The Hard Thing About Hard Things
Posted on April 5, 2018
The Hard Thing About Hard Things is ostensibly a book about how to build a business but it is in fact a collection of war stories and opinions by venture capitalist and erstwhile CEO Ben Horowitz. I think it is probably a fairly helpful read to somebody in crisis in a CEO-like role who needs to hear that the work is difficult and that even CEOs regarded as successful have a really hard time of it. I personally found lots of the book sort of narrow-minded and wrong-headed and sometimes downright offensive. It comes off as a bit of a long-form humble-brag, which is annoying. I wouldn’t personally want to work for this guy or to emulate him. And as someone in a leadership role, it’s frankly hard to imagine putting much of what he writes about into practice.
Structurally the book is very weak. It starts with a longish set of anecdotes about Horowitz’s background but by the end becomes a series of brief, un-nuanced spurts of advice. It waffles a bit between offering more pragmatic tips and offering more vague blustery opinions. It feels a little scattershot, and it’s disappointingly casual and shallow — meaning that some sections feel like summaries for what could usefully be more in-depth treatments. On the whole, the book reads a bit as if you’re listening to a blowhard carrying on in a bar. It’s not a book I would recommend to most people.