Musk's New Strategy - Boom or Bust?

Nov 18, 2022

A commentary on Musk’s recent ultimatum to Twitter employees.

Have you seen or heard about the ultimatum Elon Musk made to all Twitter employees? He wrote an email and required all employees to commit to the new culture of twitter or leave with three months’ severance. Their commitment required a sign off within 24 hours. What were they committing to? Here is an excerpt from his email:

“Going forward, to build a breakthrough Twitter 2.0 and succeed in an increasingly competitive world, we will need to be extremely hardcore. This will mean working long hours at high intensity. Only exceptional performance will constitute a passing grade.”

Before dissecting his statement let me preface with this – we can’t really know for sure Musk’s full intention in sending this communication. Given Musk’s historical success, I have to believe he is highly intelligent and current on the latest research relating to performance. Therefore, it’s possible Musk may not actually mean, believe, or ultimately follow through on his statements once the dust settles. Furthermore, if you consider the recent Harvard Business Review article on “quiet firing,” it’s possible Musk was using this communication to further reduce the size of his organization without having to choose whom to terminate. Therefore, Musk’s statements may have had an entirely different purpose than they appear on the surface to intend.

However, for the sake of unpacking his statement (should he actually mean it) and clarifying what he got right and wrong, we will assume he intended it to be read as written. Musk has gotten half of his statement right, but half very wrong, dangerously wrong. I’ve spent the last year reading everything I can find on the latest research regarding performance and neuroscience. I’ve talked with and even partnered with technology companies who are leveraging this information to their benefit. I want to share with you a bit of what I’ve discovered and where Musk has it wrong, very wrong.

What did Musk get right?

  • The world is increasingly competitive
  • To compete we need to be hardcore
  • Exceptional performance is essential

What did Musk get wrong:

  • Hardcore means long hours and high intensity
  • This approach will create exceptional performance and greater results

Competition in the World

Business and workplace competition has been a topic and strategy since the beginning. Many companies have defined their BHAG (big hairy audacious goal) using this approach like Nike did with "Crush Adidas." The general idea or basis of the strategy is to motivate people by having them come together to fight against a common enemy – the competition.

The strategy to motivate people using competition is one that has been used since the beginning of time. Competition is meant to ignite a fear response – beat the competition or lose. When we encounter this fear-based tactic, most people’s sympathetic nervous system (fight/flight) is activated. When going to war – this tactic is the one you want. But when it comes to workplaces, this response is not only unhealthy but has been shown to decrease performance results over time.

People are far more motivated by purpose and impact than they are by beating the competition. If you want true engagement from your people, you don’t threaten them with competition you engage them with exceptional employee experiences.

As a result of the pandemic, people everywhere are asking the question “what exactly are we competing for?” In the new book The Blind Spot by Jim Gallup, he provides Gallup’s most recent statistics regarding the global happiness crises breaking down how the trends they are seeing demonstrate a world catapulting into crisis.

  • A world where more people are struggling and struggling worse than in prior years.
  • A world where only a privileged few have access to the resources necessary to be thriving.
  • A world where there are 3 billion people who want great jobs and cannot get them.
  • A world where workplaces are not doing their part to create great jobs and thereby causing global suffering for the people who work within them.

I’ve asked the question for a while now “do we (people) want to keep working for our workplaces, or make our workplaces work for us (people)?” As technology has increased, the world of work is moving at an exponential pace with change occurring on an ever-increasing basis. The speed people must keep up with does demand a higher level of performance and results – but how we achieve that performance, what those results are, and how we get them does not need to follow the scripts of the past. Instead, motivating people with purpose and impact, maximizing their performance with neuroscience-based strategies, and defining results that serve people – humankind as a whole including both those in the workplace and those impacted by the workplace is essential to our future.

Competing Hardcore

What is truly hardcore in competing? It’s getting hardcore about what actually impacts performance - energy and effectiveness!

Musk’s use of the word "hardcore" is an interesting word choice – many of the definitions do not fit at all and the only one that does is “highly committed in one’s support for or dedication to something.” Musk’s letter implies that to be “high committed and dedicated to something” people must work long hours at a high intensity. With all due respect, Musk, you are operating on old data and information.

Like trying to use a computer from the 1980s to run the latest software programs, it can only lead to a crash.

Certainly, recent headlines and research highlighting the current “Burnout Epidemic” shows the results of these old practices in a new world causing tremendous pain, suffering, and long-term consequences.

People are literally crashing as a result of outdated workplace practices that have long required an update and reboot.

Surely Musk, as a leader of multiple technology companies, realizes that you have to update the systems if you want to run new programs. Musk’s approach to people assumes that you can continue to push people harder to create greater results. I don’t care how hard you push a computer, if it doesn’t have the necessary processor, gigabytes, and hard drive, you can’t run a program that is too big for it. The same goes for people, no matter how hard you push, unless you update the system, you can’t get greater results. In fact, you might actually get worse results because it will negatively impact their performance.  

When people are under high levels of stress for a sustained period of time it has an enormous impact on the brain and body. High levels of cortisol (released during periods of high stress) can deteriorate nearly every organ and system within the body. The trauma people experience as a result of this stress and pressure is further compounded by the inability to manage it effectively. As people remain in these highly activated states, imbalanced and out of coherence, their performance can do only one thing – decline. Without sufficient rest, nutrition, recovery, support, and balance the body and brain will crash.

