Twitter, Tesla, Neuralink, SpaceX: The Week That Ran on Elon Musk Time
Propensity for ambitious, fuzzy deadlines is now on display at the social-media platform
Propensity for ambitious, fuzzy deadlines is now on display at the social-media platform
The past week offered a dizzying display of Elon Musk’s multitasking range.
In the space of a few days, he showed off a monkey typing using a brain chip from his Neuralink startup, delivered an all-electric semitrailer from Tesla Inc., planned rocket launches at SpaceX and personally got involved in a high-profile account suspension at Twitter Inc., among much other activity.
It all highlighted an aspect common to Mr. Musk’s ventures, what some closer observers call “Elon Standard Time.”
That somewhat-joking, somewhat-on-the-nose shorthand refers to Mr. Musk’s habit of promising a new product or feature in the near term, which ends up being pushed off to a fuzzy future date—weeks, months or even years later.
Supporters say it is an example of how the world’s richest man motivates his teams to accomplish tasks that might have seemed impossible—such as landing rockets with SpaceX or building Tesla into a profitable electric-car giant.
Mr. Musk, who didn’t respond to a request for comment, in the past attributed his missed deadlines to the same optimism that enables him to take on daunting tasks.
The latest delay happened Friday. Mr. Musk had set that as the tentative date for the relaunch of a beefed-up version of the company’s Twitter Blue subscription service, an effort that could make the platform less reliant on advertising dollars, but as of late Saturday the rollout hadn’t happened.
It was the third scheduling lapse for Twitter Blue since Mr. Musk completed his Twitter acquisition in late October. Advertisers were told by Twitter employees that the relaunch could come this week, according to people familiar with the matter.
Twitter didn’t respond to a request for comment about the subscription service and the deadlines.
Mr. Musk is racing to remake the social-media company as what he calls Twitter 2.0. As part of that, he cut half the workforce, and many other employees left on their own when offered a choice between severance and “long hours at high intensity.” Advertisers are pulling back in the midst of concern about the platform’s content-moderation strategies and the general pace of change, as Twitter faces losses.
This past week was a stark example of all the plates Mr. Musk now has spinning. At Twitter, he also battled with the tech colossus Apple Inc. and personally announced the suspension of Kanye West’s account after the rapper and designer posted an anti-Semitic image.
At Tesla, Mr. Musk came through on one of his big promises with the delivery of the electric truck—albeit three years after he initially said it would arrive.
“Sorry for the delay,” Mr. Musk told a crowd gathered Thursday night for the Semi delivery at Tesla’s factory outside Reno, Nev. “The sheer amount of drama between…five years ago and now is insane. A lot has happened in the world, but here we are, and it is real.”
The night before the Semi celebration, Mr. Musk held an event in Fremont, Calif., for Neuralink to show off the work of his brain-computer company with a video of “telepathic typing” from a monkey that had a Neuralink implant. In 2019, Mr. Musk predicted that the company could begin human testing as soon as 2020. On Thursday, he said it should now be six months away.
Space Exploration Technologies Corp., as Mr. Musk’s rocket company is formally known, had more routine delays, postponing a launch planned for this past Thursday using one of its Falcon 9 rockets after conducting additional inspections of the booster and reviewing data, according to a tweet. SpaceX didn’t respond to a request for comment.
The company said Tuesday on Twitter that it conducted another major engine test for Starship, the rocket system it has been developing. While Mr. Musk has discussed possible dates for the first-ever Starship orbital flight, the company hasn’t attempted such a mission yet.
Delays in rocket-development programs aren’t uncommon, and Mr. Musk has made several predictions that have come and gone for his space ambitions.
Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX’s president, has said delays are worth it to ensure that technical goals are met. “We have achieved everything we have wanted to—never in the timeline,” Ms. Shotwell said earlier this year at Stanford Graduate School of Business. “We fail on timeline, but that feels like the right fail to make, as opposed to not achieving what you’re trying to achieve.”
Maikel Mertens, a Tesla owner in the Netherlands, created a parody website in 2019—elontime.io—which makes light of how Mr. Musk’s timelines tend to stretch. He has dubbed his website the “Elon Time Converter,” which jokingly promises to calculate “the time drift between the Elon timezone…and the universal timezone.” A user enters a promised time, and the website cheekily pops out what it might mean. Six months, for example, might be two years.
Some people aren’t laughing. Tesla faced litigation over bullish statements that Mr. Musk made about increasing Model 3 car production only to see months of delays and headaches. Tesla denied wrongdoing, and the lawsuit was dismissed by a federal judge, who noted that Mr. Musk had qualified his projections. “Federal securities laws do not punish companies for failing to achieve their targets,” the judge wrote.
In 2018, a Tesla shareholder at the company’s annual meeting asked Mr. Musk about deadlines. “As a long-term investor, I hate to say this, but I feel like my trust in Tesla’s timelines sort of eroded a little bit with the Model 3 ramp,” the man said. “So should I keep discounting things on Elon time or…have you learned anything about this?”
“I do have…an issue with time,” Mr. Musk responded. He said his younger brother, Kimbal Musk, would have to be creative with him as children to catch the bus, telling him it was earlier than it actually was.
