HackerNews Readings
40,000 HackerNews book recommendations identified using NLP and deep learning

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mspettelonJuly 23, 2018

As far as easy to digest resources go, Ben Horowitz's "The Hard Thing About Hard Things" is a great reference as to what skills a good CEO should have.

rdlionMar 22, 2016

Ben Horowitz talks about letting people go in The Hard Things About Hard Things. Really a great book in its own right.

FahadUddin92onSep 26, 2018

Business Adventures, Crossing The Chasm, Hard Things About Hard Things, Only The Paranoid Survives are great books.

brittpart_onNov 30, 2020

This is a really good point. I am reading "The Hard Thing About Hard Things" and Horowitz discusses hiring a VP of Sales and the requirements of the role aren't necessarily to get their hands dirty but more so to liaise.

fandawg195onFeb 13, 2015

> # The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz

this is an excellent book! also i would have to recommend How Google Works. its fairly new.

eldudeonJuly 30, 2014

The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horrowitz.

It's pretty good, though I personally find his view of business management to be dated and out of touch like his view of title inflation vs Facebook's title normalization. Still a good and insightful read.

tkimmelonFeb 16, 2015

I really loved "The hard thing about hard things" by Ben Horowitz -- he directly addresses this issue, and his writing style is light years more engaging than your typical management literature.

ayushgponJan 1, 2018

Shoe Dog by Phil Knight (Maybe some more biographies)

The Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

The Hard thing about hard things

Thinking Fast and Slow

Origin by Dan Brown

karl11onDec 5, 2019

High Output Management by Andy Grove, Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink & The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz would be my top 3.

payne92onMar 29, 2016

"The hard thing about hard things", by Ben Horowitz, best by far.

lackbeardonAug 7, 2016

The Blind Side, The Hard Thing about Hard Things, Sex at Dawn.

If asked, I would say those aren't the books I've found most amazing but they're the ones I felt compelled to give as gifts.

chrisweeklyonJan 18, 2020

I've always liked that notion (phrased slightly differently),
"Hire for strengths, not to avoid weaknesses."

which IIRC I first came across in "The Hard Thing About Hard Things" (Horowitz)

losthobbiesonOct 3, 2019

The Hard Thing About Hard Things is supposed to a good book for start ups/indie hackers. I listen to a lot of podcasts in this area and it's mentioned quite a lot.


mathattackonDec 8, 2014

I didn't have any life changers, but I throughly enjoyed The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Horowitz. I've been turned off by the soft and cuddly management book industry because it only focuses on the bright side. Real work is hard and dirty, and Horowitz captured it.

ReltaironSep 24, 2014

The recommended reading from the final slide:

- The Hard Thing About Hard Things

- Zero to One (CS 138A)

- The Facebook Effect

- The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership

- The Tao of Leadership

- Nonviolent Communication

mherrmannonSep 12, 2017

I recently read the author's book "The hard thing about hard things". I understand many people here will be familiar with it. To those who aren't, I recommend checking it out. It finally made me "get" VC and what it's like to work on VC-backed startups. (I'm bootstrapping my companies.)

3ris3donApr 18, 2016

This is very sad. Just this week I have been reading "The hard thing about hard things" by Ben Horowitz and he makes countless mention of how great Bill Campbell was.

ManuelSalazaronSep 29, 2014

The Hard Thing about hard things by Ben Horowitz seemed to me to be a more focused book, especially if you are reading it to find more about business and startups, Thiel's book is very good, but he tends to deviate from the main subject too much for me.

rmasononOct 28, 2016

Motivate yourself with real life stories of top startups with a copy of Jessica Livingston's Founders at Work.

Then for a dash of reality get a copy of Ben Horowitz's The hard things about hard things or Andy Grove's Only the paranoid survive.

bwh2onMay 30, 2021

The Hard Thing About Hard Things isn't exactly what you're asking for but close because rather than describing the good times, Ben Horowitz writes mostly about the bad times. You can read some of it online like Peacetime CEO / Wartime CEO.

muzanionSep 7, 2018

Highly recommend The Hard Thing About Hard Things, Ben Horowitz. But it's a very high level view about being a CEO in a billion dollar company.

jcahill84onJan 31, 2017

There's some good stuff about this in Ben Horowitz's book "The Hard Thing About Hard Things." I definitely recommend reading it for advice on this, and many other topics.

chrisweeklyonNov 8, 2019

I'm reminded of the book "The Hard Thing About Hard Things"... and even more, of this also-classic post:

ransom1538onSep 5, 2017

If you have an audible account -

* The Hard Thing About Hard Things

* The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck

* Rework

These books were amazing in audible format. (I have listened to a hundred or so).

godzillabrennusonApr 18, 2016

Having read The Hard Thing About Hard Things I felt how much love Ben felt for Bill just from the words on the pages.

mdonahoeonJan 31, 2020

Interesting take.

Did you read The Hard Thing About Hard Things? Or his new one?

CalChrisonSep 23, 2017

You can sell the company for more money if there's more competition. That was one of the lessons of The Hard Thing About Hard Things. This is actually the best book to read about this particular situation.

roozbeh18onApr 19, 2016

I just finished reading Ben's book "The Hard Thing About Hard Things" and his admiration for Bill was immense in the book. I was thinking as I was reading the book that it is hard to find someone like Bill to confide in. shocked to read this. RIP Bill.

bandradeonDec 5, 2019

The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz and The First 90 Days by Michael Watkins.

NadgeonOct 11, 2019

The Hard Thing about Hard Things by Ben Horowitz. It's aimed at founders who intend to be long-term CEOs (rather than employing a professional CEO once the org is big enough). Niche topic but I found a lot of worthwhile lessons in the book.

I have no affiliation with the author or A16Z.

notyourdayonOct 17, 2019

> And it cost him $30M that he would desperately need not long later (read The Hard Thing About Hard Things for that story).

That's the problem with companies that raise gobs of money -- zero discipline in spending.

NomentatusonMar 19, 2017

I've just finished reading (finally) Ben Horowitz's Hard Thing About Hard Things. He too spends a lot of ink saying that onboarding is extremely important, and a prime management task not to be lightly passed off to subordinates. Falling into routines and losing sight of results is all too easy, even if you know it's too easy, of course.

ajmurmannonOct 23, 2016

Have you read "The hard thing about hard things"? I found it had very little padding and was loaded to the rim with valuable information.

blablabla123onMar 16, 2015

Hey, this sounds interesting. Do you have some link/book recommendations for that? I remember that in the book "The hard thing about hard things" Ben Horowitz writes something like "You can't have 2 Michael Jordans on the same team".

merittonMay 11, 2015

This is a good parallel to "The Hard Thing About Hard Things" by Ben Horowitz. Covers a lot of the same material but gives more background on Marc.

sukhadatkeereoonOct 28, 2016

The hard thing about hard things by Ben Horowitz is the best book I have read on starting a company.

komali2onFeb 28, 2018

As Horowitz writes in "The Hard Thing About Hard Things," if there even is a political game at your company, someone up top has fucked up.

adroitbossonDec 12, 2018

Books Read:
Never Split the difference by Chris Voss (FLIPPING AMAZING! This book is so good I didn't want to share it here.)

Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman
(Fantastic Look into how we as humans work and how to deal with each other and ourselves)

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
(Enjoyable and entertaining)

The Martian by Andy Weir
(The Audiobook of this was AMAZING! The book is still amazing especially for technical people)

The Hard thing about Hard things by Ben Horowitz
(I think it would be a great book for people who are already running companies.)

Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill
(It had some interesting parts. Wasn't a bad book, but also not crazy memorable)

Boundaries in Dating by Henry Cloud
(I found the advice for the christian dating relationship to be a honest eye opener. This book taught me a lot about myself.)

The Launch Pad by Randall Stross
(How I found Y Combinator and Hacker news. I really enjoy the startup community and love the fact that this introduced me to it)

The richest man in Babylon by George S Clason
(OMG EVERYONE SHOULD OWN THIS BOOK!!! It teaches you about handling money in one of the most entertaining ways I've ever read. It was crazy good and I reread it often.)

