Taylor Goodall

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My Takeaways from The Hard Things About Hard Things

May 18, 2021

Recently I finished reading Ben Horowiz ‘book The Hard Things About Hard Things. I loved reading this book and served as a great depth of information that may otherwise be hard to find elsewhere. The book was easy to read and sometimes felt like you were sitting down at a pub while being told everything that is hard and difficult about running companies. Below are my favorite snippets from the book and why I personally enjoyed them.

If you are looking for a new book to read, I can’t recommend it enough. Although I am not a CEO this book was full of lots of great information that any profession can learn from.

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

I like this from a retrospective point, thinking back over the last 3 years of working fulltime in software looking over all the different things i have learnt either from working in different domains, exploring different technologies and learning wherever i can. It is a good reminder that when we feel like we are not making progress to remind ourselves that knowledge does not come easily or quickly. CEO’s are always learning and if they don’t they and the companies they run will not survive. Sometimes knowledge can only be gained by experience and there is no such thing as shortcuts, learning is the key to success.

“You only ever experience two emotions: euphoria and terror. And I find that lack of sleep enhances them both.” - in reference to startups

I have been working in a startup for the last two years and i can’t agree more with the above. Sometimes these emotions can be experienced on the same day before lunch. This is what keeps it exciting and challenging for myself and why I continue to want to work in a startup.

“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.”

Now i don’t run a company, nor am i a CEO, however this really stood out to me, too often it is easy to tell people everything is fine when it is not especially when it has nothing to do with their job. Ben Horowiz talks a lot about this in the book that employees find out and always know when something is going. Tell the truth and don’t blow fairy dust up people’s asses.

“In times of war, killing the enemy and getting the troops safely home is all that counts.”

During the book there is a lot of mention around a PeaceTime CEO & a WarTime CEO and the differences they present within an organisation and how different times throughout the companies lifespan and changes in the market requires a company’s CEO to act accordingly. I liked this from the book simply because it was straight to the point and illustrated to myself that companies go through hard times and in order to survive they must do what is required.

“In high-tech companies, fraud generally starts in sales due to managers attempting to perfect the ultimate local optimization.”

Well there you go, something to be mindful of if you ever find yourself running a company.


Overall I enjoyed every chapter of this book and loved how honest and upfront Ben Horowiz is about the reality of running companies and how hard it can be, he did not sugar coat the hardships and the emotional turmoil that people go through working to launch great products to an ever changing market.

The link to the book can be found below if you are interested in taking a read!

The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers

software Engineer, living in Adelaide, Australia Interested in building engaging products and solving problems