The Hard Thing About Hard Things

CEO stories aren’t just for CEOs—good news for all of us that haven’t helmed a Silicon Valley rollercoaster or followed up on our successful exit by founding an acclaimed venture capital fund. Even readers who aren’t Ben Horowitz still face choices between outcomes that aren’t always good. Life is a panoply of unexpected challenges, no-win scenarios, and options of bad and worse. The Hard Thing About Hard Things is about that.

The book itself unfolds against Horowitz’s own close calls amid the bubbles and busts of the early Internet boom. Through his battles with Microsoft as a Product Manager at Netscape and his struggles to keep successive cloud computing firms afloat in the wake of the dotcom crash, there’s an uncanny symmetry to the formula. Rocket, crater, lesson learned.

Lessons like:

  1. “Bad” can get very bad,
  2. Crises are never intractable,
  3. Action breeds opposition, and
  4. “Least bad” is better than nothing.

If you come for the insight, stay for the telling. Horowitz’s own experiences as a CEO (and later coaching them) provide rich fodder for the book’s many parables. Blunt, plainspoken delivery leaves little space for padding and lends a veneer of authenticity rarely found on airport bookshelves.

Not all of the book will be immediately applicable to everyone, but a rich blend of credibility and catharsis make it worthwhile reading for anyone–and that’s all of us–who has ever faced down a difficult choice.