The Hard Thing About Hard Things

Ben Horowitz is a successful figure in tech industry, I was curious to read what he had to say without even knowing what his book was about. Turns out, it’s meant to be a guide for CEOs. Nevertheless, it helped me understand why certain things are the way they are in my current company. It contains lessons he learned from his time at Netscape and Opsware. Here are some highlights:

  • Do you know what’s cheap? Flowers. But do you know what’s expensive? Divorce
  • In top dojos, in order to achieve the next level, you must defeat an opponent in combat at that level. This guarantees that a new black belt is never a worse fighter than the worst current black belt.
  • When someone learns to drive a race car, one of the first lessons taught is that when you are going around a curve at 200 mph, do not focus on the wall; focus on the road. If you focus on the wall, you will drive right into it. Focus on where you are going rather than on what you hope to avoid.
  • In high school football, being able to handle fear is 75% of the game.
  • I follow the principle of the Bushido — the way of the warrior: keep death in mind at all times. If a warrior keeps death in mind at all time and lives as though each day might be his last, he will conduct himself properly in all his actions.
  • If you survive long enough to see tomorrow, it may bring you the answer that seems so impossible today.
  • Startup CEOs should not play the odds. It matters not whether your chances are nine in ten or one in a thousand; your task is the same.
  • Whenever a large organization attempts to do anything, it always comes down to a single person who can delay the entire project.
  • In any human interaction, the required amount of communication is inversely proportional to the level of trust.
  • Every manager must lay off his own people.
  • Hire for strength rather than lack of weakness.
  • After putting economics aside, I found that there were two primary reasons why people quit: (1) They hated their manager; generally the employees were appalled by the lack of guidance, career development, and feedback they were receiving. (2) They weren’t learning anything: The company wasn’t investing resources in helping employees develop new skills.
  • Perhaps the CEO’s most important operational responsibility is designing and implementing the communication architecture for her company.
  • The primary thing that any technology startup must do is build a product that’s at least ten times better at doing something than the current prevailing way of doing that thing.
  • People open up to feedback far more if you start by complimenting them, then give them the difficult message, then wrap up by reminding them how much you value their strengths.
  • If you are very early on in a very large market and you have good chance of being number one in that market, then you should remain stand-alone.
  • Build a culture that rewards – not punishes – people for getting problems into the open where they can be solved.

If you’re in a leadership position or CEO of a company, this book is for you. Otherwise, you won’t get much signal from it …

March 12, 2014

sarp centel

Sarp is a software developer. He writes about technology, books and software.
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