Get-hooked May 10, 2021
Tech entrepreneur Elon Musk opens up about disability, reveals he has Asperger’s on TV show
Tech entrepreneur and Tesla CEO Elon Musk is being hailed as inspirational by many for opening up about his disability. Musk did this during his debut as host of the prominent comedy sketch show Saturday Night Live. Musk started off the show by calling himself the first person with Asperger’s syndrome to host SNL. Musk joins a line of prominent business leaders who are setting an example in talking about their disability. Elon Musk, the inspirational tech entrepreneur has often hit the headlines for his provocative comments. This time he is making news for comments that are entirely personal.
The 49-year-old business leader behind Tesla and SpaceX made his debut hosting the well-known US comedy sketch Saturday Night Live, SNL. Musk kicked off the show by declaring himself as the first person with Asperger’s syndrome to host the show.
“I don’t always have a lot of intonation or variation in how I speak… which I’m told makes for great comedy,” he joked. “I’m actually making history tonight as the first person with Asperger’s to host SNL.”
Watch the opening here:
Musk’s comments sparked off a round of applause from the studio audience. The inspirational tech entrepreneur also went on to further explain some of his eccentric past behaviour.
Tesla CEO goes live on TV regarding disability
“Look, I know I say or post strange things but that’s just how my brain works. To anyone I’ve offended I just want to say, I reinvented electric cars (Tesla) and I’m sending people to Mars in a rocket ship (SpaceX). Did you think I was also going to be a chill, normal dude?”
The CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, went on to mock himself further, joking about his tweets, even his son’s unusual name – X Æ A-12, describing it as “It’s pronounced cat running across the keyboard”.
In several segments of the show, Elon Musk played off his socially awkward side, in keeping with his statement that he has Asperger’s.
Asperger’s is a form of autism that affects how a person makes sense of the world, processes information and relates to others. Asperger’s syndrome is a lifelong disability which affects people in many different ways. Those with the syndrome may have difficulties interpreting verbal and non-verbal language, and may need more time to process information. They may also have trouble expressing their feelings in a conventional way. But they can be more empathetic or emotionally aware than non-autistic people. Many people with Asperger’s syndrome have intense and highly focused interests – some channelling them towards a successful career.
Musk, who has over 50 million followers on Twitter, has attracted largely positive comments for revealing his disability. Some have called him out on the claim of being the first SNL host with Asperger’s referring to former SNL host Dan Aykroyd who had the same condition. But an overwhelming number have supported the tech entrepreneur, calling his move to disclose his condition nothing short of inspirational.
In opening up about his disability, Musk follows a line of prominent CEOs who have opened up about their disability and emerged as advocates for the disabled community.
Prominent CEOs with disability
Among the most well-known CEOs with disability is Sir Richard Branson. The founder of Virgin Group has talks about living with dyslexia on various platforms and uses every opportunity to talk about the strengths and opportunities that come with including people with disability in business.
Dyslexia is a learning disability that makes it hard for many individuals to read and interpret letters. Sir Branson’s disability made it difficult for him to succeed at school, because teachers dismissed him as lazy or stupid. However as it turned out his disability made him a good business leader. Sir Branson said it made him a better business owner as he learned to “delegate tasks that he wasn’t so good at” leaving him free to look at the bigger picture of growing the business. Virgin Group controls more than 400 companies globally and employs 69,000 people in 25 countries.
American fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger needs no introduction. He has changed the face of the fashion industry globally with his adaptive clothing line that has been designed keeping the needs of disabled people in mind. A global business leader in fashion, Hilfiger was diagnosed with dyslexia much later on in life but has talked about how he often felt embarrassed to reach out to people for help. Hilfiger recently partnered with the Child Mind Institute in a public service advertisement called “What I Would Tell #MyYounger Self.” In the campaign video, he said,
“As a child, I was dyslexic. I didn’t realise it until later on in life. I faced many challenges along the way. If you are facing challenges, the best thing you could possibly do is reach out to an adult because adults can help you somehow. I didn’t realise it at the time; I was embarrassed to talk to my teachers and family about it. But if something is bothering you, if you think you have a challenge, reach out to an adult and allow them to help you.”
David Neeleman, founder of five airlines and currently CEO, Breeze Airways, is a top leader in the space of aviation business. Neelman, who has dyslexia and ADHD, struggled as a child with standardised tests and staying focused in school. It was only in his 30s that he discovered he had ADHD which is characterised by impulsive behaviour and lack of focus. Although his disability presented him with significant challenges, Neelman has talked about enjoying the creative side of his brain. In an interview, he said, “I knew I had strengths that other people didn’t have, and my parents reminded me of them when my teachers didn’t see them.”
By revealing his disability openly on primetime time, Tesla CEO and tech entrepreneur Elon Musk is no doubt making a powerful statement, one that will motivate people to look at disability and disabled people through a different, more nuanced lens. Musk, like the other business leaders with disability, are truly inspirational as they are showing the world that starting a business and making it a success is well and truly possible with a disability. By talking about their disability and their experiences, these business leaders are showing the world that it is possible to overcome the challenges posed by disability and even turn them into an advantage.
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- Inclusive hiring makes good business sense proves auticon, the IT consultancy with employees with autism
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