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The Hard Thing About Hard Things

The Hard Thing About Hard Things - Ben Horowitz

The Hard Thing About Hard Things - Ben Horowitz

Introduction

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The Hard Thing About Hard Things is a non-fiction book on management by Ben Horowitz, one of the most influential people in Silicon Valley. In the book, Ben offers advice on building and running a Startup. He addresses an issue that he feels has long been ignored by most of the self-help books, the truth that there is no formula for dealing with tough situations, no magical recipe that will keep trouble at bay. He says that this is the hard thing about hard things. The hard thing is not setting a valiant goal or hiring amazing employees or setting up an organizational chart or simply dreaming big. The hard things start when your amazing staff starts acting irrationally, when effective communication within the organization is hampered, and you have to deal withunpleasant circumstances when things go haywire. This is where most self-help books fail, they miss to inform that there is no recipe for really dynamic and complicated situations. The point is, building a company inevitably leads to tough times. And there are no set rules to tackle difficult scenarios. However, the deeper patterns and lessons keep resonating and so there are bits of advice and experience that can help one deal with the hard things. Ben discusses his experience and the many lessons he learned as an entrepreneur, CEO and a venture capitalist.
 

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Summary

The Hard Thing About Hard Things By Ben Horowitz


Ben says what you do matters, it determines if you would be a hero or a coward. One should not judge things by their appearances. You do not know about a thing until you make genuine efforts to know that thing or person. Knowledge has no shortcuts. And especially knowledge gained from personal experience is invaluable. He says that people often rely on conventional wisdom and shortcuts but that can be worse than knowing nothing at all.He recounts his experience of playing high school football and regards it as his first lesson in leadership.Leadership is the ability to get someone to follow you even if only out of curiosity.His Coach Chico Mendoza was a tough old guy who started the induction speech with a pinch of humor that was interestingand conveyed his message loud and clear about what was not acceptable to him in his team.Ben wasn’t expected to join the football team but he was curious and joined the team. As a result, he ended up moving in different social circlesand made friends with people who had different outlooks on life and the world in general. It was this experience that enabled him to understand that a different perspective on a matter has the potential to entirely change the meaning of an event.Later, this ability to see things from different perspective helped him immensely when as an entrepreneur and CEO he was faced with difficult situations.  It helped him separate facts from mere perception and find alternate paths.

 

He then proceeds to talk about his Silicon Valley experience and how he enjoyed working for some of the new age firms. It was while working at a Startup firm called NetLabs that he learnt some of the most invaluable lessons of his life. The bad decisions of the NetLab directors made him understand the importance of founders running the company. It was also sometime at this point when he realized that by doing everything one creates a situation where they may fail at the most important thing. One should be ready to look at the world through priorities that are not entirely their own. Thinking only about yourself can land you in trouble. You cannot enjoy such liberty when you are a part of a group or an organization.One should have the uncanny ability to do first things first.One needs to learn to care about the people who matter.

 

 

He says the best thing about Startups is you only experience two kinds of emotions- euphoria and terror. He chuckles that a lack of sleep enhances them both. He doles out a tip for businesses trying to raise money privately. Ben says one should ignore all the investors who say ‘no’ and try to find that one investor who would say ‘yes.’ You only need one investor to fund your dreams and hard work. He also says that a single person has the power to delay an entire project. A good tip is to have artificial deadlines. Minor hesitations or small roadblocks can lead to bigger problems. He says the idea is to understand that if anyone is stuck with an issue, it can not be allowed to last longer than twenty-four hours, i.e. the time between meetings.

 

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