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019 Ben Horowitz: What You Do Is Who You Are

A guide to creating a successful company culture by learning from the strategies of some of history’s most effective leaders.

Ben Horowitz: What You Do Is Who You Are


In "What You Do Is Who You Are," Ben Horowitz explores how effective leaders can shape a company's culture to drive success. Drawing on examples from historical figures like Haitian revolutionary Toussaint Louverture and prison gang leader Shaka Senghor, Horowitz argues that strong cultures are built on clear values, discipline, and a willingness to learn from mistakes. The book offers practical guidance for business leaders on how to cultivate a culture that empowers employees, promotes growth, and achieves lasting success.


Title: What You Do Is Who You Are: How to Create Your Business Culture

Author: Ben Horowitz

Publishing Year: 2019

Publisher: HarperBusiness

Length: 6 hours and 12 minutes

5 main ideas

  1. A company's culture is its most valuable asset.
  2. Strong cultures are built on clear values and principles.
  3. Culture is shaped by both leadership and the behaviors of employees.
  4. Learning from mistakes is an essential part of building a successful culture.
  5. Effective culture building requires discipline and consistency.
Ben Horowitz: What You Do Is Who You Are

5 funny quotes

  1. "In business, as in life, you don't get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate - unless you're in jail, in which case you get a cheese sandwich."
  2. "There's no such thing as a permanent record. Unless you're in high school, in which case there is, and it's called Facebook."
  3. "Starting a company is like eating glass and staring into the abyss."
  4. "I believe in luck: how else can you explain the success of those you don't like?"
  5. "If you ever start a business, prepare to be sued."

5 thought-provoking quotes​

  1. "Culture is not a set of beliefs. It's a set of actions."
  2. "When you're in a difficult situation and the rules aren't clear, values provide guidance."
  3. "To build a strong culture, you need to reward the right behaviors and make it painful to do the wrong thing."
  4. "Effective cultures don't emerge by accident - they're deliberately built."
  5. "A culture that tolerates bad behavior is no better than one that condones it."

5 dilemmas

  1. Balancing innovation with stability in a rapidly-changing business environment
  2. Addressing toxic behavior in the workplace while maintaining a positive culture
  3. Creating a culture that values diversity and inclusivity
  4. Encouraging risk-taking while mitigating the potential for catastrophic failure
  5. Building a company culture that can adapt to new challenges and opportunities

5 examples

  1. Toussaint Louverture - Haitian revolutionary
  2. Shaka Senghor - prison gang leader
  3. Andy Grove - former CEO of Intel
  4. Steve Jobs - co-founder of Apple
  5. Reed Hastings - co-founder and CEO of Netflix

Referenced books

  1. "The Art of War" by Sun Tzu - Referenced to explore the strategies and principles of effective leadership and decision-making.
  2. "The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups" by Daniel Coyle - Quoted to discuss the importance of culture in shaping organizational behavior and success.
  3. "The Autobiography of Malcolm X" by Malcolm X and Alex Haley - Discussed in relation to the theme of personal transformation and the impact of one's actions on identity.
  4. "The 48 Laws of Power" by Robert Greene - Referenced to explore the dynamics of power and influence in leadership and organizational settings.
  5. "The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L'Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution" by C.L.R. James - Cited as an example of leadership and the formation of a successful organization during the Haitian Revolution.

Share a quote

"Culture is not a set of beliefs. It's a set of actions."

Ben Horowitz: What You Do Is Who You Are
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