Creativity Inc by Ed Catmull

(Great read about the interesting problems solved and the fight for survival to one day bring about a worthy ideal)

GladdyuonAug 21, 2015

The history of Netscape, part of this is also very well described in Ben Horowitz's book, 'the hard thing about hard things'.

sardamitonJan 2, 2017

1. The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz
2. Elon Musk by Ashlee Vance
3. Inspired by Marty Cagan

thelonelygodonSep 29, 2016

Ben Horowitz's The Hard Thing About Hard Things talks about this. Zuckerberg contributes to the management chapter.

barry-cotteronAug 26, 2018

The Personal MBA, Josh Kauffman

The Hard Thing About Hard Things, Ben Horowitz

gcheongonSep 18, 2018

Read "The Hard Thing About Hard Things" by Ben Horowitz.

muzanionDec 15, 2017

1. Figure out the right thing to do. Be brutally honest to yourself as the biggest source of falsehood is what you want to believe.

2. Do the right thing.

3. Do it fast.

Great books on this: Ben Horowitz's "The Hard Thing About Hard Things", Andy Grove's "Only The Paranoid Survive", Jocko Wilink & Leif Babin's "Extreme Ownership".

koverdaonJuly 28, 2017

Which book are you talking about? The Hard Thing About Hard Things?

PeronionDec 1, 2014

Ben Horowitz's book 'The Hard Thing About Hard Things' is a bit of a goldmine for someone in your shoes: http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Hard-Thing-About-Things/dp/00622...

my5thaccountonMar 5, 2016

Zero to One by Peter Thiel

The Hard Thing about Hard Things by Ben Horowitz

Strategy Rules - Five Timeless Lessons from Bill Gates, Andy Grove, and Steve Jobs by David B. Yoffie, Michael A. Cusumano

These are all timely books and recently written.

jakozauronFeb 29, 2016

Seems another rewritten part from book "The Hard Thing About Hard Things" by Ben Horowitz.

wjosseyonMar 10, 2019


I’d recommend “Winning” as a great place to start. It’s a good and quick book on tape too that you can listen to over a week.


Ben Horowitz also touches a lot on leadership in The Hard Thing About Hard Things, which is a personal favorite.

Checked out your website and love your cause! Please don’t hesitate to connect if I can be helpful. Email is in my profile.

chirauonSep 2, 2014

The Hard Thing About Hard Things - Ben Horowitz

scrabbleonOct 13, 2015

The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz specifically mentions it being terrible.

sgdreadonMar 29, 2016

I really liked Ben Horowitz's "The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers" [1]

The book is not focused on failures, but it's full of really good advices on what to do when a company is moving into disaster.

[1] http://www.amazon.com/The-Hard-Thing-About-Things/dp/0062273...

ramiamaronJuly 3, 2017

Here are a few sources which helped us grow our company:

- https://www.saastr.com

- http://tomtunguz.com

- The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz

- Built to Last by Jim Collins & Jerry Porras

- Crossing the Chasm by Geoffrey Moore

jchinonJan 14, 2016

I'm a big fan of "The Hard Thing About Hard Things" by Ben Horowitz. It's his story but he does spend the latter part of the book bundling his learnings into advice.

pkaleronOct 16, 2020

I would recommend that you read a book a week, every week, for the rest of your life. :)

Just start with the ones in the article and Amazon/Kindle will get good at recommending books.

Here's some books recently read on my Kindle:

  - No Rules Rules
- Never Split The Difference
- The Manager's Path
- The Almanack of Naval Ravikant
- Ultralearning
- The Hard Thing About Hard Things
- What You Do is Who You Are
- User Story Mapping
- Inspired
- The Lean Product Playbook
- Competing Against Luck
- Domain Driven Design
- Patterns of Enterprise Application Architecture
- Data-Driven Marketing
- Designing Data-Intensive Applications
- Monetizing Innovation
- Super Thinking
- The Great Mental Models
- Nonviolent Communication
- High Growth Handbook
- Powerful
- Trillion Dollar Coach

rakamotogonDec 16, 2019

Books I bought in 2019

1) Creativity Inc

2) Competing Against Luck: The Story of Innovation and Customer Choice

3) Start With Why

4) Inspired: How to Create Products Customers Love

5) The Hard Thing about Hard Thing: Building a Business When There are No Easy Answers

I only managed to finish ~50% of my planned reading in 2019

MattLeBlanc001onDec 27, 2018

1. Bad Blood, John Careyou

2. Gödel, Escher, Bach by Douglas Hofstadter

3. The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires

4. Zero to one Peter Thiel

5. The republic – Plato

6. The Hard Thing About Hard Things, Ben Horowitz

7. The 1-Page Marketing Plan: Get New Customers, Make More Money, And Stand Out From The Crowd Kindle Edition

8. Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike

9. Never split the difference

10. The Lean Startup: How Today's Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses Hardcover

11. The Four Steps to the Epiphany: Successful Strategies for Products that Win

12. Economy course: https://www.core-econ.org/

acovaronMay 11, 2018

I will recommend you to focus more on task management and architectural design. Your team expects guidance on what to build with clear expectations. I think the book Ben Horowitz, "the hard thing about hard things" has a good chapter on team leadership and defining expectattion this will help to be a better CTO.

ajmurmannonOct 11, 2015

I read this the other day in Ben Horrowitz's book "The Hard Things About Hard Things" and loved the idea by other commenters here to apply it to other fields. Just [my own version](https://github.com/ajmurmann/good-developer-bad-developer) that represents my views on engineering. I tried to stay away from concrete, good practices like TDD or pairing that are en vogue right now. Although I have very strong opinions on some of those, they are controversial and I think they would take value away from the larger points.

I would be excited to hear people's thoughts on it!

vonnikonNov 30, 2015

TLDR: Give people honest feedback, but make sure you have proven that you care about them first.

Unfortunately, this post's strong no-bullshit language is contradicted by the substance and form of the message given (magic quadrant warning). It takes a long time on the windup and goes light on the proof.

The Sheryl Sandberg anecdote, which is trotted out as an example of effective candor, is actually a perfect example of a trivial correction made in the face of overwhelming performance. Not a hard thing in the realm of hard things.

All candor is radical, and partial candor is a lie ... of omission. So the radical is just branding, and so is the culture of "guidance". Making up language is how academics and corporate gurus differentiate themselves, often needlessly.

Finally, there are deeper flaws in the idea of candor promotion:

* There is no one truth. We don't always arrive at a consensus or an objective truth by airing our differences. So let's be clear before embarking on that path, that we may just manage to create a very candid fog of strong opinions, as different subjective truths battle it out.

* In a culture that values candor, all liars are candid. That is, promoting candor does not solve the underlying dynamic, which is that one side will likely win and one will lose, and not every side is fighting for the right reasons.

* In a culture that values candor, bosses get to be candid first. That is, there is a real risk of feedback flowing from HQ to the trenches and not vice versa. Beware of candor as privilege.

Anyone who needs this type of advice should just go straight to "The Hard Thing About Hard Things" by Ben Horowitz. It's all there, without the rebranding.

chrisweeklyonOct 31, 2020

I recommend a famous book about creating companies and running / growing successful
businesses called "The Hard Thing About Hard Things". The gist of it is, there is no recipe for success, no roadmap or checklist to follow. Due diligence and research / prep are one thing, but anyone requiring a "color by numbers" or "connect the dots" guide is, by definition, ill-suited for entrepreneurship.

jseligeronMay 18, 2018

I was reading Ben Horowitz's book The Hard Thing About Hard Things the other day, and the stories about Jobs and Carmack remind me of this passage:

>"When do you hold the bus?"

>The great football coach John Madden was once asked whether he would tolerate a player like Terrell Owens on his team. Owens was both one of the most talented players in the game and one of the biggest jerks. Madden answered, "If you hold the bus for everyone on the team, then you'll be so late you'll miss the game, so you can't do that. The bus must leave on time. However, sometimes you'll have a player that's so good that you hold the bus for him, but only him."

