Super U Podcast | 7 Super Tips with Ben Horowitz
Ben Horowitz. American businessman, investor, blogger, and author, gives us insight into how he views management, what makes a good idea, and how he spent his time in college.
5x #1 Bestselling Author and Motivational Speaker Erik Qualman has performed in over 55 countries and reached over 50 million people this past decade. He was voted the 2nd Most Likable Author in the World behind Harry Potter’s J.K. Rowling.
Need a sneak peek? Below are the main takeaways from the episode.
Super U Podcast | 7 Super Tips with Ben Horowitz:
[2:06] Tip #1
“When I became CEO, the first time I asked all the kind of veteran CEOs, what should I focus on to be a great CEO? You know, what to do? And they pretty consistently said, Ben, pay attention to the culture. Great, how do I do that? And that’s kind of where the advice stopped. And, you know, most of the things written on it have been relatively trivial, you know, based on one organizational behavior, kind of experiment or something like that. And so, but when you look at it, it turns out to be a really important thing. So if you go, Well, how does your company behave? You know, particularly how does it behave when you’re not looking today? show up to meeting at times, if somebody calls them that they return the call. If it’s a person who’s a lower rank than them that they return it to they returned to that day, did they return it the next day? Do they return it the next week? All these things, if they do a deal? Is it for the price or for the partnership? What are they optimizing? And so all those things which are not in your goals and objectives, they’re not in your mission statement, they’re not in your okrs. They’re how you behave on a daily basis, how people experience your company, what you’re like to do business with, what you’re like to work at. All that stuff is your culture. But the amount of attention it’s paid to in the management literature is like close to zero or close to zero usefully. So I thought it was important thing to try and get out. Well, how do you move that? How do you shape it? How do you change it? Because you can’t just do the simple thing. You can’t say, Oh, well, well put in your performance review. Did you follow the cultural values? Well, you don’t know if they see that phone call. So you definitely don’t know if they returned it. So that’s not going to be the thing that drives the culture, what’s going to drive the culture are all these little behaviors, all these little cues that people take about, this is what I have to do to succeed in this company.”
[4:21] Tip #2
“Culture is very powerful thing. But very few people understand how it works, or you know why it’s so powerful. It turns out to be a much stronger force than a lot of the things that people end up focusing on either in a company or in society. And so explaining and understanding how that Work has always just been a deep interest of mine. And, you know, it’s funny when I met Shaka, you know, he was 19 years in prison, you know, seven years in solitary confinement and all that kind of thing and led a prison gang and so forth. And most people read his book, and it was a story, you know, for them of redemption, how this guy who went to prison for murder came out and became a best selling author and, and, you know, kind of an activist for anti recidivism and so forth. But, you know, for me, it was a story of leadership and somebody who really understood culture, and how to develop it, control it, change it, and so forth.”
[7:09] Tip #3
“Well, it’s funny because when I was in college, the thing that I thought I was doing that was a huge waste of time was I was completely obsessed with rap music. And, you know, I would listen to it constantly. And, and to the point where in those days, there was actually no, there were no rap radio stations, and there was no and Yo, MTV Raps hadn’t come out yet or any of that stuff. And so there were only two rap shows. And they were only on one day, a week on Saturday night. So I would never go out on Saturday night, I would sit at home, because I had to record them. And then in those days, you know, it wasn’t like these fancy like record to disk, you had to like tape, you would press record. And then when it got to the end of the tape, you had to be there to flip it around, and do it. And then if you’re smart, you would be there to pause on all the commercials so that you could get more life out of your tape. So I missed like all that college life when I was like, wow, I probably wasted a lot of time. But now like my whole career is kind of based on my affiliation with rap music. So it’s what I’m best known best for. So that turned out to be good. You know, I, I kind of wish I had studied more biology I didn’t, I was very interested in it. And I did not realize at the time that kind of information science and biology would connect. When they did or in the way they did. I’d studied a little neurology and graduate school as part of AI which was also seemed like a complete waste of time because AI didn’t work for like 25 years. But now it’s working. So so you never know, I guess I would say, you know, you want anything that you learn is a good use of your time probably.”
