The Hard Thing About Hard Things REMIX
“Do you know the best thing about startups?” - “What?” - “You only ever experience two emotions: euphoria and terror. And I find that lack of sleep enhances them both.”
— A conversation between Marc Andreessen and Ben Horowitz
Venture capitalist Ben Horowitz of Andreessen Horowitz has recently published his book The Hard Things About Hard Things. It's a must read for any entrepreneur.
We wanted to review it. But there are already so many great reviews out there (like this, this or this one). Then we thought about putting together a collection of quotes, but somebody already did that well too.
So we decided to make our own little remix of #hardthings. We took quotes, phrases and insights from the book, rearranged and modified them, and hopefully this remix will inspire you to get your own copy and read it ASAP.
We love startups.
But not for the reason for which most people love startups.
Most people love startups because they don’t know what it’s like.
We know the pain and the struggle.
The ups and downs.
The price of creating something awesome. (It often involves choosing the best option among a particularly ugly set of options.)
We know that things are always darkest before they go completely black. What it’s like when your dreams turn into nightmares.
That the times when you feel most like hiding or dying are the ones where you can make the biggest difference. Don’t quit.
There’s always a move.
The simple existence of an alternate, plausible scenario is often all that’s needed to keep hope alive among a worried workforce.
A startup is about starting to be the person you want to be. Even if it’s hard.
There will come a time when you have only one bullet left in the gun and must hit the target. And that time will come over and over and over again.
And just when you feel you’re finally out of the woods … you realize you’re wrong.
In the hard days, nothing is easy and nothing feels right. Most days are hard. You have dropped into the abyss and you may never get out.
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.
Sometimes the smartest thing you ever do in your career will make you sick and sleepless, give you cold sweats, make you throw up and cry.
You have to demand mastery from yourself and your people. Do not tolerate sloppiness.
You constantly have to review, evaluate and improve all the things you do. And you have to know when to focus on the things you’re not doing.
When you have to fire great people because you messed up your company. How do you tell them?
When your startup starts losing its major battles, the truth often becomes the first casualty. You will want to develop creative narratives to help you avoid dealing with the obvious facts. If you do this, you’re doomed. You’ll look for any excuse not to live or die in a single battle. But not facing an existential threat is the surest way to get killed.
It’s ok to feel scared to death. Just ignore it and act brave.
Deciding what to do next is hard.
You have to listen to your customers, understand them deeply, know the data. And sometimes make a choice to ignore it all and go against what you know to be true. Having the courage to do so and the intelligence to do it at the right time is a hard thing.
Most of the time you’ll have to opt for choices you don’t feel like making. If you don’t like choosing between horrible and cataclysmic, don’t start a company.
You’ll have to recognize that things are sometimes related to the truth, but not actually true.
You have to measure results. But everything you measure automatically creates a set of behaviors.
Focus on what you need to get right and stop worrying about all the things that you did wrong or might do wrong. Focus on the road, not on the wall.
Hiring is hard.
You are not looking for positive or negative with potential hires. You are looking for a fit with your criteria.
You need people who can turn chicken shit into chicken salad.
You hire because you need more manpower to keep up with the workload. But when you hire, you need to train, even though you’re busy. Being too busy to train is the moral equivalent of being too hungry to eat.
And if you succeed and grow a large organization with hundreds or thousands of employees? At a certain size, your company will do things that are so bad that you never imagined that you’d be associated with that kind of incompetence.
Nobody is born a great leader. But if you have the right kind of ambition, you can develop the attributes of a great leader through focus and hard work.
You’ll have to give your team direct feedback even if it’s harsh. Watered-down feedback can be worse than no feedback at all because it’s deceptive and confusing to the recipient. Feedback is a dialogue, not a monologue.
You must be able to lead your company in peacetime and in wartime. These require very different management styles. Maximizing and broadening current opportunities vs. completing a critical mission will set a very different tone for a company.
The Hard Thing About Hard Things has answers to all of these challenges—although they're not easy answers. It’s filled with lessons that will guide you on this crazy ride we call “running a startup”. Get the book today (or better yet, buy it for your whole team).