The hard thing about hard things

This is the title of Ben Horowitz’s book. The guy who built a company from scratch and then sold it for $1.65 billion.

Although it is perhaps best categorized as a management book, there is (among many others) one key takeaway point. The point is this: There is no formula for running a business, there’s no recipe for leading people, there’s no recipe for making a series of hit songs, no recipe for making great art, and so on.

There are no shortcuts. There’s no easy way out. You have to do it the hard way.

There are times when everything goes to shit. And we’d wish someone to tell us what to do. We want some sort of a map. But there is no map.

“The Struggle is when everybody thinks you are an idiot, but nobody will fire you. The Struggle is where self-doubt becomes self-hatred.”

Ben Horowitz, The Hard Thing About Hard Things

We have to walk the road and make the decisions we think are the best. Then again, sometimes we don’t know what the best decision is. Sometimes every decision seems bad. Whatever we decide, someone gets hurt. Someone loses.

“The only thing that prepares you to run a company is running a company.”

Ben Horowitz, The Hard Thing About Hard Things

The same is also true for art and photography.

There are no guarantees that you’re going to succeed. Nobody will tell you what to do – or they will tell, but you have to decide still if it’s the right thing to do.

It’s uncomfortable, but to paraphrase Horowitz: get used to being uncomfortable.

You feel uncomfortable doing street photography and interacting with strangers? Get used to it. You feel uncomfortable knowing that someone might ask you to delete the photo? Get used to it. Not knowing if you’re going to make it? Get used to it.

But it’s not such doom and gloom either. Even though there are no formulas or maps and it’s going to be uncomfortable, we learn by the experience and by the experience of others who have had similar struggles. And this just might be enough to get us through.