The hard thing about hard things by Ben Horowitz
[A CEO who has seen many ups and downs in his career, shares his wisdom words. I simply like his definition of good product manager]
Calculus vs. Statistics:
"There are several different frameworks one could use to get a handle on the indeterminate vs. determinate question. The math version is calculus vs. statistics. In a determinate world, calculus dominates. You can calculate specific things precisely and deterministically. When you send a rocket to the moon, you have to calculate precisely where it is at all times. It’s not like some iterative startup where you launch the rocket and figure things out step by step. Do you make it to the moon? To Jupiter? Do you just get lost in space? There were lots of companies in the ’90s that had launch parties but no landing parties.
But the indeterminate future is somehow one in which probability and statistics are the dominant modality for making sense of the world. Bell curves and random walks define what the future is going to look like. The standard pedagogical argument is that high schools should get rid of calculus and replace it with statistics, which is really important and actually useful. There has been a powerful shift toward the idea that statistical ways of thinking are going to drive the future. With calculus, you can calculate things far into the future. You can even calculate planetary locations years or decades from now. But there are no specifics in probability and statistics—only distributions. In these domains, all you can know about the future is that you can’t know it. You cannot dominate the future; antitheories dominate instead. The Larry Summers line about the economy was something like, “I don’t know what’s going to happen, but anyone who says he knows what will happen doesn’t know what he’s talking about.” Today, all prophets are false prophets. That can only be true if people take a statistical view of the future."
— Peter Thiel
The Struggle is when you wonder why you started the company in the first place.
The Struggle is when people ask you why you don’t quit and you don’t know the answer.
The Struggle is when your employees think you are lying and you think they may be right.
The Struggle is when food loses its taste.
The Struggle is when you don’t believe you should be CEO of your company. The Struggle is when you know that you are in over your head and you know that you cannot be replaced. The Struggle is when everybody thinks you are an idiot, but nobody will fire you. The Struggle is where self-doubt becomes self-hatred.
The Struggle is when you are having a conversation with someone and you can’t hear a word that they are saying because all you can hear is The Struggle.
The Struggle is when you want the pain to stop. The Struggle is unhappiness.
The Struggle is when you go on vacation to feel better and you feel worse.
The Struggle is when you are surrounded by people and you are all alone. The Struggle has no mercy.
The Struggle is the land of broken promises and crushed dreams. The Struggle is a cold sweat. The Struggle is where your guts boil so much that you feel like you are going to spit blood.
The Struggle is not failure, but it causes failure. Especially if you are weak. Always if you are weak.
Some stuff that may or may not help:
- Don’t put it all on your shoulders
- This is not checkers; this is mutherfuckin’ chess
- Play long enough and you might get lucky
- Don't take it personally
- Remember that this is what separates the women from the girls
Most people are not strong enough. The Struggle is where greatness comes from.
There are three key reasons why being transparent about your company’s problems make sense:
- Trust: Without trust, communication breaks. In my human interaction, the required amount of communication is inversely proportional to the level of trust. For example, if I trust you completely, then i require no explanation or communication of your action
2. The more brains working on the hard problems, the better. Given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow.
3. A good culture is like the old RIP routing protocol: bad news travels fast; good news travels slow
If you run a company, you will experience overwhelming psychological pressure to be overly pressure positive. Stand up to the pressure, face your fear, and tell it like it is.
Take care of the people, the products, and the profits in that order.
I roll with the hardest niggas, make money with the smartest niggas
I ain't got time for you fuckin artist niggas
Better shut your trap before you become a target nigga
Y'all army brats I'm the motherfuckin sargeant nigga
- The Game, "Scream on 'em"
Good product manager / Bad product manager:
Good product managers know the market, the product, the product line and the competition extremely well and operate from a strong basis of knowledge and confidence.
A good product manager is the CEO of the product.
A good product manager takes full responsibility and measures themselves in terms of the success of the product.
They are responsible for right product/right time and all that entails. A good product manager knows the context going in (the company, our revenue funding, competition, etc.), and they take responsibility for devising and executing a winning plan (no excuses).
Bad product managers have lots of excuses. Not enough funding, the engineering manager is an idiot, Microsoft has 10 times as many engineers working on it, I'm overworked, I don't get enough direction. Barksdale doesn't make these kinds of excuses and neither should the CEO of a product.
Good product managers don't get all of their time sucked up by the various organizations that must work together to deliver right product right time. They don't take all the product team minutes, they don't project manage the various functions, they are not gophers for engineering. They are not part of the product team; they manage the product team. Engineering teams don't consider Good Product Managers a "marketing resource."