>Phil Jackson, the coach who has won the most NBA championships, was once asked about his famously flakey superstar Dennis Rodman, "Since Dennis Rodman is allowed to miss practice, does this mean other star players like Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippin can miss practice too?" Jackson replied, "Of course not. There is only room for one Dennis Rodman on this team. In fact, you really can only have a very few Dennis Rodmans in society as a whole; otherwise, we would degenerate into anarchy."

>You may find yourself with an employee who fits one of the above descriptions [heretic, flake, or jerk] but nonetheless makes a massive positive contribution to the company. You may decide that you will personally mitigate the employee's negative attributes and keep her from polluting the overall company culture. That's fine, but remember: You can only hold the bus for her.

Really exceptional people often get exceptions. One challenge may be that more people think they are really exceptional, than really are really exceptional.

ekanesonJuly 31, 2015

Interesting. He would have done well to have read The Hard Thing about Hard Things by Ben Horowitz, which conveys nicely that much of being a CEO is realizing that when you think you're talking to person X (about their salary, etc), you're also sending messages to everyone else in the company. You have to keep everyone in mind, all the time.

taleodoronApr 1, 2020

First and foremost - it's not about you. Millions of people are getting laid off daily now due to the exceptional circumstances.

It's ok to feel down for some time, but it's important to understand the broad picture and not take this personally - regardless of what you were told.

Now, regarding leadership resources, I would recommend to start with the following (in this order):

Moneyball (movie), books: The Goal, The Phoenix Project, The Mythical Man-Month, The Hard Thing About Hard Things, The Culture Code and in-between those - various Simon Sinek videos.

If you read this far, you should be able to continue finding materials on your own from here ;)

Best of luck!

jbkivonApr 1, 2020

My best advice for you today is to be super frugal. Don't buy the fancy car, don't buy the condo, don't sign a long lease. A low burn for yourself will lower your stress and will offer you a lot of options.
If you like your job and the company stay put and work more if you can. Your leadership will be struggling at some point to survive.
Your CEO/Founder will feel very, very lonely. Go meet with him/her, tell him how you feel and offer help.
Even if the company collapses you will end up working with a lot of the same folks down the road. You will create memories and will bond with other folks in a less superficial way.
As they say this is fucking hard. More than you can imagine.
Ben Horowitz wrote a good book, The Hard Thing About Hard Things. In his case, it ended well, but most likely it will not end well for a lot of people.

Be sympathetic. Empathy is important. This is too late to be cynical or overly critical

Good luck.

wushuporkonDec 23, 2015

Traction by Justin Mares, Gabriel Weinberg - would probably reread

Growth Hacker Marketing by Ryan Holiday

How to Fail at Almost Everything by Scott Adams - great read
Scaling Up By Verne Harnish

Great By Choice by Jim Collins - love the whole series

The Ultimate Sales Machine by Chet Holmes - probably worth a reread

How to Win at the Sport of Business By Mark Cuban - good read

Elon Mush by Ashlee Vance - need I say more

The Hard Thing about Hard Things By Ben Horowitz

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg - probably need to deeply absorb this - a lot of good stuff

Copy This! By Paul Orfalea - another good "small business" entrepreneur book

The E-Myth Revisited By Michael Gerber - 2nd time read. Got more out of it this time.

The People's Tycoon (Ford) by Steven Watts - I love reading about businessmen from this age

Scrum by JJ Sutherland Jeff Sutherland - good read for development teams

jetsnoconOct 31, 2016


Author here. Thanks! That's a great suggestion. As you can tell, right now the site and the mailing list is the most minimal of an implementation. We want to build a network, connect and mentor one another through the simplest and easiest mechanism possible - email. Once we have a medium-sized community with dozens of experts, we plan to add community managed content. Perhaps through a wiki?

I'll share the books and articles that have positively affected my career. These aren't tried and true and maybe dozens of people would disagree about their value but here they are, for what they are worth:


  - High output management (Grove, 1995)
- Leading Up: How to Lead Your Boss So You Both Win (Useem)
- It’s your Ship  (Abrashoff)
- The score takes care of itself  (Walsh)
- The Hard Thing About Hard Things  (Horowitz)
- Where good ideas come from  (Johnson)
- Extreme Ownership (Navy Seals) — (Willink)
- Work Rules — (Bock)
- 5 Dysfunctions of a team — (Lencioni)
- Give and Take (Grant)
- This is what impactful Engineering leadership looks like - http://firstround.com/review/this-is-what-impactful-engineering-leadership-looks-like/
- Notes on startup engineering management for young bloods - http://www.elidedbranches.com/2015/10/notes-on-startup-engineering-management.html?m=1


  - Continuous Integration: Improving Software Quality and Reducing Risk (Duval, Matyas, Glover, 2007)
- Continuous Delivery: Release Software Releases through Build, Test and Deployment Automation (Humble, Farley, 2010)
- Extreme Programming Explained: Embrace Change, 2nd Edition (The XP Series) (Beck, Andres)
- SICP: Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs
- Clean Code: A Handbook of Agile Software Craftsmanship
- Design Patterns: Elements of Reusable Object-Oriented Software
- Refactoring: Improving the Design of Existing Code
- Refactoring Databases - Evolutionary Database Design (Ambler, Sadalage, 2006)

NomentatusonApr 22, 2018

This isn't new law. But the DOJ has not punished executives for it before, just companies. It isn't explicit in this article that they now will, but I think it is implied. Biggest previous case I know of:

I very greatly admire the famous book "The Hard Thing About Hard Things", 2014, by Ben Horowitz except that it very strongly insists that you should engage in precisely this illegal behavior. The gist is in this quote, p. 116:

"A good rule of thumb is my Reflexive Principle of Employee Raiding, which states, 'If you would be shocked and horrified if Company X hired several of your employees, then you should not hire any of theirs.' "

(And he clearly expects you to be shocked and dismayed by this.)

bitonomicsonMay 28, 2014

A couple that were quite entertaining for me were:

1) Hatching Twitter
2) The Everything Store (Amazon Story)
3) Mindset: The New Psychology of Success --This one was particularly interesting when thinking about employees and recruiting and what to look for in people that you are working with. After the author introduces the concept it gets a little dry for a chapter or two, but then really interesting after that.
4) The Hard Thing About Hard Things - this one was inspiring from a management/CEO perspective. When thinking about building a company that people enjoy working for (and all the tough stuff that comes with it) this is a great read.

technofiendonMay 24, 2016

Try reading The Hard Thing About Hard Things and not rolling your eyes the 10th time Horowitz brags about hiring the best of the best of the best. If you took him literally no other company stood a chance against him since he had a lock on all of Silicon Valley's top talent.

Perhaps it builds the perception in those hired they are in fact the best.

pyromineonSep 10, 2016

Although in-case anyone, like yourself, is unfamiliar with Ben Horowitz The Hard Things about Hard Things is perhaps one of the most interesting business books available.

I find it's applicability beyond just business makes it as fundamental as How to Win Friends and Influence People.

With that said, yah it is a little weird that on hackernews if I see Ben without an additional qualifier I presume Ben Horowitz

pyromineonSep 10, 2016

Although in-case anyone, like yourself, is unfamiliar with Ben Horowitz The Hard Things about Hard Things is perhaps one of the most interesting business books available.

I find it's applicability beyond just business makes it as fundamental as How to Win Friends and Influence People.

With that said, yah it is a little weird that on hackernews if I see Ben without an additional qualifier I presume Ben Horowitz

chrisweeklyonMar 10, 2019

Hey Wes!
Upvoted your prev comment before I realized it was you. Hope all's well; doing great here. A couple years ago when I worked for you, on your recommendation, I listened to unabridged audiobooks of both "Winning" and "The Hard Thing About Hard Things". Got more out of the latter than the former, but both were worthwhile.

mbestoonAug 14, 2017

> Other portfolio investments of Fred's have followed a similar pattern of having the original CEO pushed out once they get to a certain level of success.

