The Hard Thing About Hard Things


Famed investor and entrepreneur Ben Horowitz brings us through his personal accounts of the stresses and euphorias experienced while building a successful business

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Key Takeaways
  1. There is no recipe to reach your goals. That is what makes your goals difficult
  2. No shortcuts to knowledge
  3. Aim to have different groups of friends as this helps you gain new, broader perspectives
  4. Impossible to do everything so make sure you set and stick to your priorities
  5. Imagine what the best version of you would do in any given situation and act accordingly
  6. When raising money privately, look for a market of one
  7. Need two types of friends - those you call with good news and are genuinely excited for you and those you call when all hell breaks loose
  8. "If you're going to eat shit, don't nibble"
  9. Set artificial deadlines to push yourself and your team and keep people focused
  10. Conventional wisdom has nothing to do with the truth
  11. Consistently ask, "What am I not doing?"
  12. CEOs should not play the odds - simply do whatever it takes
  13. Must be able to make the best decision even if all your options are terrible
  14. As terrible as the struggle seems in the moment, that's where greatness comes from
  15. As a CEO, don't be overly optimistic, be real and trust others
  16. Nobody takes the bad news worse than the CEO
  17. Right way to lay off people - focus on the future, don't delay, be clear about why they're being fired, train managers as they should be the one's firing their people, address the company (more for those staying than leaving), be visible and present (show you care)
  18. If need to fire/demote a friend, understand that you need to take the action which is best for the company (be decisive, admit reality, acknowledge contributions)
  19. You must not fool yourself and you are the easiest to fool
  20. Often there will be no silver bullet - simply need to bunker down and work through the problem
  21. Hire for strength rather than lack of weakness
  22. Take care of the people, the products and the profits - in that order
  23. Can't just tell people what to do, but more importantly why
  24. Training employees extremely important - productivity, performance management, product quality, employee retention
  25. People tend to quit because they hate their manager or aren't learning anything
  26. Training your people might be the most important thing you do
  27. Make training mandatory
  28. Bringing big executives into a startup role isn't easy as its a different rhythm and skill set even if they're focusing on similar things
  29. Sometimes an organization doesn't need a solution, simply clarity
  30. Have strict processes in place to avoid political behavior (compensation, promotion, territory, etc.)
  31. No matter how good/talented, smart heretics, flakes and jerks are not worth hiring
  32. If you are launching a tech product, it must be 10x better than the competition as it must take the market
  33. Get a mentor and hire those with experience
  34. Being a CEO is so difficult because there is no way to prepare for it - must learn many of these skills while on the job
  35. Focus on what you need to get right, not what you've done or might do wrong
  36. As CEO, don't take thigns too personally but also beware of not taking things personally enough
  37. The most difficult skill the CEO must master is their own psychology
  38. As an investor, look for brilliance and courage in your CEOs
  39. Generally, there are two types of CEOs - decision makers and those who enjoy making the company run well
  40. Important to get people to follow you - ability to articulate the vision, having the right kind of ambition and the ability to achieve the vision
  41. Peacetime CEOs need a different mentality and skill set than war time CEOs - most people have a hard time being successful as both
  42. Watered down feedback can be worse than none at all
  43. Try to see things from people's perspectives
  44. Embrace the struggle
What I got out of it
  1. Very interesting read and especially useful if you are currently or soon to be "in the trenches" of your start up and need some guidance on how to handle some common situations

Read The Hard Thing About Hard Things

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