This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "The Hard Thing About Hard Things" by Ben Horowitz. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.
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Looking for The Hard Thing About Hard Things book exercises? Do you want to evaluate your management practices?
The Hard Thing About Hard Things is Ben Horowitz’s book about his days as a CEO and the hard lessons he learned. Horowitz was frustrated that most management books fail to cover the difficult parts of starting and owning a company, so he wrote one himself.
Here are three exercises from The Hard Thing About Hard Things book to help deepen your understanding.
3 The Hard Thing About Hard Things Exercises
Ben Horowitz was a public CEO through the dotcom bubble and burst. He learned a lot of hard lessons about how to build a company and get it to survive. Now co-founder of the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, he shares his advice to other founders and senior executives on getting through your company’s inevitable hard times.
The book covers a wide span of topics, including handling the psychology of a failing company, building a good place to work, scaling a company, and being a good CEO. It’s targeted to startup founders and CEOs, but there’s good advice here for anyone who wants to help build a better company.
Here are three The Hard Thing About Hard Things book exercises:
Exercise 1: Confront the Struggle
Think about the last time you were in the Struggle to deal with future times.
- What was the last time you felt like you were in the Struggle? What was happening? What did it feel like?
- At the time, did you feel your struggles were unusual? Did you think that most other people in your position were succeeding? If so, what made you think this way?
- Who could you have talked to to get better perspective on your struggle? Could you have talked to anyone else who was in that situation? How about sharing the problems with your team?
Exercise 2: Check Your Management Practices
Think about how you manage your team and compare it to the book’s best practices.
- What metrics do you use to measure the performance of your team?
- What is the ultimate goal your team is driving toward? Do the metrics signal progress toward this goal? Or do they measure something that’s only slightly related?
- What is your perspective on one-on-one meetings? How could you make them more useful?
- How frequently do you give feedback to your direct reports? Do you want to give feedback more or less than you currently do?
Exercise 3: Think Like a CEO
Review your tendencies and responsibilities as a CEO.
- A CEO has a few major responsibilities: articulate the vision, make high-quality decisions rapidly, hire a team, get the team to work on the vision, and achieve results. Which do you feel you are weakest at?
- What should you do in the next month to improve on this weakness?
- Do you consider yourself more of a One or a Two? Why?
- Look at the people who report to you. Which people are Ones, and which people are Twos? Does this distribution of people concern you?
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Here's what you'll find in our full The Hard Thing About Hard Things summary :
- What it was like to head a company through the dotcom bubble and subsequent burst
- Why failing is normal
- How to build a good place to work