And honestly, they should. Managing a company through 50, 100, 150, 500 and 1,000+ employee milestones requires very different leadership skillsets. There are very few founders who (1) understand this (2) are willing to party ways with their company (3) can navigate through each stage without help and (4) would pull a Zuck and surround themselves with more established/senior people (e.g. Sandberg) as they hit those milestones.

I'm all for young entrepreneurs challenging the status quo by thwarting an old guard of seemingly "old people" (a la Jack Barker), but this is one area that traditionally has a lot of "old people" simply because experience is incredible valuable to scaling companies.

I haven't read "The Hard Thing About Hard Things", but my understanding is that it basically touches upon all of the intricacies of how to navigate business challenges that typically more experienced senior individuals possess.

pinky1417onFeb 11, 2015

Peter Thiel's Zero to One was outstanding. Its advice was actually different from most other entrepreneurship books out there. It's most appropriate for startups trying to make it big (i.e. become "unicorns").

Ben Horowitz's The Hard Thing About Hard Things is a great startup managerial book. It chronicles Ben Horowitz's struggles as CEO of LoudCloud. Probably most appropriate for more mature startups.

guimarinonJuly 31, 2015

Saying it's branding is a little disingenuous. I like to joke that NYC is just a brand describing a truly shitty city, but that's not really the case. What I've noticed about the WSJ is that a lot of the commentary is primarily business focused. There is very little mainstream media that focuses on business with the quality of the WSJ. It's also sort of like the National Enquirer of the business world; so highly niche entertainment as well.

There are some realities of actually owning/running a business that are hard to understand if you have not done it before. Realities like how cumbersome and obnoxious most government attempts at regulation are, including and especially taxation. I have yet to meet a person, including prominent SV billionaires, who wouldn't give 100% of their money to the gov't if they thought it was spent well and transparently. The reality is that it is not, and these people feel rightly that they are better allocators of capital than the government, and so oppose taxation. In the Hard Thing About Hard things, Horowitz writes that most management books are written by people who have never even managed a hot dog stand. I think that a publication that is so overwhelming supported and favored by business owners even despite it's obnoxiousness at times must have some underlying value. It's probably best not to dismiss it as 'simple branding' just because you can't wrap your head around that position.

tomhowardonOct 28, 2017

Here's an important thing to think about, and to find a way to address in your team, on an individual and interpersonal level.

Founders/leaders have a far greater chance of success if they have the ability to be completely honest with themselves, and teams have a far greater chance of success if they can be completely honest with each other.

I can't find any links to specific excerpts now, but it's worth reading Ben Horowitz's "The Hard Thing About Hard Things" for insights about this alone; about the degree to which he and Marc Andreessen have an honest relationship with one another, and about how much value they place on self-honesty in the founders they back.

The thing is, it's very rare and very slow and difficult to accomplish.

Most of us have some ego fragility, and find it very hard to confront the truth about ourselves, and for that reason most of us generally avoid making fully honest comments to our friends, colleagues, partners, etc, until things get to breaking point, by which time it's often too late.

But it can be accomplished with a lot of commitment and personal development work over a long enough period of time (different methods work for different people, but practices that focus on ego detachment are the right approach), and if/when you can do it, you should see power-law improvements in your outcomes.

lemmings19onSep 28, 2017

Does anyone know of similar articles to this that they like and wouldn't mind sharing?

I always find these perspectives and retrospectives useful and interesting. Different people always point out different things, because everyone's business is at least slightly different in one respect or another. (be it funding, customer base, product scale, product type, employee count, number of concurrent projects, how successful they were, etc.)

For example, the book "The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers" by Ben Horowitz provided good insight into managing larger tech companies and was enjoyable to read.

guiambrosonJan 7, 2020

And if you want to go beyond computer history, then I'd add

- "Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman", Richard Feynman

- "The hard things about hard things", Ben Horowitz

- "Shoe Dog - A Memoir by the Creator of Nike", Phil Knight

- "Bad Blood", John Carreyrou [about Elizabeth Holmes]

- "Trillion Dollar Coach" [about the life of Bill Campbell]

xkjklsonOct 29, 2018

Damn, that post aged badly.

Yeah, I think there needs to be books that are honest about the tradeoffs of running a business different ways, rather than espousing that "this is the way to do things". Ben Horowitz's "The Hard Thing About Hard Things" is the only one I know that really claimed that sometimes things call for relaxed management and sometimes things call for a maniacal death march.

billmeionMay 2, 2020

Like others have mentioned it depends on your goals.

Do you want to build a passive income side business you can run from the beach? Check out The Personal MBA. https://personalmba.com/

Do you want to build a huge rocketship and IPO? Check out Y Combinator's "How To Start A Startup". https://startupclass.samaltman.com/

While these are not "software-specific" business books, I would say it's more important to spend time mastering the fundamentals[1] of business, which is the skill of finding people who want to pay for what you have. Everything else like management[2], operations[3], and marketing[4] can come secondary. This may sound cliché only because real business skills are boring, the same way "To get healthy, diet and exercise" sounds boring.

[1] https://jamesclear.com/fundamentals

[2] Marc Andreessen: The Hard Thing About Hard Things

[3] Eliyahu Goldratt: The Goal

[4] Chip and Dan Heath: Made To Stick

joshmlewisonJuly 30, 2014

Just got done reading Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz, most if it was pretty insightful, especially the stories in the beginning. The executive management parts I skimmed over in the middle and some parts were really irrelevant for early stage companies but overall it was a good read and informative.

Peter Thiel's book Zero To One is on pre-order, but you can pre-order and then get a pre-print edition mailed to you. It's based around the class notes in his Stanford startup class. I don't agree with everything but it's a very good perspective. It really helped me get out of the perspective of shitty ideas and to think bigger.

Edit: Ops, got Marc and Ben confused. ;)

muzanionAug 5, 2017

I'm going to assume director means upper leadership of a project?

The transition is not so hard. Think of it as another programming language, another architecture.

Your team is like a machine. You are not in it. You don't work in it. You build it. You improve and iterate on it. Your job is to look at it from the outside and see what can be improved.

You also have to make sure that information flows from top to bottom well. The lowest intern needs to understand that strategic goals and focus of the team. That's really what motivating is.

As tech management, one of the most effective thing you can do is to train the ones below you.

You should take complete responsibility for what happens in your team. One of your junior programmers breaks the product? Sexual harassment? A core member ragequitting? Your fault.

Ben Horowitz's The Hard Things About Hard Things is what I'd recommend most on engineering leadership. Extreme Ownership by Wilink, Jocko is a good book on general leadership. Do avoid a lot of the things on Business Insider, Forbes, or other business blogs.

cikonMay 12, 2020

At random

Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand. Love her or hate her, she makes you think.

The Hard Thing About Hard Things - This is a great book about building businesses, and business in general.

Capital in the 21st Century - One of the greatest books about economics and capital written ever - let alone in the last decade.

The Intelligent Investor - This is Buffet's favourite book, and regardless of how many times I read it, I still learn more. One can never digest it in full.

Predictably Irrational - This excellent tome makes behavioural economics digestible outside of economics. It's enlightening, though provoking, and turns several accepted truths on its head, purely by being written at all.

Nexus (Ramez Naam) - This science fiction book explores transhumanism and would it could mean in the near future. It's both light and pulpy, but at the same time makes you think about the outcomes of technological progression.

muzanionMar 8, 2018

There's no way around it. Have a cry about it. Accept that it hurts, don't deny or suppress the pain.

What helped me a lot was reading Ben Horowitz's "The Hard Thing About Hard Things."

In the end you just have to admit it sucks and that's okay. You have to be the tough guy/girl. I remember a YC lecture once which said that the ideal founder is like James Bond. It's a strange image but it got me through it.

williamsteinonSep 23, 2017

I wish "7. THE BEGINNING IS THE MOST DIFFICULT PART" were actually true. In my experience, the beginning is hard, but it can get much, much harder than it was at the beginning. In fact, the very book ("The hard thing about hard things") that he cites in point 7 tells the story of many crazy difficult things Ben Horowitz fought through many years after the beginning of Loudcloud/Opsware.

mirajonDec 21, 2015

Some of the books that made me think and look at things differently (from 2015 readings only):

- In the Light of What We Know

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

- Bathing the Lion

- The Art of Asking; or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help

- The Tears of Dark Water

- God Is Dead

- A Curious Mind: The Secret to a Bigger Life

- The Water Knife

looping__luionDec 5, 2019

Yes, totally agree.

