Notes on The Hard Thing About Hard Things

‘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’

‘Colin Powell says that leadership is the ability to get someone to follow you even if only out of curiosity’

‘Looking at the world through such different prisms allowed me to separate facts from perception… in particularly dire circumstances when the “facts” seemed to dictate the outcome, I looked for alternative narratives and explanations coming from radically different perspectives to inform my outlook. The simple existence of an alternate, plausible scenario is often all that’s needed to keep hope alive among a worried workforce’

Father: ‘Son, do you know what’s cheap?’

Ben: ‘No, what?’

Father: ‘Flowers. Flowers are really cheap. But do you know what’s expensive?’

Ben: ‘No, what?’

Father: ‘Divorce’

‘Most business relationships either become too tense to tolerate or not tense enough to be productive after a while. Either people challenge each other to the point where they don’t like each other or they become complacent about each other’s feedback and no longer benefit from the relationship’

‘During this time [dot com crash] I learned the most important rule of raising money privately: Look for a market of one. You only need one investor to say “yes”, so it’s best to ignore the other thirty that say “no”‘

Marc: ‘Do you know the best thing about startups?’

Ben: ‘What?’

Marc: ‘You only ever experience two emotions: euphoria and terror. And I find that lack of sleep enhances them both’

‘whenever a large organisation attempts to do something, it always comes down to a single person who can delay the entire project. An engineer might get stuck waiting for a decision or a manager may think she doesn’t have authority to make a critical purchase. These small, seemingly minor hesitations can cause fatal delays’

‘all decisions [are] objective until the first line of code [is] written. After that all decisions [are] emotional’

‘At the time, I felt horrible about asking the team to make yet another big sacrifice. Amazingly, I found out while writing this book that I probably should have felt good about it… Eight years later, when I read what Ted had written, I cried. I cried because I didn’t know. I thought I did, but I really didn’t. I thought that I was asking too much of everybody. I thought that after barely surviving Loudcloud, nobody was ready for another do-or-die mission. I wish I knew then what I know now’

“What are we *not* doing?”

‘when you run a consensus-based hiring process the group will often find the candidate’s weaknesses, but they won’t place enough value on the area where you need the executive to be a world class performer. As a result, you hire an executive with no sharp weaknesses, but who is mediocre where you need her to be great. If you don’t have world-class strengths where you need them, you won’t be a world-class company’

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