Lessons from the Hard Thing about Hard Things

I finished Ben Horowitz's book on the plane to Hong Kong, and really focused on the CEO/leaderships lessons, particularly the peacetime/wartime CEO thoughts. Below are some of my favorite quotes and impressions.

"There are no shortcut to knowledge, especially knowledge gained from personal experience. Following conventional wisdom and relying on shortcuts can be worse than knowing nothing at all"

"Former Secretary of State Colin Powell says that leadership is the ability to get someone to follow you even if only out of curiosity"

"There are several different frame perks one could use to get a handle on the indeterminate vs determinate question. The math version is calculus vs statistics. In a determinate world, calculus dominates....but the indeterminate future is somehow one in which probability for statistics are the dominant modality for making sense of the world"

"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. ..it matters not whether your chances are nine in ten or one in a thousand; your task is the same"

"What's the secret to being a successful CEO?". Sadly, there is no secret, but if there is one skill that stands out, it's the ability to focus and make the best move where are there are no good moves."

"...I follow the first principle of Bushido - the way of the warrior: keep death in mind at all times. If a warrior keep deaths in mind at all times and lives as though each day might be his last, he will conduct himself properly in all his actions."

"If you run a company, you will experience overwhelming psychological pressure to be overly positive. Stand up to the pressure, face your fear, and tell it like it is"

"If you are a founder-CEO like I was, it probably won't be list on the employee that you are just as underskilled for your job as he is for his. Don't dodge this fact. In fact, admit that if you were a more experienced CEO, you might be able to develop him into the role, but two people who don't know what they are doing is a recipe for failure."

"There are no silver bullets for this, only lead bullets." They did not want to hear this, but it made things clear: we had to build a better product"

"People, the products, and the profits - in that order"

"I'd learned the hard way that when hiring executives, one should follow Colin Powell's instructions and hire for strength rather than lack of weakness."

"Good product managers think about the story they want written by the press"

"Screening for the right kind of ambition...they view the world through the "me" prism or the "team" prism"

"If those, title is by far the cheapest, so it makes sense to give the highest titles possible."

"Hiring senior people into startups is kind of like an athlete taking performance-enhancing drugs. If all goes well, you will achieve incredible new heights. If all goes wrong, you will start denigrating from the inside out."

"As CEO, you must constantly evaluate all the members of your team. However, evaluating people against the future needs of the colony based on a theoretical view of how they perform is counterproductive."

"Investing in courage and determination was an easy decision for me."

"..CEOs often make one of the following two mistakes: they take things too personally, they do not take things personally enough"

"The great CEOs tend to be remarkably consistent in their answers. They all say, "I didn't quit".

"When my partners and I meet with entrepreneurs, the two key characteristics that we look for are brilliance and courage."

"Courage, like character, can be developed"

"For our purposes, we can generalize this to be the measure of the quality of a leader: the quantity, quality, and diversity of people who want to follow her."

"There are lots of good peacetime CEOs and lots of good wartime CEOs, but almost no CEOs that can function in both peacetime and in wartime. You're a peacetime/wartime CEO"

"In peacetime, leaders must maximize and broaden the current opportunity. As a result, peacetime leaders employ techniques to encourage broad-based creativity and contribution across a diverse set of possible objectives. In wartime, by contrast, the company typically has a single bullet in the chamber and must, at all costs, hit the target. The company's survival in wartime depends upon strict adherence and alignment to the mission."

"As CEO, you should have an opinion on absolutely everything. You should have an opinion in every forecast, every product plan, every presentation, and even every comment. Let people know what you think. If you like someone's comment, give her the feedback. If you disagree, give her the feedback. Say what you think. Express yourself."

"In good companies, the story and the strategy are the same thing. As a result, the proper output of all the strategic work is the story."

"After watching both the original and the remake, I knew that I had found the answer: I would employ a Freaky Friday management technique."

"The answer is that your loyalty must go to your employees- the people who report to your executives. Your engineers, marketing people, salespeople, and finance and HR people who are doing the work. You owe them a world-class management team. That's the priority."