Imho one of the best books out there on the topic.

Also: “The Hard Thing About Hard Things

Beyond managing teams, you probably will need to cope with politics as well. “The 48 Laws of Power” are a good start...

It is also worth understanding how asymmetry works in the business world: give Taleb’s “Antifragile”

I think managing teams has always to be seen in the culture of the respective company. Good managers make sure they position their teams for high-impact (depending on what high impact is), get the resources they need and the credit they deserve. All that has almost 0 to do with how to lead people but will probably determine success like no other factor...

jevanishonSep 21, 2015

It sounds like you're hitting a wall or getting close to a wall many others have hit as they grow. The company changes dramatically as it happens. One of the big milestones is around 25 employees: https://getlighthouse.com/blog/company-growth-everything-bre... You have to adapt to that or you'll grow into dysfunction unintentionally.

If you want to learn how one of the legends, Andy Grove of Intel, does it, then I highly recommend "High Output Management" to think through some of those challenges. Check Twitter and you'll see Keith Rabois, Marc Andreesen, Ben Horowitz, Ryan Sarver, and many others swear by it. Horowitz's "Hard Thing About Hard Things" is also great, but a bit more haphazard in how it covers topics.

peterlkonJan 4, 2020

> I assume that the best part of the best books will surface in daily conversations, YouTube videos, CliffsNotes, podcasts, Reddit posts/comments, blog articles, etc

I don't think this is true. In theory, you may be able to find all the information contained in the books, but it's drowning in garbage. The benefit of books is that the information has been distilled for you. Good books distill information better than bad books.

> One issue for me is that books are a very big time investment. I read very slowly and I don't remember everything I read either.

I hardly read books any more, though I do enjoy a day of reading in the sun when it's warm. I listen to audiobooks while I'm traveling, working out, or doing housework.

> I have thousands of non-fiction (mostly self-improvement) books in my reading list on GoodReads, but almost never bother to read any.

Different folks will tell you different things, but for me, the following self-help content covered most of what I've read to date:

* Any Alan Watts lecture series - I listened to "Out of your mind" (listen to the whole thing)
* The Book of Joy (Dalai Lama and Desmond TuTu)
* Never split the Difference (Chris Voss)
* The hard thing about hard things (Ben Horowitz)

And then read (or listen to) whatever strikes your fancy.

The concentrated focus of books makes them stick better, in my opinion, than blog posts, online commentary, etc.

chollida1onAug 2, 2016

> “We hope to achieve FDA market authorizations of these exciting technologies in the coming years,” she said.

I've never thought about what it takes to run a medical devices company but think about that statement. It looks like Theranos just did a huge pivot and they won't be able to generate any revenue from the resulting pivot for atleast a few years?

At this point, shouldn't goal number one be to get a product, any product approved by the FDA, are they the only governing body they need to get approval from?, and then get it to market ASAP?

Someone get Holmes a copy of Ben Horowitz book "The hard thing about hard things". If she wasn't already, she is now a war time CEO.

wirddinonOct 25, 2017

Suggestion: Mastering Bitcoins [0]

It's great and it was the first technical book which I read so was kind of interesting. You can skip to the actual part, after Introduction to get to know Bitcoins (and Blockchain) works.

Read these if you haven't already:

- Zero To One, Peter Thiel [1]

- Hooked, Nir Eyal [2]

- The Hard Thing about Hard Things, Ben Horowitz [3]

[0] http://amzn.to/2lgnHrS

[1] http://amzn.to/2yMNvR1

[2] http://amzn.to/2lftjCq

[3] http://amzn.to/2gKv3Cl

tsaprailisonDec 22, 2016

I had asked a question[0] regarding books a few months ago which ended up in the following list[1].
From those so far I have read the following:

- Elon Musk: Inventing the Future - Ashlee Vance
Totally worth to get insight into the Elon. Kinda changes the superhero/good guy image everyone has but you end up with more respect for him whatsoever.

- Thinking fast and slow - Daniel Kahneman
Awesome book presenting modern psychology. You'll get insight into how humans work.

- Rework - Jason Fried, David Heinemeier Hansson
Nice, albeit small book regarding how the creators of rails manage their company. So very nice insight.

- The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers - Ben Horowitz
I started reading this but it was too business centric for me so I stopped, however if you're a business owner it might be worth it.

- Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel - Rolf Potts
This is a nice/into book if you're interested into digital nomading, long term travel in general.

- The Black Swan - Nassim Nicholas Taleb
This in my opinion is a superb book if you are interested in statistics/philosophy. He presents the chaotic structure of our world and why extreme events are more common than we think.Definitely suggested.

- The art of Learning - Josh Waitzkin
This is a book that presents the Author's (Chess and Tai Chi Chuan World champion) way of learning. Has some pretty useful insight.

[0]: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=12415621
[1]: https://github.com/kostistsaprailis/non-tech-books-for-devel...

shawnhermansonMar 12, 2015

I'm really struggling to understand the issue. I understand the issue of conflict of interest when it comes to things like government contracts and public corporations. Here conflict of interest occurs because the person makes decisions on how to spend money that isn't their money. It is either the taxpayer's money or the stockholder's money.

In a private company, like Andreessen Horowitz, they are effectively spending their own money. If they choose to invest in a company founded by one of their partners, I do not see the conflict of interest. From the outside we may question whether or not the startup is really worthy of being funded, but it really isn't our call to make.

But what if it was our call to make? Did they make a bad decision by funding one of their own? Looking at his track record he already has experience as a co-founder and a CTO. On top of having prior experience, he has worked as a partner at Andreessen Horowitz for over a year. The people making the decision whether or not to fund his startup have experience working with him. They probably have a good idea of whether this person can or cannot deliver.

I think most people object to this, because they imagine a situation where a better startup is not funded because the partners decided to fund their buddy instead. Let us say that is true. For the sake of argument, assume this guy is incompetent and should not be given funding. Imagine this guy worked at Andreessen Horowitz for over a year and everyone knew he was incompetent, but decided to fund him anyways just because they were BFFs.

I guess it is possible something like this happened, but I doubt it. I recently finished reading Horowitz’s book The Hard Thing about Hard Things and he doesn’t seem like the type of person who keeps incompetent people around just because likes them.

The only valid objection I see is if they are using information provided to them under a non-disclosure agreement to gain unfair advantage. But is this a valid concern? As others have pointed out, most ideas are cheap. Even if that information provides some short-term advantage, it won’t help in the long-term as the market changes.

just_mylesonDec 9, 2019

You know I don't normally recommend books I read or have read, but both of these books below really resonate with me:

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

"What You Do Is Who You Are: How to Create Your Business Culture":

jamieraquatonSep 28, 2014

It's also worth noting that 0->1 makes claims about the sort of vision that founders have that are directly at odds with all accounts (including his own) of how Thiel's own successes actually occurred. Not slightly misaligned, but directly 100% contradictory.

It's not a terrible book; it's mediocre. It's a mix of the obvious (perfect competition destroys profit), the confusingly expressed (the bit on secrets sounds "deep" until you realize he's expressing something obvious using confusing language), and noise.

If somebody wants to read a good new business book, I'd recommend Creativity Inc, How Google Works, and The Hard Thing about Hard Things long before I'd recommend 0->1.

godzillabrennusonSep 10, 2016

Ben in the book "The Hard Thing About Hard Things" summed up how one becomes ready to be CEO of an early stage company nicely. You become trained to be a CEO of an early stage company by becoming the CEO of an early stage company.

It's not a defined role, its deserved by someone who is capable of pulling off success in business by controlling anarchic situations. It's not like they can teach the skills to do that in school.

jstandardonMar 12, 2017

It does seem harsh and it's possible that some part of employee obligations are done from fear.

