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Anyone at the helm of a business faces crises. What’s hard is figuring out whether you’ve got a run-of-the-mill crisis or one that’s transformational for the company—which is made more difficult because every crisis is emotional, Andreesen Horowitz co-founder and general partner Ben Horowitz said at the annual American Magazine Conference in October.
To see your way through the fog, you have to work through your first principles, he said—those original assumptions you had when you started the business. In a blog, Horowitz likens this to being a race car driver: Focus on the road and not the wall, on where you’re going rather than what you’re trying to avoid.
A few other techniques Horowitz uses to calm his nerves include getting his thoughts on paper to sort through the facts and his own emotions, and talking with someone who has faced a similarly challenging crisis. Even so, there may be many times when you feel like quitting.
“Whenever I meet a successful CEO, I ask them how they did it,” he writes. “Mediocre CEOs point to their brilliant strategic moves or their intuitive business sense or a variety of other self-congratulatory explanations. The great CEOs tend to be remarkably consistent in their answers. They all say: ‘I didn’t quit.’ ”