Dear Elon Musk, Society Owes You an Apology

By David Geller   |   September 17, 2018

Dear Elon,

After reading your candid interview in a recent NY Times article and observing several interviews, I have a window into why this year has been so trying for you.

It’s deeply unfortunate that society has pigeonholed you and minimized your difficult situation. As with other financially successful and high-profile business owners I’ve worked with, society tends to draw a common, and incorrect, conclusion: “they should be happy because they have so much money.”

We both know money doesn’t buy happiness.

After all, in your NYT article, you noted that you’ve hardly slept, and your health has suffered. You’ve had zero time to see your children and can barely find the time to make it to meaningful family events, like your brother’s wedding.

Even with all that pain, your comment that “from a personal pain standpoint, the worst is yet to come” sent chills down my spine.

Are you worried about becoming estranged from your five sons? Are you worried about becoming seriously ill?

Or is your scariest thought that, even if you turn Tesla around, you’ll look around and find yourself lonely and unsatisfied?

While I know many are inundating you with recommendations and guidance, please find comfort in knowing that you have a choice.  As you’ve done throughout your brilliant career, you can adjust your mindset to create a life filled with meaning and joy.  It won’t be easy, but it is certainly possible.

In my opinion, the following recommendations should be made:

The first step is to realize/reaffirm that time, not money, is your scarce resource.  A few months ago, the Bloomberg Billionaire Index listed your net worth at $22.3 billion. I have been a wealth manager for more than 30 years and am confident that, properly managed, you are not going to run out of money before you run out of breath.

The second step is to reassess your own definition of personal success. All too often our definition of success comes from childhood messages we receive from our parents and culture, or from our own experiences. These internal messages can subconsciously drive our behaviors, leading us to work 120-hour weeks or for 24 consecutive hours on our birthday.

I encourage you to identify your internal messages around success and the meaning of money, delineate how these messages have both helped you and harmed you, and reframe the messages to better align with your current values and life priorities.

Once this is complete, then prioritize them.

The third step is to identify your top 3 life priorities. Our culture tells us with enough money, we can have it all.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: this is categorically untrue.  All choices have costs. You can’t focus on Tesla, SpaceX, the Boring Company, and your kids at the same time.

If you are not crystal clear about the three things that matter most to you, you will fall into the trap of allowing important things in life to steal your time and resources from THE MOST important things in life.

The fourth step is to accept the fact that you can’t make this journey alone. Support networks and relationships are two fundamental keys to wealth and joy. How do I know that this step is important for you? If you were more effectively engaging your networks and relationships, you would have already made the changes necessary to prevent the feeling that “the worst is yet to come.”

I am the CEO of JOYN, America’s Behavioral Wealth Management firm. We specialize in helping financially successful individuals figure out how to use their wealth, which is always about more than their money, to build more meaningful and joyful lives.

As one of America’s cherished titans of industry and voice of innovation, we can’t afford to lose you.

While it’s hard to imagine or believe it due to the enormous challenges you currently face, you deserve to have a fulfilling life filled with good health, close connected relationships, engaging experiences, and a sense of personal purpose.

I believe these Behavioral Wealth Management steps outlined here can help you get back on track.


David G.


Investment Advisory Services offered through JOYN Advisors, Inc. Registered Investment Advisors. Insurance offered through JOYN Atlanta, Inc. Securities offered through Securian Financial Services, Inc. Member FINRA/SIPC. JOYN Advisors, Inc. and its affiliates are not affiliated with Securian Financial Services, Inc. 
David Geller

About the Author

CEO David Geller co-founded the firm in 1991 and led the creation of Behavioral Wealth Management. Recognized on numerous prestigious "top financial advisor" lists, David is an in-demand speaker for professional groups and JOYN workshops. His writings have appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Huffington Post.

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