Ben Horowitz — What You Do Is Who You Are >> Lessons from Silicon Valley, Andy Grove, Genghis Khan, Slave Revolutions, and More (#392)

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“One of the key insights from Bushido is that a culture is not a set of beliefs; it’s a set of actions.” Ben Horowitz

Ben Horowitz (@bhorowitz) is a cofounder and general partner at the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz. He is the author of the New York Times bestseller, The Hard Thing About Hard Things, and the upcoming Harper Business book, What You Do Is Who You Are, available October 29th. He also created the a16z Cultural Leadership Fund to connect cultural leaders to the best new technology companies and enable more young African Americans to enter the technology industry.

Prior to a16z, Ben was cofounder and CEO of Opsware (formerly Loudcloud), which was acquired by Hewlett-Packard for $1.6 billion in 2007. Previously, Ben ran several product divisions at Netscape Communications, including the widely acclaimed Directory and Security product line.

Ben has an MS and BA in Computer Science from UCLA and Columbia University, respectively.

Listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Overcast, StitcherCastbox, or on your favorite podcast platform. You can find the transcript of this episode here. Transcripts of all episodes can be found here.

#392: Ben Horowitz — What You Do Is Who You Are >> Lessons from Silicon Valley, Andy Grove, Genghis Khan, Slave Revolutions, and More

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#163: Marc Andreessen — Lessons, Predictions, and Recommendations from an Icon

QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.



  • Connect with Ben Horowitz:

Andreessen Horowitz | Twitter


  • Who is Andy Grove, and why is he interesting to Ben? [04:39]
  • How did Ben come to write the foreword to the updated reprint of Andy’s highly influential High Output Management, and what does he consider to be the most valuable takeaways from this book? [06:35]
  • As someone who, like Andy Grove, has a scientific background, how does Ben think about management and the problems in the world of business that need to be solved? [11:21]
  • How does Ben distinguish between management and leadership? [15:19]
  • When he was still working at Netscape, Ben wrote a paper called Good Product Manager/Bad Product Manager. What brought this paper about and what impact did it have on Ben and the other people at the company? [17:20]
  • What was Ben’s relationship with famed Silicon Valley coach Bill Campbell like, and what are some of the most important lessons he learned from him? [20:45]
  • What allows someone like a Bill Campbell or an Oprah Winfrey to read people so intuitively within minutes of meeting them? [24:34]
  • How does Ben advise a first-time executive who might have plenty of product knowledge, but not much experience with managing people or the nuances of a growing business? [26:45]
  • Aside from High Output Management, what books would Ben recommend for first-time founders? [32:11]
  • How does Ben teach first-time CEOs one of the most important skills of the position: the ability to be good at the job and its difficult decisions without worrying about being liked? [35:01]
  • What tools or techniques has Ben found useful for someone in a leadership position to manage their own psychology? [37:44]
  • Self-talk for someone in a high threat, one shot, one kill situation. [41:28]
  • As someone whose superpower may be running toward scary things instead of away from them, what does Ben mean when he says “sharpen the contradictions?” [43:51]
  • After telling himself he would never write another book, what prompted Ben to write his latest, What You Do Is Who You Are, and what is he trying to convey about creating and maintaining a desirable company culture? [46:44]
  • “A culture is not a set of beliefs, it’s a set of actions.” How would Ben suggest that people in a position to create a company culture refine their thinking about what works and what doesn’t? [50:27]
  • One significant example of how Andreessen Horowitz tries to differentiate its own culture from those of other venture capital firms Ben has observed. [51:53]
  • Is culture something that someone has to get right at the get-go, or is it possible to do a rehaul and make it work without replacing all of the employees at a company? [53:55]
  • What did Toussaint L’Ouverture do to militarize a slave culture that was able to successfully resist the most powerful European powers of the day and create an independent state? [56:52]
  • What would it take for Ben to feel like the message of What You Do Is Who You Are is getting through to its audience? What would it take for him to consider the book a success? [1:03:33]
  • What would Ben’s billboard say? [1:07:00]
  • Parting thoughts. [1:08:25]


The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 900 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.