Exceptional Performance

My first book is titled The Exceptional Life R-Evolution: A practical guide to reach peak performance and create exceptional experiences in our workplaces, homes and communities. My book is centered around a performance-based strategy that, when executed correctly, can create exceptional results for everyone. I am passionate about helping people perform better so they can create exceptional results both in their workplaces and in their lives. Which is why I know, without a doubt, that longer hours at a higher intensity will absolutely not create exceptional performance or results!

For decades workplaces have focused on productivity as the measure of creating successful outcomes. This makes logical sense – the more of something you produce in the least amount of time the more you can sell and the better the outcomes. Essentially maximizing output and minimizing waste. Given we are always limited by both time and resources, to maximize results we must find the optimal level of productivity. This approach works very well with machines and processes. However, this conveyor belt approach to maximizing outcomes has not worked out so well for humankind.

As a result of this approach, people have been pushed to high levels of stress and even burnout. As a society, we’ve become consumption obsessed at the expense of our health, environment, relationships, safety, and even personal growth or evolution. We’ve ignored the collective well-being of humankind in exchange for our insatiable desire to consume. This desire is a distraction keeping us from evolving and achieving truly great results in the world. Productivity optimizes for total output (quantity), but it doesn’t optimize for the greater good (impactful and meaningful results).

Let’s return to Musk’s words again – he said “hardcore = long hours and high intensity.” Intensity is defined as “extreme degree of strength, force, energy, or feeling” or “extreme force, degree, or amount.” Essentially, he is operating on the age-old belief that time and effort are the best indicator of how much a person can produce. As a result of this mentality, we believe by exerting more effort for longer periods of time we will produce greater results. Those that come in early and work late are going to accomplish more, be more successful, and achieve greater results. By working longer hours and doing so with extreme force or energy people will be able to produce greater results. This mentality made sense when people were performing assembly line style tasks or even performing roles where repeating consistent practices would create results. In today’s world, this approach rarely makes sense in our workplaces and never creates great jobs.

You may be thinking at this point “but doesn’t more hours worked and effort put into work create more results?” The answer is maybe yes in the short run, always no in the long run. People are not like mathematical equations. You can’t say time plus effort always equals the same result. Instead, people have many variables at play beyond their time and effort.

We know this from physics and Einstein’s famous E=mc2. Physics tells us that how the components of an object are put together and operating impacts the amount of energy and mass that object possesses. For example, if you have two wind-up clocks that are exactly the same, but one is running and one is not, the one that is running has a greater mass (greater potential energy). Therefore, how our bodies and brains are put together and operate is going to impact our energy (production, performance, results).

If we want to be able to generate more energy, and thereby create greater results or outcomes, then we must consider how people are operating. We must consider whether simply doing more is equivalent to operating at a higher level of effectiveness where doing equates to greater results. You cannot reach higher levels of capability by merely doing more. Instead, you must grow and evolve new skills within that will make the tasks you seek to do easier. Instead of struggling to find the fastest way to execute a task, you will find the wisdom that tells you specifically what will generate the greatest results for you.

Even a casual review of the latest neuroscience research will tell you that stronger performers use less of their brains (less energy). When you develop your neuropathways to perform at higher levels of capacity you are able to use less energy to achieve even greater results. By focusing on our neurological health and working with our internal intelligence capacity, we will be able to produce greater results with less energy (not more). If we follow the science-backed strategies for biohacking our brains to maximize their effectiveness we will be able to expend less energy, thereby conserving energy for activities that can further replenish our reserves.

If instead we follow Musk's outdated and ill-informed approach to exceptional performance there likely will be very dangerous consequences. The widespread burnout in technology companies (especially those run by Musk) undoubtedly leads to longer term consequences for the people impacted. Their relationships and family environment will suffer and the added stress leads to an increased probability of divorce. Children will be impacted by the lack of parental presence in their lives. They will suffer life-long health consequences including living shorter lives. All of this in exchange for performing in ways we know scientifically don't produce greater outcomes.


I hope by now I have convinced you that Elon Musk’s most recent ultimatum (regardless of his true intention) would not in practice lead Twitter to generating greater results. In fact, given the current workforce climate, the desire of people to live more fulfilling lives working in great jobs, and the shifting landscape of the true purpose of businesses, I think Musk may ultimately regret his decision. I remain hopeful that equipped with the latest scientific research, workplaces will begin adopting new performance strategies that will begin evolving our workplaces to become sources of great jobs for the many people who want them. Furthermore, as they adopt these strategies the people within these workplaces will find their lives transformed allowing them to live their best life with more exceptional experiences along the way. 

For Workplaces

If you are a workplace who wants to evolve to a new way of operating. A way that supports human performance and truly creates exceptional performance results. If your workplace is interested in being part of the most cutting-edge strategies for improving performance and creating better results for all humankind - contact us! We are currently looking for a handful of companies to pilot our new "Evolving Workplaces Program."

For Individuals

If you are someone interested in discovering how to truly operate at peak performance without working longer and harder and instead applying the latest neuroscience to achieve greater results in your life – message me! I am currently accepting just a few 1:1 coaching clients or you can be added to my list for our group coaching programs starting in January.

Interested in Learning More?

To learn about NeuroPerformance and a neuroscience-based approach to living a better life sign up here!

Check out our Neuroscience of Self-Awareness free giveaways including an assessment, strategies handout, webinar, and more!  

Get our Self-Awareness Free Give-aways!

Stay connected with news and updates!

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team!
Don't worry, your information will not be shared.

We hate SPAM. We will never sell your information, for any reason.

Fiercely Cherished Beings Sign Up 

Sign up here to find out when the new book Fiercely Cherished Beings will be available!