Five Productivity Tips from CEO (and Factory Floor Sleeper) Elon Musk

It's easy to walk out of meetings if you're the CEO.

4. 18. 18 by Victor Tangermann
Chris Saucedo / Tag Hartman-Simkins

It’s been a rough couple of days for poor Elon. Tesla has had to halt production on its Model 3 cars, making stocks drop and concerning investors.

In an effort to catch up to those deadlines (and exceptions) it has failed to hit, Musk has taken it upon himself to oversee changes to the Model 3 production line in person. He’s reportedly sleeping on the floor of the Fremont, California. Now workers, already faced with working conditions that induce “pain, injury, and stress,” will be operating 24/7. Yikes.

So, yeah, it’s safe to say that Elon’s got a morale problem. But don’t fret, investors, he’s got a plan to fix it: some choice productivity tips, reportedly proffered in a memo sent to Tesla employees. They should, according to Musk’s instruction, use their common sense and walk out of unproductive meetings if they have to. “If following a ‘company rule’ is obviously ridiculous in a particular situation, such that it would make for a great Dilbert cartoon, then the rule should change.” Dilbert cartoons! So comical!

It’s really easy to walk out the door when you are the CEO of the company with a net worth of around $20 billion and you think your time is being wasted. Not so easy when you are a factory worker, being “sprayed with molten metal,” and “sliced by machinery.”


So let’s look back at five “excellent” pieces of Elon’s advice that will apply just as well (we promise!) to you as it does to the most famous guy to be sleeping on a factory floor.

  • Start low, dig your way down, and keep things light-hearted while you’re at the bottom.

  • Don’t take irony too far. We know how sometimes, joking around may not play out as we had planned.

“A friend of mine has a good phrase for doing a startup: it’s like eating glass and staring into the abyss. If you are wired to do it, then only do it, not otherwise. So think of it this way — if you need inspiring words, DON’T DO IT!””

“There’s a silly notion that failure’s not an option at NASA. Failure is an option here. If things are not failing, you are not innovating enough.”

“Going from PayPal, I thought well, what are some of the other problems that are likely to most affect the future of humanity? Not from the perspective, ‘what’s the best way to make money,’ which is okay, but, it was really ‘what do I think is going to most affect the future of humanity.'”

Elon may be great at launching rockets or selling flamethrowers, but he’s not the best motivational speaker. Perhaps, despite our meticulous documentation of his habits and obsession with the simplest of routines, he’s not the patron saint of productivity and success.


Tesla factory workers don’t need his advice; they’d probably prefer his compassion. After all, “humans are underrated.”

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