The Hard Thing About Hard Things


Great book about business, Struggle, friends and persistenceWhat I really liked about this book is that it's very personal. Ben Horowitz just shares his own experience, including mistakes and painful moments. It's a book about running a company, about managing, giving feedback, hiring and firing people, creating process, deciding when to pivot or when to go public.But it's even more a book about forming your character, dealing with fear and doing what matters.

Recommend it to people who are

Great book about business, Struggle, friends and persistenceWhat I really liked about this book is that it's very personal. Ben Horowitz just shares his own experience, including mistakes and painful moments. It's a book about running a company, about managing, giving feedback, hiring and firing people, creating process, deciding when to pivot or when to go public.But it's even more a book about forming your character, dealing with fear and doing what matters.

Recommend it to people who are interested in creating their own business. Also a good read for people who are working on forming their character"

Some quotes:"By far the most difficult skill I learned as CEO was the ability to manage my own psychology. Organizational design, process design, metrics, hiring, and firing were all relatively straightforward skills to master compared with keeping my mind in check. I thought I was tough going into it, but I wasn’t tough. I was soft.""I tell my kids, what is the difference between a hero and a coward? What is the difference between being yellow and being brave? No difference. Only what you do. They both feel the same. They both fear dying and getting hurt. The man who is yellow refuses to face up to what he’s got to face. The hero is more disciplined and he fights those feelings off and he does what he has to do. But they both feel the same, the hero and the coward. People who watch you judge you on what you do, not how you feel" - CUS D'AMATO, LEGENDARY BOXING TRAINER"COURAGE, LIKE CHARACTER, CAN BE DEVELOPED In all the difficult decisions that I made through the course of running Loudcloud and Opsware, I never once felt brave. In fact, I often felt scared to death. I never lost those feelings, but after much practice I learned to ignore them. That learning process might also be called the courage development process. In life, everybody faces choices between doing what’s popular, easy, and wrong versus doing what’s lonely, difficult, and right. ... Every time you make the hard, correct decision you become a bit more courageous and every time you make the easy, wrong decision you become a bit more cowardly""Until you make the effort to get to know someone or something, you don’t know anything. There are no shortcuts to knowledge, especially knowledge gained from personal experience. Following conventional wisdom and relying on shortcuts can be worse than knowing nothing at all""My old boss Jim Barksdale was fond of saying, “We take care of the people, the products, and the profits—in that order.” It’s a simple saying, but it’s deep. “Taking care of the people” is the most difficult of the three by far and if you don’t do it, the other two won’t matter. Taking care of the people means that your company is a good place to work.""Now that we’d improved our competitive position, we went on the offensive. In my weekly staff meeting, I inserted an agenda item titled “What Are We Not Doing?” Ordinarily in a staff meeting, you spend lots of time reviewing, evaluating, and improving all of the things that you do: build products, sell products, support customers, hire employees, and the like. Sometimes, however, the things you’re not doing are the things you should actually be focused on.""Startup CEOs should not play the odds. When you are building a company, you must believe there is an answer and you cannot pay attention to your odds of finding it. You just have to find it. It matters not whether your chances are nine in ten or one in a thousand; your task is the same.""Every really good, really experienced CEO I know shares one important characteristic: They tend to opt for the hard answer to organizational issues. If faced with giving everyone the same bonus to make things easy or with sharply rewarding performance and ruffling many feathers, they’ll ruffle the feathers. If given the choice of cutting a popular project today, because it’s not in the long-term plans or you’re keeping it around for morale purposes and to appear consistent, they'll cut it today. Why? Because they've paid the price of management debt, and they would rather not do that again""To make matters more complicated, my second daughter, Mariah, had been diagnosed with autism, which made working at a startup a terrible burden for our family, as I needed to spend more time at home. One very hot day my father came over for a visit. We could not afford air-conditioning, and all three children were crying as my father and I sat there sweating in the 105-degree heat. My father turned to me and said, “Son, do you know what’s cheap?” Since I had absolutely no idea what he was talking about, I replied, “No, what?” “Flowers. Flowers are really cheap. But do you know what’s expensive?” he asked. Again, I replied, “No, what?” He said, “Divorce.” Something about that joke, which was not really a joke, made me realize that I had run out of time. Up until that point, I had not really made any serious choices. I felt like I had unlimited bandwidth and could do everything in life that I wanted to do simultaneously. But his joke made it suddenly clear that by continuing on the course I was on, I might lose my family. By doing everything, I would fail at the most important thing. It was the first time that I forced myself to look at the world through priorities that were not purely my own. I thought that I could pursue my career, all my interests, and build my family. More important, I always thought about myself first. When you are part of a family or part of a group, that kind of thinking can get you into trouble, and I was in deep trouble. In my mind, I was confident that I was a good person and not selfish, but my actions said otherwise. I had to stop being a boy and become a man. I had to put first things first. I had to consider the people who I cared about most before considering myself."

"During acquisition talks, both sides had agreed that Tangram’s CFO, John Nelli, would not become part of Opsware. But during the time between signing and close, John began to get severe headaches. His doctors discovered that he had brain cancer. Because he would not be an Opsware employee and it was a preexisting condition, he would not be eligible for health insurance under our plan. The cost of the treatment without health insurance would likely bankrupt his family. I asked my head of HR what it would cost to keep him on the payroll long enough to qualify for COBRA and what COBRA would cost. It wasn’t cheap—about $200,000. This was a significant amount of money for a company in our situation. On top of that, we barely knew John and technically we didn’t “owe” him anything. This wasn’t our problem. We were fighting for our lives. We were fighting for our lives, but he was about to lose his. I decided to pay for his health costs and find the money elsewhere in the budget. I never expected to hear anything else about that decision, but fifteen months later I received a handwritten letter from John’s wife letting me know that John had died. She wrote that she was absolutely shocked that I would help a total stranger and his family and that I had saved her from total despair. She went on for several paragraphs saying that she didn’t know why I did it, but it enabled her to continue living and she was eternally grateful. I guess I did it because I knew what desperation felt like."

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