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12 Replies to “Ben Horowitz — What You Do Is Who You Are >> Lessons from Silicon Valley, Andy Grove, Genghis Khan, Slave Revolutions, and More (#392)”

  1. My fav quote from this post was :

    . I recommended it in The 4-Hour Body and did not get paid to do so.

    Thank you for clarifying it.

  2. Tim, I really enjoyed this weeks podcast. The messages contained within were powerful to any business or industry you are involved in. Everyone is defined ultimately by the results, however its how you going about achieving them which is the important thing….

  3. We cannot find such sources in Turkish. As a digital marketing specialist, we have to follow information from English sources. Thank you very much for your contribution. I follow your articles with interest

  4. Tim, I’m a female academic and long-time fan. Thanks for the great work you do!

    I’m writing to ask you to reconsider your support for Jordan Peterson. I was crushed to see that you’d included a quote from him in Five-Bullet Friday. This guy is a gleeful enemy of gender equality; his blatant misogyny outweighs any insights he might produce.

    By promoting Peterson you give credence to his wider set of ideas, which include the assumption that women are an inferior underclass, existing for the pleasure of men. I know you don’t believe this. For the sake of your many female fans, I hope you’ll avoid associating yourself with this creep.

  5. Saw this and thought it a good quote to ponder: “Death would not surprise us as often as it does, if we let go of the misbelief that newborns are less mortal than the elderly.”

    ― Mokokoma Mokhonoana

  6. Interesting point about cultures being about actions rather than beliefs. Guess it’s kind of like how actions influence thoughts. Thanks for sharing.

  7. @tferriss — hey Tim: I’m hoping this is the appropriate place to contact you. after listening to several podcast episodes where you’ve spoken about PTSD/ psychedelics + MDMA therapy. I’m at a road block here with my trauma and mental health healing journey.

    Almost 9 years ago i had a near death experience from a stupid dose of LSD + MDMA (not in a stable environment). Now, I am a full time yoga teacher and podcast host, I am doing meditation, exercise, sauna use, Ayurveda, and I’m still feeling like I am stuck in my mental illness and eating disorder which I’ve dealt with since I was 15. I want so badly to re wire my brain in the way I feel I deserve, but I am also scared to do ayu and other plant medicines even though I have had other non near death experiences but my past with drugs and partying culture brings back traumatic memories of sexual abuse and toxic relationships, but I want to change that. I would love so much to heal my relationship with my body, food, and PTSD. How can I be part of MAPS studies with MDMA?? I am in a rut, and need some sort of uplevling help to reach a new way of healing. I don’t want to live this way forever, in isolation and feeling unworthy if I don’t tackle this mental illness and disease.

    Also, if you know of any Buddhist meditation retreats that are also in the realm of dharma recovery / mental illness healing, could you recommend some or write a blog post about this? Thanks for your time. — gab

  8. Hi Tim sir, I am really scared and confused in today’s digital era because I am not a tech geek. How can someone be highly successful in today’s digital era if he is not a math or a tech geek? Everyone is building an AI type business but IT requires a higher level of mathematics(Maths is very difficult for me). How can someone be highly successful if he is not a math or a tech geek in digital era?

  9. Hey Curator of the Commentssection, ifI hope you follow MMA, cause then you would appreciate this nugget here. Tim studies Questions so he will love this Interview. I found an Interview with Nate Diaz, where he talks a lot, because Ariel lowkey ties Nates Dislikes,Traits, Successes into the questions and Nate either gets fired up or validated and off he goes. That`s just beautifully executed. I learned so much. Please pass this on to tim.

  10. I wasn’t expecting to enjoy or be as interested in that, half as much as I actually was. It’s the old relateability thing again, I don’t run a Silicon valley tech startup.

    However, a lot of that was very relateable, with some great insights.

    Coming from a backround where image is more important than actions, the idea “culture is not a set of beliefs, it’s a set of actions”, is very powerful.

  11. I laugh every time you say, “Non commercial billboard” ~Damn Walmart CEO ruining the good question! Great post!!