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  • Bharat Kulkarni

Book review - The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz

I picked up this book while I was working on my startup and No one suggested this, I randomly saw this in the book store and started reading and have been hooked to it since then, It's one of my favorite books.





TLDR: This book is not a formula or a guide to management or to get your business to 10x. There’s no recipe for really complicated and dynamic situations.


I read the first paragraph of this book and it hit me hard and I so wanted to dig into it.


It starts with a quote from Kanye West - Gorgeous "This the real world, homie, school finished They done stole your dreams, you dunno who did it"


Ben shares both personal and professional life experiences in this book and that's what makes this book so interesting.


You are about to start a startup or already running one, you know the kind of pressure you face both at work and also family.


You're scared to death because you not only have to pay your employees but also have to put food on the table for your family.


Ben shares his honest experience in this book, startups is not all bells and whistles, it's a road filled with extreme uncertainty. You never know what might hit you next.


It's not your how-to guide or self-help book about the management or starting a business but it's a book full of awful uncomfortable truths about entrepreneurship and how to lead a company when there are no easy answers.


So what exactly is not a hard thing - Setting big audacious goals or hiring great people, the hard thing is laying off people when you miss a big goal when the smart people whom you hired develop a sense of entitlement and start demanding unreasonable things.


This book shares an ugly picture of startups, your worst dreams turning into a nightmare, a true experience you will face while working on a startup.


CEO lessons


Peacetime vs Wartime CEO’s


Peacetime CEO’s — thinks long term and is a reasonable human being

Wartime CEO — obsesses about the immediate need and couldn’t give a damn about anyone


Being a CEO is a lonely job, you face tremendous pressure. When times are tough you have to deal with unhappy investors, employees, and clients.


This book tells you how or what to do when you or your business is screwed up. It's like a what-if analysis.


The biggest take away for me was these - Take care of People, Products, and Profits (in that order). Crucially important. If you don’t put people first the other two won’t matter. Be transparent about your company’s problems and Feedback is dialogue, not a monologue.


Ben shares his story as it happened and leaves us with a real sense of how to approach problems. They say your success is defined by how many hard conversations you're willing to have.


One of the things that stuck in my head from this book is a conversation between Marc and ben and it goes like this -


marc: "Do you know the best thing about startups?"

ben: "What?"

marc: "You only experience two emotions: euphoria and terror. And I find that lack of sleep enhances them both."


Quotes -


“That’s the hard thing about hard things— there is no formula for dealing with them.”


"Great CEOs face pain. They deal with the sleepless nights, the cold sweats, and what my friend the great Alfred Chuang (legendary cofounder and CEO of BEA Systems) calls “the torture.” Whenever I meet a successful CEO, I ask them how they did it. Mediocre CEOs point to their brilliant strategic moves or their intuitive business sense or a variety of other self-congratulatory explanations. Great CEOs tend to be remarkably consistent in their answers. They all say, “I didn’t quit.”


“Hard things are hard because there are no easy answers or recipes. They are hard because your emotions are at odds with your logic. They are hard because you don’t know the answer and you cannot ask for help without showing weakness. When I first became a CEO, I genuinely thought that I was the only one struggling. Whenever I spoke to other CEOs, they all seemed like they had everything under control. Their businesses were always going “fantastic” and their experience was inevitably “amazing”. But as I watched my peers’ fantastic, amazing businesses go bankrupt and sell for cheap, I realized I was probably not the only one struggling.” […] “Embrace your weirdness, your background, your instinct. If the keys are not there, they do not exist.”


There were plenty of companies in the '90s that had launch parties but not landing parties





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