Jim Duffy comment: Musk must show a hero’s humility, not hubris

Unfortunately for Musk, he is neither the president nor a Hollywood figure in a movie, says Duffy.
Unfortunately for Musk, he is neither the president nor a Hollywood figure in a movie, says Duffy.
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Robert Downey Jr is a great actor who can turn his hand to comedy, action and all the serious stuff that makes him a decent all-rounder.

His portrayal as Tony Stark in the Iron Man movies is funny, yet bold in his re-imagining of what could be. As a billionaire industrialist and genius inventor, Downey Jr literally has the world at his feet in the role. He makes many ­mistakes in the movies, but triumphs with good over evil.

Some compare the character to the real-life Elon Musk, the self-made tech billionaire who also has created some amazing rocket-powered thrills for us. But alas, the comedy is lacking and while Iron Man is all just Hollywood, Elon Musk is living in the real world. And it’s not pretty…

Musk, the South African-born, American business magnate has had a meteoric rise to wealth and fame. He is by far the world’s most celebrated entrepreneur. Even more flamboyant than President Trump. He has bigger plans for space than Sir Richard Branson, and has many fingers in many pies.

A tour de force in the entrepreneurial world who jets across the globe preaching his message on space exploration and colonisation, solar energy and deep tunnels under big cities that will revolutionise traffic flows.

The only thing missing is an Iron Man suit that allows him to strut his stuff wowing us with his almost superhuman abilities. The unfortunate thing is he may indeed need his own Iron Man suit as his love affair with the media and his investors looks to be coming to an abrupt end.

Love him or loathe him, Trump uses Twitter to express himself perhaps a little too freely and loosely than his advisors would want. It has exposed him at times as being a little too thin skinned. It has shown his sharp elbows a little too aggressively for some, opening him up to media criticism. Hence, his “fake news” agenda, naming of specific reporters and journalists.

One would perhaps look at this strategy and decide that it was not the best way to ingratiate oneself with the newsrooms when things get tough. Not so Musk… our swashbuckling Iron Man caricature.

As Musk’s fortunes turn sharply, he has exposed himself on Twitter and on stage as thin-skinned and with a propensity to lash out when things don’t go his way.

After a string of negative press that questioned his electric car company -–Tesla – on its safety record, its efforts to prevent its workers from unionisation, and widespread coverage of a fatal accident involving a vehicle on autopilot mode, Musk decided to vent his displeasure on Twitter. A rant that looked very similar to those of Trump when things don’t go his way.

Unfortunately for Musk, he is neither the president nor a Hollywood figure in a ­movie. Thus, the wrath of the press and many others descended upon him.

While his company Tesla burned through $750 million in cash over the last quarter, failing to make the impact Musk wants from his engineers and innovators, he reacted to the negative reporting with some visceral mutterings on Twitter that some feel made him look a little ungrateful.

Musk has been the poster boy for entrepreneurs, techies and the media, with front covers on Time Magazine, Forbes, Fortune, Inc, Success and Rolling Stone to name but a few. He has courted them and they have courted him. But Musk’s outburst on social media may have backfired as he turns on those very folks who helped cement him into our modern-day Iron Man.

The problem is will he be able to make Elon Musk Two and Three? Now is the time for him to admit he was a bit too hasty in his use of the social media platform and just be honest with himself and those who helped to put him where he is. He is just a man after all, not someone living in a movie in his own head.

The real world is less forgiving than celluloid. But only if he truly repents and wants to build bridges again.

Elon Musk the sequel can come to life. But, only if this global entrepreneur copes better with reality, his supporters and his critics.

Jim Duffy MBE, Create Special.