However, we don't know the exact circumstances behind the firings. I'm giving Steve the benefit of the doubt that he didn't fire folks who slipped deadlines just once, but removed though who consistently didn't deliver or acknowledge risks early.

Effective policies need teeth. Particularly if your company is in a lean position (emerging from bankruptcy). It reminds me of the "War time CEO" chapter from Ben Horowitz's "The Hard Thing about Hard Things".

dritedonSep 4, 2017

Here's some: with why I like them

Thinking, problem solving related:

Superforecasting by Philip Tetlock: accurate forecasting

Thinking fast and slow by Daniel Kahneman: how to avoid bias

Misbehaving: like thinking fast and slow but more hilarious

The checklist manifesto by Atul Gawande: the power of simple process

From Darwin to Munger by Peter Bevelin: lots of mental models to add to your latticework

Business management:

The Outsiders by William Thorndike: capital allocation

The hard thing about hard things by Ben Horowitz: some mental models for managers facing the real-life struggles of startups

Zero to One by Peter Thiel and Blake masters: for the chapter on what kinds of business are always going to be tough (i.e. ones in perfectly competitive industries)


The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why violence has declined

The making of modern economics by Mark Skousen (audiobook): explains various economic ideas through telling the history of the fathers of those ideas.


You can be a stock market genius by Joel Greenblatt: where to look for undervaluation

The Essays of Warren Buffett by Lawrence Cunningham: Buffett's thoughts in Buffett's words, neatly categorised by topic

Competition Demystified by Bruce Greenwald: how to identify a high quality business

parasubvertonMay 27, 2015

I'm in technical presales and have been in and out for about 10 years. It's a very rewarding career, if you like socializing and are particularly interested in tying your individual/team efforts with your pay (vs. the RSU/option lottery).

These are all good articles, though I'd particularly point to the a16z articles and Ben Horowitz' book "The Hard thing about Hard Things" for an appreciation of what sales brings to a company that needs enterprise customers.

Also, sales can be learned by anyone. Some of the best sales people I know (earning $400k most years to upwards of $1m in a year if they hit a home run) are deeply technical.

jusben1369onApr 21, 2014

Ben Horowitz has an interesting chapter in his recent book "The Hard Thing about Hard Things" that talks about profanity. Apparently early on at LoudCloud (or Opsware) at a company meeting some employees raised the issue that there was too much profanity in the office. Ben acknowledged that he was the worst culprit so this was most likely aimed at him. He slept on it and decided that it could be used but never in a sexist or bullying way. He rationalized it based on the assumption that it was already an inherent part of many tech companies and not allowing it might restrict their access to the best talent. I thought that weird. Either way I think the end result is that it does seem to be an important part of the culture and as a future or current employee it should factor into your decision to work there.

povertyworldonMay 2, 2019

If you want to feel that condemned for life by the capitalist caste system feeling, read the part in The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz where people are trying to stop them from hiring Mark Cranney, even though he is apparently the best sales exec they have ever seen, because he went to "a weak school". They even admit he could be the CEO of IBM instead of a sales guy at a floundering startup if he didn't have "those things wrong with him".

csabiaonJan 15, 2015

You can find analysis and hints on this and other similar situations in the last book from Ben Horowitz "The Hard Thing About Hard Things"
I'm reading it now. There are a lot of interesting insights about how startup Companies scaling works.

juanignacioonApr 10, 2017

Sure, sure,... but you read "The Hard Things About Hard Things" and you take a look at the Pmarca's blog and some many other first hard sources/accounts about how it's really like to run a Startup and the common theme is not that of fun.
To me it has been grueling. So I can really relate to those stories. In my case is more about the challenge, not so much about having fun.

wenconJune 25, 2021

* Fooled By Randomness (NN Taleb): Taleb is a complicated personality, but this book gave me a heuristic for thinking about long-tails and uncertain events that I could never have derived myself from a probability textbook.

* Designing Data Intensive Applications (M Kleppmann): Provided a first-principles approach for thinking about the design of modern large-scale data infrastructure. It's not just about assembling different technologies -- there are principles behind how data moves and transforms that transcend current technology, and DDIA is an articulation of those principles. After reading this, I began to notice general patterns in data infrastructure, which helped me quickly grasp how new technologies worked. (most are variations on the same principles)

* Introduction to Statistical Learning (James et al) and Applied Predictive Modeling (Kuhn et al). These two books gave me a grand sweep of predictive modeling methods pre-deep learning, methods which continue to be useful and applicable to a wider variety of problem contexts than AI/Deep Learning. (neural networks aren't appropriate for huge classes of problems)

* High Output Management (A Grove): oft-recommended book by former Intel CEO Andy Grove on how middle management in large corporations actually works, from promotions to meetings (as a unit of work). This was my guide to interpreting my experiences when I joined a large corporation and boy was it accurate. It gave me a language and a framework for thinking about what was happening around me. I heard this was 1 of 2 books Tobi Luetke read to understand management when he went from being a technical person to CEO of Shopify. (the other book being Cialdini's Influence). Hard Things about Hard Things (B Horowitz) is a different take that is also worth a read to understand the hidden--but intentional--managerial design of a modern tech company. These some of the very few books written by practitioners--rather than management gurus--that I've found to track pretty closely with my own real life experiences.

w1ntermuteonJune 4, 2016

> His name and commentaries started popping up everywhere a few short years ago which to me smells strongly of having a PR agency

This is exactly right. One of the first things a16z did after it was founded was to hire Margit Wennmachers[0] and her PR firm [1].

Horowitz openly addresses the topic in his book, The Hard Thing About Hard Things[2]:

> “We hired the Outcast marketing agency, headed up by its formidable founder, Margit Wennmachers, to generate media interest. We needed people to know what we were about as we had decided to defy the conventional venture capital theory of no PR. The daughter of a German pig farmer, Margit was the furthest thing from a swine wrangler imaginable. Smart and sophisticated, she was the Babe Ruth of PR. She worked her contacts, landing a cover story in Fortune in 2009 that featured Marc posing as Uncle Sam. Andreessen Horowitz was an overnight sensation, and yet Marc and I were still the only two people in the firm.”

0: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Margit_Wennmachers

1: http://money.cnn.com/2014/10/02/news/economy/ozy-silicon-val...

2: http://www.amazon.com/Hard-Thing-About-Things-Building/dp/00...

beatonJune 16, 2016

This reminds me of Ben Horowitz' The Hard Thing About Hard Things, where he talked about implementing a plan to lay off 90% of his company in complete secrecy, for fear of employee exodus and loss of customer confidence. But that was a very different situation than Buffer is in now, as it happened during the original dot-com era collapse.

Kudos to Buffer for their approach to transparency. I think it will actually serve them well here.

wenconJuly 31, 2020

I think career coaches can be helpful but you have to pick the right one.

Just a data point on my experience being coached by someone with less intellectual depth and experience than I had: there was some value in the general feedback I received (everyone benefits from having their blind spots pointed out), but in truth I really didn't learn very much overall.

I think there are good coaches out there -- I tend to think the better ones are those who've had real world experience in the area they're offering coaching in. For instance, many executive coaches are former executives so they speak from experience and have had skin the game.

I would somewhat distrust coaches who've merely taken coaching classes, whose resumes indicate that they've never done anything truly difficult in their lives in terms of career. The advice you get will likely not comport with reality -- you're much better off reading books and talking to senior people in your industry.

Ultimately I benefited more from learning from multiple sources -- I picked the brains of the best in the industry by reading and arguing with books like High Output Management, Hard Things about Hard Things, etc.

I may never have had the opportunity to be coached by the late Andy Grove, but at least I got to see things from his perspective a bit.

mkbknonJune 20, 2018

Mandatory learning something related to the work. Either the company schedule professional classes for that or reimburse the equivalent amount of money if you self-learn.

Assuming your employees to know everything and not let then learn is a path to your organization's downfall.

Ben Horowitz makes a good case about it in his book The Hard Things About Hard Things

muzanionFeb 10, 2018

I've been there. I recommend the book, "The Hard Thing About Hard Things." It got me out.

