Why You Should Learn The Hard Thing About Hard Things

Gaurav Chandrashekar has a book summary about the Ben Horowitz’s book called “The hard thing about hard things” I thought it is very good and would like to share with you. 

Ben Horowitz from A16Z and previously Loudcloud, which sold to HP for 1.8B$ narrates his experiences in being a CEO and the hard decisions he had to make.

In three sentences about this book

There’s no recipe for building a high-tech company; there’s no recipe for leading a group of people out of trouble; there’s no recipe for making a series of hit songs; there’s no recipe for playing NFL quarterback; there’s no recipe for running for president; and there’s no recipe for motivating teams when your business has turned to crap. That’s the hard thing about hard things—there is no formula for dealing with them. Nonetheless, there are many bits of advice and experience that can help with the hard things.

Being scared

Being scared doesn’t mean you are gutless.

Until you make the effort to get to know someone or something, you don’t know anything. There are no shortcuts to knowledge, especially knowledge gained from personal experience.

Raising Money

During this time( during and after the dot-comm bust) I learned the most important rule of raising money privately: Look for a market of one. You only need one investor to say yes, so it’s best to ignore the other thirty who say “no.” 

Personal Learnings

“What’s the worst thing that could happen?” The answer always came back the same: “We’ll(Loudcloud) go bankrupt, I’ll lose everybody’s money including my mother’s, I’ll have to lay off all the people who have been working so hard in a very bad economy.

Then one day I asked myself a different question: “What would I do if we went bankrupt?” The answer that I came up with surprised me: “I’d buy our software, Opsware, which runs in Loudcloud, out of bankruptcy and start a software company.” Then I asked myself another question: “Is there a way to do that without going bankrupt?”

Rephrasing the worst case scenario to actions plans is a much better alternative than just accepting your worst case scenario. 

Product Strategy

Figuring out the right product is the innovator’s job, not the customer’s job. The customer only knows what she thinks she wants based on her experience with the current product. 

Learnings as a CEO


Startup CEOs should not play the odds. 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. In the end, I did find the answer, we completed the deal with EDS, and the company did not go bankrupt. I was not mad at Bill. To this day, I sincerely appreciate his telling me the truth about the odds.

Bushido—the way of the warrior: keep death in mind at all times. If a warrior keeps death in mind at all times and lives as though each day might be his last, he will conduct himself properly in all his actions.

Tell things like it is

If you run a company, you will experience overwhelming psychological pressure to be overly positive. Stand up to the pressures, face your fear, and say things like they are. 

A healthy company culture encourages people to share bad news. A company that discusses its problems freely and openly can quickly solve them. 

Peacetime vs Wartime CEOs

Peacetime CEO sets big, hairy, audacious goals. Wartime CEO is too busy fighting the enemy to read management books written by consultants who have never managed a fruit stand. Peacetime CEO trains her employees to ensure satisfaction and career development. Wartime CEO trains her employees so they don’t get their asses shot off in the battle. Peacetime CEO has rules like “We’re going to exit all businesses where we’re not number one or two.” Wartime CEO often has no businesses that are number one or two and therefore does not have the luxury of following that rule.

The Struggle

  1. The Struggle is when you wonder why you started the company in the first place.
  2. The Struggle is when your employees think you are lying and you think they may be right.
  3. The Struggle is when food loses its taste.
  4. The Struggle is when you are having a conversation with someone and you can’t hear a word that they are saying because all you can hear is the Struggle.
  5. The Struggle is when you want the pain to stop. The Struggle is unhappiness.
  6. The Struggle is when you go on vacation to feel better and you feel worse.
  7. The Struggle is where greatness comes from.

Lead Bullets vs Silver Bullets

There are no silver bullets, a magic deal. You have to build your product, or your company the hard way. There is no other way out. You have shoot as many lead bullets as you can.

There comes a time in every company’s life where it must fight for its life. If you find yourself running when you should be fighting, you need to ask yourself, “If our company isn’t good enough to win, then do we need to exist at all?”

Take care of people, products and profits, in that order

Mark Cranney walks up to the podium, looks at the crowd of fresh new recruits, and says, ‘I don’t give a fuck how well trained you are. If you don’t bring me five hundred thousand dollars a quarter, I’m putting a bullet in your head.’ ”

“We take care of the people, the products, and the profits—in that order.” Every person can wake up knowing that the 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.

  1. Being a good company doesn’t matter when things go well, but it can be the difference between life and death when things go wrong.
  2. Things always go wrong.
  3. Being a good company is an end in itself.


The most important value in hiring

Valuing lack of weakness rather than strength The more experience you have, the more you realize that there is something seriously wrong with every employee in your company (including you). Nobody is perfect.

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.

As we thought about what would make us both better and different, two core ideas greatly influenced our thinking: First, technical founders are the best people to run technology companies. All of the long-lasting technology companies that we admired—Hewlett-Packard, Intel, Amazon, Apple, Google, Facebook—had been run by their founders. More specifically, the innovator was running the company. Second, it was incredibly difficult for technical founders to learn to become CEOs while building their companies. I was a testament to that. But, most venture capital firms were better designed to replace the founder than to help the founder grow and succeed.


On my grandfather’s tombstone, you will find his favorite Marx quote: “Life is struggle.” I believe that within that quote lies the most important lesson in entrepreneurship: Embrace the struggle. When I work with entrepreneurs today, this is the main thing that I try to convey. Embrace your weirdness, your background, your instinct. If the keys are not in there, they do not exist. I can relate to what they’re going through, but I cannot tell them what to do. I can only help them find it in themselves. And sometimes they can find peace where I could not. Of course, even with all the advice and hindsight in the world, hard things will continue to be hard things. So, in closing, I just say peace to all those engaged in the struggle to fulfil their dreams.

Hope you enjoy this summary,

Paul Fan

P.S. My financial success does not depend on yours. But my happiness and joy certainly does depend upon you succeeding. Good is it to be where I want to be – when there are so many others out there struggling to survive? Click Now – This Tells You The Solution.


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