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This is an InstaRead Summary of The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers by Ben Horowitz.
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Ben explains that every time he reads a self-help or management book, he thinks about the fact that it didn’t really address the hard things like laying people off or having good people start demanding unreasonable things. The problem with self-help books is that they try to provide a recipe for dealing with difficult, dynamic situations. Challenging situations can not be solved with a formula. Instead of using a formula in this book, the author presents his story as he progressed from an entrepreneur to CEO to venture capitalist. He shares some of the lessons he has learned along the way. He explains that although circumstances may differ, patterns and lessons resonate with each experience. For the last several years, he has shared lessons learned on his popular blog. Many people have emailed him to ask about the stories behind the lessons. Ben shares that he has been inspired along the way by many family members, friends, and advisers who have helped him. Hip-hop/rap music has also inspired him because these artists aspire to be both great and successful. He also admires that rappers see themselves as entrepreneurs.
1: From Communist to Venture Capitalist
Ben’s grandparents were card-carrying Communists. His dad grew up indoctrinated in the Communist philosophy. Ben’s family moved to Berkeley, California, in 1968. His dad then became the editor of the famous New Left magazine, Ramparts. When Ben was five, his family moved to Bonita Avenue, a middle-class Berkeley neighborhood. One day, a friend of Ben’s older brother, Roger, pointed to an African American kid down the block who happened to be riding in a red wagon. Roger dared Ben to go tell the kid to give him his wagon, and if he refused,to spit in his face and call him a racial epithet. Roger wasn’t a racist and did not come from a bad family. Ben later found out that he had schizophrenia. He had wanted to see a fight. Ben was afraid of Roger, and his demand put him in a very tough situation. He thought Roger would beat him up if he didn’t do what he told him to do. He was also afraid to ask for the wagon. He walked toward the boy and when he got near enough, he said, “Can I ride in your wagon?” The boy, Joel Clark Jr., said, “Sure.” Ben turned to look at Roger and saw that he was gone. Ben went on to play with Joel all day, and they have been best friends ever since. That experience taught Ben that being scared didn’t mean he was gutless. He learned that what he did mattered and determined whether he would be a hero or a coward. If he had completely followed Roger’s order, he would have never met his best friend. He also learned not to judge things by appearance alone. If a...