One of the keys to remember - with tech, unlike a lot of businesses, you're playing 3D chess. Not only do you have lots of moves, but the market shifts, the possibilities shift when new tech is introduced. People always get excited when something like cloud or blockchain appear, but their real value is to companies with an existing customer base like yours who have a large market but hit some barrier in the unit economics and such.

You should probably talk it with your investors too. Zombie companies are bad for VCs, practically as bad as failures.

Selling the company will get some money back. You might be surprised how much you get for it too.

rakamotogonMay 2, 2020

Quite a lot of books I want to recommend are already here.
- Hard things about hard things
- Good Strategy / Bad Strategy are a couple of books that can help here

If the purpose of this exercise is to improve your overall understanding, I would recommend something more fundamental than above (software-specific business books). Read some Macro Economics, articles around industries you are interested in (SaaS, Mobile, etc.) - especially historic ones which give you more foundational understanding.

Also, I strongly recommend not doing an MBA program if knowledge is what you seek.

gexlaonNov 29, 2019

I like books which are sort of lessons within a biography format. Points pulled from real experience. For me, this adds context and makes a book readable. If you don't learn anything, then at least you might get to read a good story.

The hard thing about hard things, by Ben Horowitz

The Score Takes Care of Itself, Bill Walsh (49ers Coach)

Creativity, Inc, Ed Catmull (Ran Pixar)

To Pixar and Beyond, Lawrence Levy (CFO of Pixar with interesting different POV than Ed Catmull)

Otherwise for any dumpster fire of a subject I want a book on, I'll try to trace the "lineage" to see where the starting points were. The trash today won't be a thing 50 years from now. So, maybe look at books from 50 years ago or more.

HongweionOct 17, 2019

Facing your fears is much easier said than done.

Ben has done it. His experience, and the way he describes them, speaks to me. His first book, the Hard Thing About Hard Things, is therapy for founders. I don't think he's trying to prescribe anything new.

To paraphrase something that stuck with me: "the mechanics of starting a business are easy and can be taught to anyone. the emotions involved are very difficult and it's [Ben's] job at A16Z to help founders deal with them." I really appreciate what Ben is doing.

mikesabatonJan 4, 2020

I'm in the same situation although probably older than OP, so I've read more than 50 books throughout my life. The question of whether reading books is worth it is something that I'm also struggling with. Not only do I not retain information the same way when I'm reading a book, but reading paper makes me tired and so I get through 2-3 pages a night before falling asleep.

A few years ago I observed myself hearing an interesting author on a podcast. I downloaded the audio book and loved it (Chris Voss, and the book is never split the difference) so I subsequently found every podcast the author was a guest on and listened to all the podcasts. It's really hard to say that the audio book was worth it, because I generally find live conversations more engaging and they make the material easier for me to remember. For non-fiction it might be faster, cheaper and better to just listen to the podcast tour rather than read the book or listen to the audiobook

Currently I'm in this predicament with Scott Galloway and the Algebra of Happiness. I listen to the Pivot podcast, found 20 other podcasts or videos where Scott has been the guest and I'm not sure that the book, or audiobook would have that much value. Honestly, the biggest reason to buy it would be to support the author.

As to the OPs question, there have been a few paper books that I've found very much worth it. Zero to One and Hard Thing About Hard Things are books that I've bought and read multiple times. I also get value out of classic fiction because it's so high quality, inspiring and contributes to shared culture and understanding of the world.

mrongeonMar 26, 2021

Here's a list of some of my favorite books dealing with crisis:

- In Thin Air - About a mountaineering expedition that turned into disaster on Mount Everest.

- Black Hawk Down - The story of hundreds of US special forces trapped in Mogadishu overnight after a mission went completely sideways

- Leadership in Turbulent Times - About different US presidents leading through crisis and how there is no one singular type of leadership

- The Hard Thing about Hard Things - Leading a startup on the verge of failure to an eventual massive acquisition

- The Sledge Patrol - How a small group, outgunned and out manned fought back Nazi invaders in Greenland

agottereronJuly 7, 2020

Here's the list of books I've been recommending new managers and leaders read:

Small Unit Leadership: A Commonsense Approach

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable

High Output Management

Measure What Matters

Death by Meeting

Work Rules!: Insights from Inside Google That Will Transform How You Live and Lead

The Hard Thing About Hard Things

Start with Why (you can prob skip the book and just watch https://www.ted.com/talks/simon_sinek_how_great_leaders_insp...)

komali2onAug 15, 2017

I find it frustrating that this is being downvoted - this is about the most universal piece of advice to be given to anybody in any job that uses computers to communicate with each other. I literally just read this exact line in "The Hard Thing About Hard Things," a book recommended to me on this forum.

Those that are downvoting, why do you disagree that this statement is not relevant to the current discussion?

jwdunneonNov 29, 2017

Oooh 2017 has been a year of heavy reading. There's a few for very different reasons:

- Albert Einstein by Walter Isaacson

- Functional Programming in JS by Michael Fogus

- The Ultimate Sales Machine by Chet Holmes

- Why the Tories Won by Tim Ross

- The Game by Neil Strauss (as a story of self-destruction and a guide on how not to treat women).

- Built to Sell by John Warrilow

- The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz

I'm currently reading a handful of books on statistics and UX. This may change before the end of the year.

I think there's a few I might return to that are half done but I guess the fact I've put them down half way through disqualifies from being "the best".

Amd just to finish: I love these book posts. A good deal of books I read come from these :)

laurentlonAug 13, 2020

Daniel Jarjoura recently published a fairly complete reading list that might be useful: https://techleadership.substack.com/p/the-product-leader-rea...

Some books I’ve read and enjoyed and/or found useful: The hard thing about hard things, the innovator’s dilemma, High output management, Accelerate, The Phoenix project (though I much prefer The Goal)

wenconFeb 19, 2020

Surprisingly much better.

Theory and practice, when done together, is much more powerful than either alone.

Good practice books like "High Output Management", "Influence", "Hard Things about Hard Things" gives you a view of what other people at other (high-functioning) organizations do and exposes you to the norms in industry. They also give you mental models to think about things, and helps you to become aware of the problems you never knew existed. And it helps your normalize your expectations: you may think your company sucks, but reading widely and critically helps you realize even the very best companies deal with the same problems and don't really have significantly better solutions.

Reading a good book is like having a conversation with and picking the brain of a really competent mentor, dead or alive, and of a calibre that not exist in your organization. Internal mentorship is sometimes oversold. Most organizations have managers that have merely adapted to their local ecosystem and don't really have any insight on management as a craft. Managers who learned purely through experience tend to be shaped by the company's culture and may do very well in their niche but lack imagination to go beyond because they have no theory to hang their thoughts on.

Also, books are like travel -- you don't know what you don't know until you've seen for yourself what exists. You sometimes need to peek outside your organization to see what other cultures exist.

anant90onJuly 13, 2018

I disagree with you on "Measure What Matters" book. I was really looking forward to reading John Doerr's book, and I stuck along with it longer than usual, but had to ultimately abandon it before hitting the 100-page mark. It seems that just reading GV's blog post[1] on OKR's will teach you as much as reading the whole book.

In addition, the book is one content chapter, followed by a few success stories chapters written by founders themselves. These chapters are written in a very uninspired tone (almost as if they wanted to write something and get it done for JD, not because they wanted to share their story) and barely inspire you or bring in any new insights over the meatier content chapters.

This is not a criticism of the OKR system — arguably it's one of the best goal setting systems out there. But does it need a whole book to understand? I think not. It just seems to be a vastly missed opportunity to me. John Doerr is pretty much a legend in the valley, and maybe my expectations were sky high hoping for a book on the same level as High Output Management or Hard Things About Hard Things.

[1]: https://library.gv.com/how-google-sets-goals-okrs-a1f69b0b72...

arjmandionJune 5, 2017

the hard thing about hard things(Ben Horowitz): This book is mostly recommended for managers but I found it very useful to adjust my estimations about life. Also, you will learn about silicon valley history and it's dynamics.

