Heroes and the Hard Thing about Hard Things

(Fade in) A movie screen.

A lot of great stories are built around heroes. 

A good example is the Indiana Jones blockbuster series. The archaeologist takes us on many adventures around the world, searching for precious idols, a Holy Grail, an Arc of the Covenant while overcoming evil villains, jungle tribes, snakes, etc.  He has to make some split second life and death decisions.  Should he jump across the ravine?  Should he hold on to the Grail as his dad is saying, "son, let it go."?

It’s damn hard, what he’s doing.

Let’s not forget the softer “hard things” he’s doing like finding resolution with loved ones - a girlfriend, ex-wife, his father and a son he never knew. Whether we want his life for our own or not, we admire and fantasize a life like Indy’s, the decisions he makes and the growth of his character over time. He’s a hero.

(Cut) To work life.

Working in a startup we're chasing something elusive and high probability of failure (like Indy) but getting there is about the thousands of different decisions we make along the way.

Which brings me to Ben Horowitz (startup entrepreneur and Andreessen Horowitz VC) and his book “The Hard Thing about Hard Things”. A person I know, said they read it every month. Wow, I thought, if something is worth reading over and over again, I better read it. And he was right, it’s an amazing book about running a company, and it’s not the traditional, this is how you do stuff. It’s a book about all of the hard decisions you have to make when things go south. The really hard stuff. Firing people, making decisions that won’t go over well with your employees, but are the right thing to do. Knowing when to cut and run instead of sticking it out till the end. It’s a fabulous book and one I would highly encourage everyone to read because it’s sobering about the ugly painful things that have no handbook, no guidelines for success. You have to just go through it and learn.

My point of this post is that the heroism we see on the big movie screen and what we decide at work is basically all the same. What makes it heroic is the growth that we gain from decision-making.  We love Indy for who he becomes, not necessarily the prize he's after.

Because when we add them all up, it’s the boundaries that we've pushed, the hard things we've experienced, and the growth that happened because of it, that makes it all heroic, and worth seeing it through to the end.

So pat yourself on the back. You're a hero. 

(Fade) back to the Movie Screen

Indy looks at his Father, let's go of the Grail, grabs his dad's arm and rides off into the sunset.