I revisit Ben Horowitz’s book, The Hard Thing About Hard Things periodically to give myself a kick. Horowitz didn’t just fight one war, one time with one company, he’s a five-star General of the corporate battlefield. This week I found myself thinking of his “silver bullets vs. lead bullets” story:
As I excitedly reviewed the plan with my engineering counterpart, Bill Turpin, he looked at me as though I was a little kid who had much to learn. Bill was a long-time veteran of battling Microsoft from his time at Borland and understood what I was trying to do, but remained unconvinced. He said, “Ben, those silver bullets that you and Mike are looking for are fine and good, but our web server is five times slower. There is no silver bullet that’s going to fix that. No, we are going to have to use a lot of lead bullets.” Oh snap.
We all would love to stumble upon the magic solution to any major problem. “If only we had a silver bullet to do x, then we wouldn’t need to have this conversation again.” Most of the time, we have to settle for regular old lead bullets. Most of the time, the faster we stop searching for the silver bullet and get to work with the lead ones, the better we’ll actually be. Most of the time the only thing limiting our potential supply of lead bullets is our own willingness to do the work.
Oh snap indeed.