The fifth discipline (Peter Senge): This book is one of the systems thinking references and it helped me to learn more about hidden dynamics in the world around me. I truly wish I've read this when I was junior in college.

guiambrosonSep 22, 2019

In order of personal preference:

1) The Launch Pad: Inside Y Combinator, by Randall Stross

2) The Founder's Dilemmas, by Noam Wasserman

3) The Hard Thing About Hard Things, by Ben Horowitz

4) Zero to One: Notes on Startups, by Peter Thiel, Blake Masters

5) Venture Deals, by Brad Feld, Jason Mendelson (I haven't read, but heard good things about it)

ps: title is missing "ASK HN".

Amogha_IOonJune 5, 2017

Hands down the best book to give an intro into my field: "How to win friends & influence people" by Dale Carnegie.

(I am a startup CEO, w/ technical background. Learnt a LOT from this book. Would probably not be in the same job if I hadn't read this)

Other good books that will give an intro into tech startup management for laypeople:

-Zero to One (Peter Thiel)

-The hard thing about Hard things (Ben Horowitz)

mrbirdonJune 3, 2016

Contrary to what many people think, few of us have managers who can consistently and successfully lay out the optimal career path and help us achieve it. I'd say there are three main reasons:

1. It's really hard to do.

2. Few people have themselves been trained on management.

3. Faced with 1 and 2, people focus on their own, more familiar personal deliverables.

Therefore, if you want things to change, you'll probably have to make some specific suggestions. And to do that, you should do some homework. I highly recommend starting with Managing Humans by Michael Lopp (http://www.amazon.com/Managing-Humans-Humorous-Software-Engi...) or maybe The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz (http://www.amazon.com/Hard-Thing-About-Things-Building/dp/00...). Spend an hour or two with each book and you'll have a better idea what can be done, and why.

What you're finding is that working as both a full-time manager and full-time engineer is very difficult, borderline impossible. Eventually, you'll have to choose. An increasing number of small companies are starting to understand this reality, and allow their top people to grow into either technical leadership or management leadership roles. Expecting both, simultaneously, is not realistic.

EnsorceledonJuly 16, 2019

I've been reading for more than 50 years and listening to audiobooks for the last 30 or so. I find I get different things out of the two formats. When I listened to Lord of the Rings (by the excellent Rob Inglis), there were all sorts of turns of phrase and whole sections that I didn't remember from my previous readings (multiple).

But this article is spot on for me, I can't listen to audio books where I'm trying to learn something while doing anything other than driving. Some non-fiction is also simply too dense to effectively learn from while listening, I want to stop and reflect, re-read and make notes.

I started listening to "The Hard Thing about Hard Things" on Audible and quickly abandoned it for the hard back. My dead tree copy has numerous notes and a few dozen stickies as bookmarks.

xasosonApr 15, 2015

Interesting. In Ben Horowitz's book The Hard Thing about Hard Things, he recalled doing the opposite at Opsware/Loudcloud. He made sure that all his employees knew that they were in trouble.

For six months, Loudcloud employees worked long hours and were under constant stress, but were able to stay afloat on less money (keeping them alive longer). I think transparency trumps secrecy in most cases. Bad news spreads quickly and good news spreads slowly.

bkeroackonAug 8, 2014

The otherwise amazing book by Ben Horowitz (of Andreessen-Horowitz fame) called The Hard Thing About Hard Things has a chapter that basically lays out and encourages this type of illegal behavior (called "Is It Okay to Hire People from Your Friend's Company?").

It literally recommends that companies maintain a "do not hire" (aka "do not poach") list of other organizations from which HR is forbidden from recruiting. It also recommends calling the CEO of the other company on the down-low to ask permission before extending an offer.

It really disgusted me when I read it. Such smart people doing such dumb things, and encouraging would-be CEOs to do the same.

beatonOct 17, 2019

Yes, he should have addressed something with head of sales. He should have recognized the coming downturn and stopped expanding his staff. He should have done other things. His gut was telling him this.

But he didn't. He delegated the space problem so he didn't have to think about it anymore. And it cost him $30M that he would desperately need not long later (read The Hard Thing About Hard Things for that story).

It's not about ignoring evidence that the market is turning. It's not that specific. It's that your spidey-sense, for lack of a better word - your gut, your sense of fear - is telling you that something is a problem. You can then either engage that problem, or avoid that problem. And if you avoid it, you will screw up.

But it's incredibly difficult to face our gut fear. So we don't do it.

jt2190onApr 25, 2014

The article is "[a]dapted and excerpted from The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz." Seems like the editors did a clumsy job when combining two sections [1] of Ben's book.

[1] I "looked inside" the book at Amazon. The article is made up of two sections from the book, and rewrites/reorders the paragraphs a bit.

randomsearchonNov 13, 2015

Academia is particularly political. I've worked in industry and seen a lot of politics there too, but in academia the problem is much worse. I think that this article is just examining one consequence of the politics in academia, which is that people sometimes come across as assholes. The article doesn't get to the root cause of the problem.

For a while now, I've been trying to understand why there is so much political behaviour in academia, as I really don't like it and I'm not interested in participating. Recently, I found the answer perfectly summarised in this essay by Ben Horowitz:


Ben also explains how to solve this problem, and I couldn't agree more.

This essay is included in his book, "The Hard Thing about Hard Things," which gets a lot of mentions on here and is definitely worth a read.

YadionFeb 13, 2015

I would buy and look into the following books:

# HTTP: The Definitive Guide - O'Reilly Media

# Algorithms by Sedgewick

# Introduction to Algorithms by Cormen.

Check out some Machine Learning books:

# Pattern Recognition and Machine Learning

# Computer Networks (5th Edition)

I would look at the following book if you wanted more Q&A and interview questions:

# Cracking the Coding Interview: 150 Programming Questions ...

Tutorial memberships:

# I would buy a Tuts+ account, they have been very slow in releasing new content (too bad), however they have lots of great Web Development stuff.

I would read some other non-technical books:

# Hackers & Painters: Big Ideas from the Computer Age by Paul Graham

# The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz

# The Innovator's Dilemma: The Revolutionary Book That Will Change The Way You Do Business by Clayton M. Christenen,

# Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

# How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

If you wanted to understand some Cloud stuff, look into the Whitepapers from Amazon Web Services:

# https://aws.amazon.com/whitepapers/

TehchopsonDec 19, 2017

Currently reading: Hyperion.

* Peak: Secretes From the New Science of Expertise

* The Hard Thing About Hard Things

* American Gods

* The Dark Tower

* Children of Time

* Sapiens

* The Lies of Locke Lamora: Gentleman Bastards #1

* Red Seas Under Red Skies: Gentleman Bastards #2

* Dark Matter

* The Dark Tower #1

* Guns of The Dawn

* The Hunter Killers

* Snow Crash

mooredsonAug 7, 2016

Books I found so amazing that I actually bought copies and given them as a gift (in some cases to multiple people):

* Perennial Vegetables by Eric Toensmeier--eye opening list of vegetables that come back year after year

* The Hard Thing About Hard Things, by Ben Horowitz. Somewhat presumptuously, I bought multiple copies and sent them to some of my friends/acquaintances that were CEOs.

* Climate Wars, by Gwynne Dyer. This mix of fiction and non fiction really brought the climate change crisis to my attention.

xackpotonAug 1, 2015

For me, the acquisition is a failure on all levels. Failure to execute, failure in reaching beyond one's capacity to take the startup higher, failure in self-belief. Even though one may have earned money after an acquisition, the real aim of a startup is to change the world and not to get acquired and die.
But failure doesn't come cheap. For you to fail, you will need to put your heart and soul into the startup to succeed. And as spotman says "build something you believe in, that solves a real problem, and gain real traction", he didn't add that once you start getting offers for acquisition, stop believing in your idea and get lured by the offer and the riches.
I personally believe in one learning from "The hard thing about hard things" book by Ben Horowitz, is that you should sell your startup when you have reached your max capability to take the startup to the next level.
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