In David and Goliath, Malcolm Gladwell talks about the analogy: big fish in a small pond or small fish in a big pond.

I liked the way he explained along with a few examples and data. How impressionist started own art event instead of participating in grandeur event where no one gave respect and appreciation.

It kept me thinking, in our day to day life we are hustling. We are so busy with the grand vision that we forget about the minor joy of living in it. We are running for the big pond without even becoming a big fish in a smaller pond.


In the book what you do is who you are, Ben Horowitz talks about keeping open communication with organization heads with the team. 

These are his advice:

  1. State the facts clearly
  2. Openness to bad news
  3. Encourage the bad news

This kind of reminds me of Ray Dalio’s Principle of Radical Transparency. This ensures everyone in the team is aware of how as an organization we are doing it collectively. 

When smart people are bad employees

Ben Horowitz in his book: Hard Things about Hard Things, talks about smart employees who also happen to be responsible for breaking company culture.

The Heretic
These are the employees who find faults to take the case of management or co-workers. They can go to an extent claiming the company is run by morons and management has no fucking interest in the business. They will question every management decision, break trust, and cause your culture to disintegrate.

The Flake
These are brilliant people who can be unreliable. They will be at peak at times while wasting at some other time. Giving a mission-critical task to this bunch can result in screwing things up along with missing timelines.

The Jerk
These employees are no different than others out there. Their existence has more to do with picking a fight with others, making others feel uncomfortable. Having such a manager can screw up a company culture, flow of ideas and innovation.

The Prophet of Rage
The Prophet of Rage is a special type of Jerk. They are super smart, know to get the job done. No obstacle too great and no problem is too hard. They can piss off anyone or everyone to get the job done.

They are so self-righteous it’s difficult to even have a conversation with them about the right way to do things because they believe that if they are doing it, it must perforce be right. Everyone else is always wrong.

If you are running a big team, I am sure you would have encountered these personas in your team.


In the book what you do is who you are, Ben Horowitz talks about how a team takes a decision. He talks about 3 primary modes.

  1. My way or the highway: As a CEO I know what is right and I will make the decision.
  2. Everyone has a say: Before going out with a feature or announcement everyone takes decisions together.
  3. Everyone has an input then I decide.

The author says using the 3ed method is most appropriate. 


In the book “What you do is who you” are Ben Horowitz has a shared cultural checklist for founders building companies.

  1. Cultural Design: Culture should be the same who you are in real life or professional. 
  2. Cultural Orientation: Monkey see, monkey do. Ensure the newer employees are mentored well to join your bandwagon.
  3. Shocking Rules.  
  4. Incorporate outside leadership 
  5. Object lessons 
  6. Make ethics implicit
  7. Give cultural tenants deep meaning
  8. Walk the talk: You have to equally follow ethics what you have defined for your organization.
  9. Make the decision that demonstrates priorities: You have to abide by it and that is when others will follow. 

We are different, so is the purpose or our rocketship. It can be different for us all.


Ben Horowitz in his book “What you do who you are” about Slack’s culture.

  1. Smart
  2. Humble
  3. Hardworking
  4. Collaborative

Slack’s founder says every Slack employee should have these virtues. 

It got me thinking about how most startups are paying 100X salary and taking bullshit from A performers. The toxic culture at many big billion companies is a result of not having core virtues. 

C for sales

While reading “What you do is who you are”, the author shares an incident. He talks about the sales philosophy of Mark Cranny at his Loudcloud days.

Cranny also talks about the four C’s.  

  1. Competence: your salesperson should know in and out of the product.
  2. Confidence: your salesperson should pitch with it.
  3. Courage: your salesperson should have self-belief in a product he/she is selling.
  4. Conviction: not to be sold by the customer on why she wasn’t going to buy your product.

He believed that you were either selling or being sold: if you weren’t selling a customer on your product then the customer was selling you on why she wasn’t going to buy it. I loved it and felt like sharing.