“The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers” by Ben Horowitz

  1. That’s the hard thing about hard things—there is no formula for dealing with them.
  2. “This here is all about
    My wife, my kids, the life that I live
    Through the night, I was his, it was right, but I did
    My ups, and downs, my slips, my falls
    My trials and tribulations, my heart, my balls.
    ~DMX, “Who We Be”
  3. Until you make the effort to get to know someone or something, you don’t know anything. There are not shortcuts to knowledge, especially knowledge gained from personal experience.
  4. No matter who you are, you need two kinds of friends in your life. The first kind is one you can call when something good happens, and you need someone who will be excited for you. Not a fake excitement veiling envy, but a real excitement. You need someone who will actually be more excited for you than he would be if it happened to him. The second kind of friend is somebody you can call when things go horribly wrong—when your life is on the line and you only have one phone call. Who is it going to be?
  5. “If you are going to eat shit, don’t nibble.” ~Dave Conte
  6. There is one skill that stands out, it’s the ability to focus and make the best move when there are no good moves.
  7. In any human interaction, the required amount of communication is inversely proportional to the level of trust. Consider the following: If I trust you completely, then I require no explanation or communication of your actions whatsoever, because I know that whatever you are doing is in my best interests. On the other hand, if I don’t trust you at all, then no amount of talking, explaining, or reasoning will have any effect on me, because I do not trust that you are telling me the truth.
  8. In good organizations, people can focus on their work and have confidence that if they get their work done, good things will happen for both the company and them personally. It is a true pleasure to work in an organization such as this. Every person can wake up knowing that work they do will be efficient, effective, and make a difference for the organization and themselves. These things make their jobs both motivating and fulfilling. In a poor organization on the other hand, people spend much of their time fighting organizational boundaries, infighting, and broken processes. They are not even clear on what their jobs are, so there is no way to know if they are getting the job done or not. In the miracle case that they work ridiculous hours and get the job done, they have no idea what it means for the company or their careers. To make it all much worse and rub salt in the wound, when they finally work up the courage to tell management how fucked-up their situation is, management denies there is a problem, then defends the status quo, then ignores the problem.
  9. Good product managers crisply define the target, the “what” (as opposed to the “how”), and manage the delivery of the “what.” Bad product managers feel best about themselves when they figure out “how.”
  10. Sometimes an organization doesn’t need a solution; it just needs clarity.
  11. Some questions that I’ve found to be very effective in one-on-ones:
    1. If we could improve in any way, how would we do it?
    2. What the number-one problem with our organization? Why?
    3. What’s not fun about working here?
    4. Who is really kicking ass in the company?
    5. Whom do you admire?
    6. If you were me, what changes would you make?
    7. What don’t you like about the product?
    8. What the biggest opportunity that we’re missing out on?
    9. What are we not doing that we should be doing?
    10. Are you happy working here?
  12. “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
  13. The right decision is often obvious, but the pressure to make the wrong decision can be overwhelming. It starts with small things.
  14. So what makes people want to follow a leader: We look for three key traits:
    1. The ability to articulate the vision.
    2. The right kind of ambition.
    3. The ability to achieve the vision.

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