your team with a grand vision.

3. Hire with Care, Fire fastThe Key to Tesla Model S, a Fresh Dialogues story

Musk is renowned for hiring top talent and for several years, he even insisted on personally interviewing employees fairly low on the totem pole. For key technical hires, once he decides he wants someone, he’ll go above and beyond to hire them. He even cold-calls them himself. A SpaceX employee recalls receiving a call from Musk in his college dorm room and thinking it was a prank call.

But on the flip side, if you’re not a fit for the team, then you’ll soon know about it, according to Steve Jurvetson, a Tesla, SpaceX board member and close ally to Musk.

“Like (Steve) Jobs, Elon does not tolerate C or D players.  He’s like Jobs in that neither of them suffer fools. But I’d say he’s nicer than Jobs and a bit more refined than Bill Gates.”

The lesson: hire strategically with great care, and if an employee doesn’t fit, don’t wait.

4. Deal with critics, carefully

Musk has a reputation for slamming critics, like the British car show, Top Gear and the damning Model S review in the New York Times. Even the book’s author Ashlee Vance was berated for using what Musk insists are inaccurate quotes. Musk fired back on Twitter: “That’s total BS and hurtful.”

Some of his “bombastic counteroffensives” worked, others were arguably counter productive and alienated potential allies and supporters.

Yet Vance also offers a more sympathetic interpretation of his tirades as “a quest for truth” as opposed to pure vindictiveness. As Vance writes,

“Musk is wired like a scientist and suffers mental anguish at the sight of a factual error. A mistake on a printed page would gnaw at his soul – forever.”

Although taking things personally and seeking war has generally worked for Musk, it’s a highly risky strategy. Setting the record straight is one thing, but how many bridges can you burn? One key consideration is this: going to war demands a lot of time and energy which might be better spent on getting your mission accomplished.

Choose your battles carefully.

5. Have a trusted assistant

Ashley Vance describes Musk’s long-time assistant Mary Beth Brown as:

“A now-legendary character in the lore of both SpaceX and Tesla….establishing a real-life version of the relationship between Iron Man’s Tony Stark and Pepper Potts. If Musk worked a twenty hour day, so too did Mary Beth…She would emerge as the only bridge between Musk and all of his interests and was an invaluable asset to the companies’ employees.”

Sadly for Musk, she’s now moved on, but having worked with her briefly in 2012/13 (to arrange an in-depth interview with Musk), I can attest that she was very charming and an excellent surrogate for Musk. She represented him well in a professional and personal capacity.

Read more about her in the biography and try find someone as loyal, talented and hard-working to be your right-hand man or woman. Good luck!

6. Work hard, very hard

Not only does Musk lead two hard-driving companies (which are 300 miles apart) – SpaceX (L.A.) and Tesla (Silicon Valley) – he’s chairman of SolarCity, and has five boys, two ex-wives and a tight circle of friends, that includes Google’s Larry Page. He claims to sleep an average of six hours a night, but almost every waking hour is devoted to his businesses. His ex-wife Justine Musk, describes his work ethic like this:

“I had friends who complained that their husbands came home at seven or eight. Elon would come home at eleven and work some more. People didn’t always get the sacrifice he made in order to be where he was. He does what he wants, and he is relentless about it. It’s Elon’s world, and the rest of us live in it.”

The only regular downtime he allows is to indulge in long showers, but even then, it’s really work. He says that’s when he has most of his innovative ideas.

So, the lesson for you is the same as that espoused by pioneering giants like Thomas Edison and Andrew Carnegie: there’s nothing like good old fashioned hard work.

Note: Although Musk comes over as a hard-driving maniac in this biography, he does have a more sensitive side. You can see this for yourself in this candid interview. He comes close to tears several times.

Read more about Elon Musk in his own words here.

*For non US readers, South-west Airlines is a low cost airline, like Easy Jet