Good product managers are the marketing counterpart of the engineering manager. Good product managers crisply define the target, the "what" (as opposed to the how) and manage the delivery of the "what." Bad product managers feel best about themselves when they figure out "how".
Good product managers communicate crisply to engineering in writing as well as verbally. Good product managers don't give direction informally. Good product managers gather information informally.
Good product managers create leveragable collateral, FAQs, presentations, white papers. Bad product managers complain that they spend all day answering questions for the sales force and are swamped. Good product managers anticipate the serious product flaws and build real solutions.
Bad product managers put out fires all day. Good product managers take written positions on important issues (competitive silver bullets, tough architectural choices, tough product decisions, markets to attack or yield). Bad product managers voice their opinion verbally and lament that the "powers that be" won't let it happen. Once bad product managers fail, they point out that they predicted they would fail.
Good product managers focus the team on revenue and customers. Bad product managers focus team on how many features Microsoft is building.
Good product managers define good products that can be executed with a strong effort. Bad product managers define good products that can't be executed or let engineering build whatever they want (i.e. solve the hardest problem).
Good product managers think in terms of delivering superior value to the market place during inbound planning and achieving market share and revenue goals during outbound. Bad product managers get very confused about the differences amongst delivering value, matching competitive features, pricing, and ubiquity.
Good product managers decompose problems. Bad product managers combine all problems into one.
Good product managers think about the story they want written by the press. Bad product managers think about covering every feature and being really technically accurate with the press. Good product managers ask the press questions. Bad product managers answer any press question.
Good product managers assume press and analyst people are really smart. Bad product managers assume that press and analysts are dumb because they don't understand the difference between "push" and "simulated push."
Good product managers err on the side of clarity vs. explaining the obvious. Bad product managers never explain the obvious.
Good product managers define their job and their success. Bad product managers constantly want to be told what to do.
Good product managers send their status reports in on time every week, because they are disciplined. Bad product managers forget to send in their status reports on time, because they don't value discipline.
Thanks to Ward Cunningham, the computer programmer who designed the first wiki, the metaphor “technical debt” is now a well-understood concept. While you may be able to borrow time by writing quick and dirty code, you will eventually have to pay it back—with interest. Often this trade-off makes sense, but you will run into serious trouble if you fail to keep the trade-off in the front of your mind. There also exists a less understood parallel concept, which I will call management debt. Like technical debt, management debt is incurred when you make an expedient, short-term management decision with an expensive, long-term consequence. Like technical debt, the trade-off sometimes makes sense, but often does not. More important, if you incur the management debt without accounting for it, ten you will eventually go management bankrupt
One challenge is the Peter Principle. Coined by Dr. Laurence J. Peter and Raymond Hull in their 1969 book, The Peter Principle holds that in a hierarchy, members are promoted so long as they work competently. Sooner or later they are promoted to a position at which they are no longer competent (their "level of incompetence"), and there they remain being unable to earn further promotions. As Andy Grove points out in his management classic High Output Management, the Peter Principle is unavoidable, because there is no way to know a priori at what level in the hierarchy a manager will be incompetent.
Another challenge is a phenomenon that I call The Law of Crappy People. The Law of Crappy People states:
For any title level in a large organization, the talent on that level will eventually converge to the crappiest person with the title.
The rationale behind the law is that the other employees in the company with lower titles will naturally benchmark themselves against the crappiest person at the next level. For example, if Jasper is the worst Vice President in the company, then all of the Directors will benchmark themselves against Jasper and demand promotions as soon as they reach Jasper’s low level of competency.
As with the Peter Principle, the best that you can do is mitigate the Law of Crappy People and that mitigation will be critically important to the quality of your company.
Fine line between fear and courage:
I tell my kids, what is the difference between a hero and a coward? What is the difference between being yellow and being brave? No difference. Only what you do. They both feel the same. They both fear dying and getting hurt. The man who is yellow refuses to face up to what he’s got to face. The hero is more disciplined and he fights those feelings off and he does what he has to do. But they both feel the same, the hero and the coward. People who watch you judge you on what you do, not how you feel.
—Cus D’amato, legendary boxing trainer
What makes people want to follow a leader? We look for three key traits:
- The ability to articulate the vision
- The right kind of ambition
- The ability to achieve the vision
Dr. Seuss’s Yertle the Turtle
Andy Grove’s High output Management