The sight of a sweaty Elon Musk taking a puff from a blunt during an interview has Tesla’s already-troubled stock falling again.
The market moves have more to do with the company’s top accountant and human resources officer departing, but the focus on Musk’s cannabis moment is a strangely puritanical impulse around a legal substance, particularly as successful tech entrepreneurs troop back from the bacchanalia at Burning Man.
Musk’s erratic behavior has been a distraction for Tesla, particularly after he tweeted about securing funding to take the company private when he apparently had not. A reported SEC investigation (paywall) into that event, and how Musk and other executives shared information about car-production rates, are a real threat to the company.
Add in Musk’s bizarre campaign to vilify a cave diver who criticized his high-tech efforts to aid trapped children, and off-putting public spats with journalists and Azealia Banks, and you can see someone who needs to chill.
Which is why Musk, who describes himself as “not a regular smoker of weed,” should think about changing that.
Consider the critiques of Musk’s management style. (As an author of a book about his company SpaceX, I’ve heard them all.) He gets angry with employees and berates them. He loses focus, jumping from idea to idea. He micromanages and delegates poorly. He can’t drop a grudge. He over-works himself to the point of exhaustion, and then has trouble sleeping.
Sounds like someone who could get high a little more often, to be honest.
For an idea of Musk with a better work-life balance, look at SpaceX. One of the keys to the company’s success is that Musk has built a management team that works largely on its own, led by president Gwynne Shotwell. Musk provides the vision and digs in on technology design. He doesn’t try to put the company on his shoulders, as he does at Tesla, personally directing the manufacturing floor. (In part, that’s because at SpaceX, he doesn’t need to: Electric cars are much harder to build than rockets.)
In other words, a chiller Musk might be a better Musk, as some have observed.
There is scientific evidence that chemicals in cannabis are an effective treatment for a variety of ills, from pain, nausea, and muscle cramps to epilepsy, anxiety, and insomnia. While public health experts are fretting about corporate marijuana, the product remains far safer than alcohol, and no CEO would be criticized for a glass of wine with dinner.
To be sure, self-medication is no cure for stress, or problems with mass manufacturing. Musk’s paranoia about short-sellers might be exacerbated by the wrong strain, and his tweets might get more bizarre (but hopefully less angry). And, as he notes, “I don’t find that it is very good for productivity.” Whatever you think about Musk’s behavior, his companies have done things few believed possible, and his frenzied approach played a part in that.
But to borrow a saying Musk’s fellow rocket entrepreneur Jeff Bezos loves, “slow is smooth, and smooth is fast.” Maybe it’s time for Musk to slow down a little.