What You Do Is Who You Are


people.ben-horowitz (Private) defines what culture is and how to create ones that stand out.

Book title


Actionable insights with vivid stories (eg. What You Do Is Who You Are).

Heavy doses of hip hop references.

Key Points

  • culture is what you do #star
  • culture should help you answer difficult questions
  • culture should be encountered daily
  • (memorable) culture should be shocking (beg the question)
  • culture should have memorable stories to anchor them
  • culture should be reinforced


Blood Geneology

servant that carved hole in stomach to preserve master's family genealogy in a fire



  • values should help guide decision

    • eg. when doing a deal, make more money or get partnership
  • if you see something and do nothing, that sets culture

  • coaching vs direction, as a leader, you should do latter

  • virtues vs values

    • virtues are what you do, values what you believe

revolution - toussaint louverture

touissant applied

  • rule must be encountered daily
  • people.tom-coughlin (Private), coach giants, show 5 min early or fine
  • eg. sales story, follow 4c
    • competence (know the product), confidence (have point of view), courage, conviction
    • most sales have wizard oz problem: people that lack courage, brain or heart

way of warrior

warrior II

  • people.shaka-senghor (Private)
    • ran prison gang with stricter codde
      • hold constant study groups about self improvement, daily contact
  • understand culture by seeing how new people behave
    • ask them what is working or not working
  • enforce culture with actual ramifications
    • eg. no written performance, no bonus
  • watch out for people weaponizing culture
    • eg. no take feedback at slack that was critical
  • show people urgency
    • eg. met with people everyday, sometimes twice a day

ghenghis khan


  • quality of life is quality of questions
    • eg. why am i fat vs what does an intelligent man do to trim weight
  • change framming
    • eg. don’t see me as outside but as one who will help you conquer the world
  • fostering inclusion
    • involved in strategy, start with job description, complete integration
    • eg. test for helpfulness instead of hiring for women

be yourself

  • watch out for your flaws and design around them
  • hire people that fit your culture
  • checklist
    • will doing your virtue make a difference
    • does your virtue distinguish your culture
    • can you carry out this virtue?

edge cases

  • figure out when your culture doesn’t work:
    • when right people are quitting,
    • your top priorities are failing
    • your employees do something that is shocking
  • bad employee personas:
    • the heretic (always looks for faults)
    • the flake
    • the jerk
    • the prophet of rage (highly talented but need to be managed - don’t tell them behavior is bad but point out how their actions aren’t producing the right effect)
  • decision making
    • everyone gets voice, leader decides
  • disagree and commit, have this in organization to prevent bouncing around
  • speed vs accuracy dilemma, there's always a tradeoff
  • pushing decision down org chart leads to fragmentation
  • consider mm.wartime-vs-peacetime-ceo (Private)


  • Trust
    • There are hard truth, give them new meaning
      • State facts
      • Own up to mistakes
      • Explain how this action is good for greater missio
      • eg. Gettysburg address, taking bloodiest casualties and giving a new meaning to the civil war
      • reminds me of Crucial Conversations #MW
  • Openness to bad nes
    • Encourage it
    • Focus on issues
    • Regularly look for bad news
      • eg. Anything preventing you from getting your job done?
      • eg. What would you do if you were me
  • Loyalty
    • eg. Data bricks: I will commit that there will be no surprises, you tell me if you are unhappy
  • Cutture checklist
    • Culture design: align with your personality and strategy
    • orientation: make sure people are introduced to it
    • Shocking rules
    • Incorporate outside leadership if needed
    • Object lessons: have vivid stories
    • Makes ethics explicit
    • Give tenets deep meaning, make them stand out
    • Walk the talk
    • Make decisions that demonstrate priorities