The Hard Thing About Hard Things

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

Lessons learnt: There are no rules in Entrepreneurship. Take care of people, products, profits – in that order.

Many books start with titles such as ‘How to cook a meal in 5 minutes’ or ‘With these 3 steps you will succeed in life’. Ben Horowitz has chosen the exact opposite, in The Hard Thing About Hard Things he argues that there are no simple solutions. In entrepreneurship, he states you have to figure out everything as you go along.

This doesn’t mean his book is without advice or practical tips. The latter chapters contain many guiding questions and thought activating statements. But these are all based on his own experience, express his view and don’t – in no way – pretend to be a one-size-fits-all solution. So let’s get to it.

Lessons from my 20’s-40’s 

The first chapters of the book deal with Ben Horowitz’s own life experiences (from boyhood to selling Opsware). In it, he describes how he made a friend (“Do not judge things by their surface”) and what he believes leadership is (“The ability to get someone to follow you even if only out of curiosity”). And only shortly after introducing us to his life he jumps into business.

One of the sub-chapters is called “If you are going to eat shit, don’t nibble”, so that was it for the niceties. With this Horowitz means to say that you should face the facts, don’t hide behind beautiful projections, see what is going on and adapt! In the chapter “I will survive” he motivates the reader to ask different questions – which relates perfectly to a recently reviewed book, A More Beautiful Question. He argues not to reconsider set rules and see how you can serve your customers in non-traditional ways.

From having 60 days of cash left to selling his business to HP, Horowitz describes the roller-coaster in all its honesty. Whilst reading it you will be stunned by how resilient (or ignorant) he was the whole time. With his vision, he turned nothing into $1.65 Billion. So what did he learn on the way there?

It’s Still Very Difficult

The Struggle – fighting for your company, being alone, the land of broken promises – is where greatness comes from. It is through hardship that you learn the most. But going through hardship is not easy and many people would rather give up. For them Horowitz has no advice to give, there are no shortcuts.

So “spend zero time on what you could have done, and devote all of your time on what you might do”. Don’t worry, be productive. And do this with other people at your side. These can be friends, but ideally are people who are specifically suited for the job you need to be done. And when looking for people hire for strength (being the best at a job) rather than lack of weakness (no bad qualities).

How to be a CEO (sort-of)

The most difficult skill Horowitz acquired (or is still learning) is managing his own psychology. He states that he has become better at this by running a company, there is no other way. As CEO you have to be somewhere in between the following two extremes: 1) taking things too personally, and 2) not taking things personally enough. So yeah, that’s that.

““Well Get on with it Mothe—-.” – Russell “Stringer” Bell

Noways Horowitz runs one of the largest Venture Capitalist funds in the world. With it he invests is many companies such as Facebook and Skype. And when he meets new entrepreneurs he looks for two qualities – brilliance and courage. So once again I leave the question to you – do you have the guts?