Recently I was asked about the book(s) that have profoundly influenced me. While I can’t always read as much as I want to (much to my regret), I do love re-reading certain books that have left a lasting impression on me. And The Hard Things About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz is #1 on this list.
“The only thing that prepares you to run a company is running a company.” -- Ben Horowitz
I believe that challenges make us stronger, and empower us to face adversity with grit and determination. But like individuals, organisations also go through ups and downs. And regardless of popular opinion, a perfect business does not exist, especially not during turbulent times like the ones we’re all mired in. Horowitz encapsulates these realities perfectly in this amazing book. He also acknowledges the mistakes and wrong decisions that blighted his professional journey leading billion-dollar corporations. And although they seemed awful at the time, they eventually taught him valuable lessons about leadership, bravery and even life. Smooth seas? Not!
I love this book because every time I read it, I feel as if it’s ‘speaking’ to me directly.
With his characteristic wisdom and unflinching honesty, Horowitz explains how he navigated the roller-coaster ride building and then eventually selling his software firm Opsware. He takes you through his thought process and the reasoning behind some of his decisions. These amazing insights, peppered with real-life examples and anecdotes, are interesting to read about, and inspirational too. They give you a real sense of how to approach and solve problems, even those that seem intractable. Lessons like:
- Embrace the struggle and hard decisions,
- Problems don’t come with silver bullet solutions,
- Breed an organisational culture of more trust and less politics, and
- Make it your business to make your people happy
are truly worth taking to heart if you’re an organisational leader.
By the way, if your organisation has ever dealt with a VC firm, you’re probably familiar with the name Andreesen Horowitz. Yep, the very same Ben Horowitz! In the book, Horowitz also provides the inside track on how he and Marc Andreessen, initially co-founders of Opsware, later became co-founders of Andreesen Horowitz. This journey was not without its challenges or soul-crushing defeats, but instead of giving up and heading off in different directions, they pooled their synergies and set up the VC titan that is a household name today.
So that was my take on The Hard Things About Hard Things. Four other books that I highly recommend to C-Suite leaders are:
- Measure What Matters by John Doerr
- The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven R Covey (a classic!)
- Principles by Ray Dalio
- Atomic Habits by James Clear
Someone once asked me, if I were to write a book for other business execs and leaders, what it would be about. Well, I would love to address these two topics. Do bear with me if I sound a bit self-indulgent!
- The importance of ‘grit’: I believe that grit is one of THE key elements of the ‘startup formula’. Grit creates the passion that’s needed to keep going from failure to failure without losing the enthusiasm for success. It enables founders to continue looking for solutions even when faced with ‘dead-end’ scenarios. Grit is undervalued. But it shouldn’t be!
- How to navigate cultural differences in SE Asia: This one should be very interesting! Non-Asian companies aiming to do business in such a fragmented region face many challenges – cultural differences being one of the biggest. My ‘guidebook’ will help execs identify and deal with the various cultural nuances of SE Asia. I think they will find it extremely helpful!
Drop me a line if you’d like to hear my thoughts about the 4 other books on my list!