[9:22] Tip #4
“When I was CEO, I read almost every management book out there and I would find myself like awake at three o’clock in the morning, sweating, but still cold, you know, like, I’m sweating must be hot, but I’m cold. And that’s, I now know that’s called a cold sweat. But didn’t really know then and I was like, Why don’t any of these management books helped me and then I kind of came to realize that they were all designed all the management books I’d read were designed to basically explain to you how not to fuck up your company. I’m sorry about The profanity I’ve co Tourette’s. But there was nothing like once you’ve already screwed up your company, then what? Like, what do you do? And what do you do when you’re in that situation? Which I found myself in, like big time, and a lot of people did, which is you’re basically closed in, you have no options, you know, you’ve got maybe one way out, and then the chances are, chances are, you’re dead, like, the chances are, you’re dead, you’re not going to make it. And, you know, I had a few situations like that, like when I took my public company public with three weeks of cash in the bank, and so forth. And so I was always looking for something to help me with, like, how do you like, how do you even think about that, when you’re very, very likely not going to make it and you’ve got 400 people working for you, and they’re very likely going to have to get laid off? And like, how do you keep from just like, melting down right in your chair. And I read this book on this guy to son, who read who basically led the only successful slave revolution in human history. So not just like Haitian history, or modern history, human history, one successful slave revolt. And his name was to start lower chair, but that wasn’t actually his name. His name was Tucson. That that was the name he was born with Overture was a nickname that came later. And where it came from, was, Napoleon was trying to defeat him. And he would ask his generals, he’s like, how is it possible that this guy, this slave, running an army of slaves can defeat you guys like the French army with like, all your military advantage, all the training all the weapons, all everything? Like how is that even possible, like what is going on? And they were like, Look, we get them surrounded, we haven’t cornered, we have them out numbered. And every time we think we’re about to get them, all of a sudden, there’s an opening. And low return, French means the opening. So this word got back to Tucson, and he nicknamed himself to sought the opening to salt lover church. And so as CEO, I always thought, like, I should be banned literature. And that’s how I would get out of those situations. So that was the inspiration.”
[12:45] Tip #5
“Turns out to be like just a very rare thing in life, which is the willingness to think for yourself, like, can you? Do you have an idea that you believe in enough. And with tech entrepreneurship, it’s got to be sort of by nature, an idea that nobody else believes, or they would have already done it. And it’s no longer like an idea for a startup. And so the nature of it is you come up with some idea that everybody thinks is really stupid. And then you, like, Think for yourself and go build it. And one of the reasons you know, we end up getting along is like, there, you know, Nas had no choice. He ended up starting his whole life having to think for himself just like that.”
[14:09] Tip #6
“Yeah, so you know, in the world of entrepreneurship, the big skills are kind of programming skills and people skills, like those are the big two. And I think people skills tend to be highly underestimated, in terms of kind of just ability to run a company and so forth. And what I mean by people skills, is the ability to understand other people’s motivation, and other people’s motivations, who you’re talking to, and then who you’re also not talking to, and how they’re going to think about something and where they’re coming from. And relate to that in a way that gets you to the right conclusion about how you build an organization or build a company or, or, you know, make a deal or any of these kinds of things is incredibly valuable. And that’s what I would say most the Have good entrepreneurs end up lacking more than the technical skills that we see now, like being like a boss level engineer, like that’s extremely valuable. I’m not discounting that. But that that’s really the other big, big skill that you can learn in in school.”
[16:07] Tip #7
“Yeah, you know, people go like we’re, we’re your integrity. And you go, okay, people usually aren’t. And, you know, it gets, it can get very ambiguous in a company context. So for example, you go and you raise money from some venture capitalists, you say, look, we’re definitely going to hit this forecast over the next three quarters, then you’re out selling your products, and you’re like, oh, we’re a little shorter the forecast, and you have a customer come in, and you go, Wow, like, if we just told him this was gonna be here in two months, rather than in the six months, it’s really going to take, then we get the deal. And we could keep our promise to the investors that we just made, or, but we’d be sort of lying to them. But how big a lie is that, you know, you get into these kinds of things. So the definition of what you’re doing and what you mean by integrity, and in what context ends up being really important. And, you know, and this is why, you know, one of the things that Toussaint l’ouverture did in the slave revolution is, you know, he was very, very, very big on this concept of, Okay, we’re gonna distinguish our culture by being more ethical than the Europeans that we’re fighting against. And one of the things that he did is he said, Okay, look, everybody’s pillaging, we’re not going to pillage. But you can’t just say you’re not going to pillage because, okay, is that really the right thing to do? Because you’re, you’re, you’re in this mercenary war over sugar. And you have to pay the soldiers, your guys don’t have any money. So you’re really going to jeopardize the war over like this ethic that like nobody else here cares about. But what he said is, we’re fighting for liberty. And you can’t get Liberty if you’re taking people’s Liberty away. And so if you think about what that does, is it changes the whole motivation of the army. And so culturally, now they’re fighting for higher costs, that then rippled out to the broader community. And the stories are like, you know, the French came in, they set the plantations on fire, they, you know, stole all the cattle, they’ve, you know, took everything and then the slaves came in half naked, didn’t take anything. And as a result to SAP got the, the local support for what he did, but like, that’s integrity works like that. It doesn’t work like Oh, just do the right thing. Like nobody knows what the right thing is.”
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