Was Elon Musk Said Berkshire Hathaway’s Charlie Munger Once Told an Entire Table at Lunch ‘All the Ways Tesla Would Fail’?
By Steve Baker
The exact tweet from Elon Musk at 4:46pm Feb 16th 2022 is:
“I was at a lunch with Munger in 2009 where he told the whole table all the ways Tesla would fail.
Made me quite sad, but I told him I agreed with all those reasons & that we would probably die, but it was worth trying anyway.”
Munger was evidently incorrect – at least over the last 13 years.
We don’t know exactly what Munger said at that lunch – but evidently Musk was sitting right there – so that perhaps wasn’t the most pleasant thing to say over lunch!
To be fair (as Musk kinda says in his tweet) – he actually agreed that there were multiple ways for Tesla to fail. He says that kind of thing all the time…things like “Success is one of the possible outcomes.”
He knows that he’s often riding the edge of the possible – but that’s served him right so far.
Munger has also said (of Musk):
“Never underestimate the man who overestimates himself. Some of the extreme successes are going to come from people who try very extreme things because they’re overconfident.”
…which is an odd kind of a statement – but if you unpack it carefully, I think he’s saying that Musk can succeed.
But at another interview, he twisted that a bit:
“[Musk] thinks he’s even more able than he is and that’s helped him. … Never underestimate the man who overestimates himself,”
Here’s what others had to say:
And in 2009, Tesla appeared to be in something of a mess.
I interviewed at Tesla in 2008 for an embedded software job, and the interview was one of the worst I’ve ever had. Only two of the people I interviewed with knew I was coming, and only three of the six people interviewing me were software people. Four of them were basically dragged into the interview at the last minute…
Fortunately, I didn’t get the job, as Tesla had a rather large layoff a couple months later.
Bruce F. Webster
As per the Munger quotes, in my CS 428 (‘real-world software engineering’) class, I present the following quote on the first day of class:
“Only optimists build complex systems.” – Adele Goldberg
All progress is due to unreasonable men. The reasonable man adapts to the situation. Only the unreasonable man changes the situation.
I love the fact that Munger was willing to speak his mind regardless of who was at the table, and that Musk was mature enough not to take the opinion personally and rather evaluate it rationally.
As Musk had said, everyone who has tried to start a cat company since (I’m not sure, but before WWII certainly) has failed, it was very hard, and he was quite aware of that.
Munger isn’t really a business man. He is an investor. He only bets on things he knows. Things he see as stable but undervalued (value investing). If it were not for people like Musk, Munger wouldn’t have anything to invest in.