Mr. Musk chalked it up to his being a naturally optimistic person, added that he probably wouldn’t have pursued the seemingly impossible effort of breaking into the worlds of car-making and rocket-launching if he were any other way.
“I kind of say when I think it can occur, but then I’m typically optimistic about these things,” he said. “Like it pretty much always happens but not exactly on the time frame.”
—Patience Haggin, Micah Maidenberg and Alexa Corse contributed to this article.
Americans now think they need at least $1.25 million for retirement, a 20% increase from a year ago, according to a survey by Northwestern Mutual
While most U.S. workers are putting in fewer hours, men in the top 10% of earners cut back their time on the job the most, according to a new study
American workers have cut the number of hours they spend in their jobs since 2019, but no group has dialled back its time on the clock more than young, high-earning men whose jobs typically demand long hours.
The top-earning 10% of men in the U.S. labor market logged 77 fewer work hours in 2022, on average, than those in the same earnings group in 2019, according to a new study of federal data by the economics department at Washington University in St. Louis. That translates to 1.5 hours less time on the job each workweek, or a 3% reduction in hours. Over the same three-year period, the top-earning 10% of women cut back time at work by 29 hours, which translates to about half an hour less work each week, or a 1% reduction.
High-earning men in the 25-to-39 age range who could be described as “workaholics” were pulling back, often by choice, says Yongseok Shin, a professor of economics, who co-wrote the paper. Since this group already put in longer hours than the typical U.S. worker—and women at the highest income levels—these high earners had longer work days to trim, Dr. Shin says, and still worked more hours than the average.
The drop in working hours among high-earning men and women helps explain why the U.S. job market is even tighter than what would be expected given the current levels of unemployment and labour force participation, Dr. Shin says.
“These are the people who have that bargaining power,” Dr. Shin says of the leverage many workers have had over their employers in a tight job market. “They have the privilege to decide how many hours they want to work without worrying too much about their economic livelihood.”
The paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, which isn’t yet peer reviewed, suggests high earners were more likely to benefit from flexible working arrangements, which could be a factor in reduced work hours.
Before the pandemic, Eli Albrecht, a lawyer in the Washington, D.C., area, says he worked between 80 to 90 hours a week. Now, he says he puts in 60 to 70 hours each week. That’s still more than most men in America, who averaged 40.5 hours a week in 2021, according to federal data.
Mr. Albrecht’s schedule changed when he shared Zoom school duties for two of his young children with his wife. He’s maintained the reduced hours because it’s making his relationship more equitable, he says, and gives him family time.
“I used to feel—and a lot of dads used to feel—that just by providing for the family financially, that was sufficient. And it’s just not,” Mr. Albrecht says.
The downshift documented by Dr. Shin and his colleagues occurred as many professionals have been reassessing their ambitions and the value of working long hours. Emboldened by a strong job market, millions of Americans quit their jobs in search of better hours and more flexibility.
Overall, U.S. employees worked 18 fewer hours a year, on average, in 2022 compared with 2019, with employed men putting in 28 fewer hours last year and employed women cutting their time by nine hours, data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey show. The average male worker put in 2,006 hours last year, while the average female worker logged 1,758 hours.
Separate data from the Census Bureau suggests that men with families, in particular, are working less. Between 2019 and 2021, married men devoted roughly 13 fewer minutes, on average, to work each day, according to the American Time Use Survey, which hasn’t yet published 2022 figures. They spent more time on socialising and relaxing, as well as household activities, according to men surveyed by the Census Bureau. The amount of time unmarried men spent on work changed little during that same period.
As high-earning workers in the U.S. cut back, low-wage workers increased their hours, according to Dr. Shin’s research. The bottom-earning 10% of working men logged 41 hours more in 2022, on average, than in 2019. Women in the lowest earning group boosted their hours worked by 52 last year compared with 2019.
While women work fewer hours than men, the unpaid labor they perform outside of their jobs has been well documented. Many working mothers take what’s termed a “second shift,” devoting more time outside work hours to child care and housework.
Maryann B. Zaki, a mother of three who has worked at several firms, including in big law, recently launched her own practice in Houston, giving her more control over her hours. She says she’s noticed more men in her field opting for reduced schedules, sometimes working 80% of the hours normally expected—which can range from 40 to more than 80 a week—in exchange for a 20% pay cut. For the average lawyer, that would amount to a salary reduction of tens of thousands of dollars each year; such arrangements were initially offered to aid working mothers.
Responding to new expectations of work-life balance may be particularly vexing for industries already facing staffing shortages, such as those in medicine. Dr. Lotte Dyrbye, the chief well-being officer for the University of Colorado School of Medicine, said she often hears from early-career physicians and other medical professionals who want to work fewer hours to avoid burnout.
These medical workers are deciding that to be in it for the long haul requires a day every week or two to decompress, Dr. Dyrbye says. But as staff cut back their hours, it costs medical organisations money and may compromise access to care.
Australian lenders hope no-interest cards can arrest a decline in usage and attract younger customers.