Hit Refresh Summary

1-Sentence-Summary: Hit Refresh tells the inspiring story of an Indian boy named Satya Nadella, who eventually went on to become the CEO of Microsoft, one of the biggest companies in the world.

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My parents are big music lovers. I recall as a kid how my mom and dad wanted me to learn to play an instrument. They bought me a guitar, and I had weekly lessons.

For a while, I went out of obligation only. Practice was always a chore, and I never had a passion for the instrument. Consequently, I wasn’t very good at playing the guitar and abandoned it altogether. I had to make my own path based on my particular interests.

You know who else made their own way? Satya Nadella. In Hit Refresh: The Quest to Rediscover Microsoft’s Soul and Imagine a Better Future for Everyone, he tells his story – and it can change our world.

Nadella was born in Hyderabad, India in 1967. His father tried to inspire him to become a great economist by hanging a poster of Karl Marx in his room. Similarly, his mother responded with a poster of the Indian goddess of fortune and prosperity.

But the boy Nadella wasn’t having any of it. His favorite poster was a blown-up image of the Indian cricket star, ML Jaisimha. Cricket proved to shape his future career as a CEO of Microsoft and taught him many life lessons that we can learn from as well.

Here are 3 motivating lessons from this book:

  1. Persistent hard work, even if for a short time, pays off.
  2. Working with others is greater than raw talent alone.
  3. Instead of competing with other companies and individuals, work together to reach your highest potential.

Let’s take a closer look at how Satya Nadella charted his own trajectory in life!

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Lesson 1: Nadella’s efforts teach that working hard consistently will reap great benefits.

It was in the fall of 1992 when Satya Nadella first set foot on Microsoft’s campus in Redmond, Washington. Windows 95, the most prominent consumer technology product ever developed, was already a big deal. Bill Gates was still somewhat unknown at the time, at least as a public figure.

Nadella’s function with the company was to travel around the country, convincing customers to switch to the Windows NT operating system. He was excited to be part of this initiative to get the new system off the ground. But he also wanted to go to business school.

The opportunity presented itself when he was offered a slot in the University of Chicago’s MBA program. Not wanting to jeopardize his position with Microsoft, he kept his part-time enrollment in the course a secret. Flying to Chicago for school every weekend while working at Microsoft during the week took two years to pay off finally.

By 1994, Nadella completed the MBA and received his first managerial project overseeing the development of the “Tiger Server,” a video on demand (VOD) service. His dedication and hard work made a quick impression. It was at this time he was recognized for his efforts by Steve Ballmer, who would later become Microsoft’s second CEO in 2000.

Lesson 2: The greatest people put the needs and talents of their team above their own.

During Nadella’s career at Microsoft, his boyhood dream of becoming a professional cricket player continued to inspire him. His first rule is that whenever he feels intimidated, he knows it is time to compete.

During a high school cricket game, he came up against several Herculean players from Australia. Nadella’s coach placed him right next to one of these burly Australians and told him to study his batting technique. It was a lesson to remember. Observing that this player had both strengths and weaknesses, Nadella decided to push his fear away and focus on competing alone.

Nadella’s second guideline is to always put your team first. He learned that raw talent is vital, but if you’re not prepared to work with others, it’s not enough.  

The last rule of Nadella’s is to get to know your teammates and play to their strengths. In one game Nadella’s confidence was sagging when his bowling was below par. His captain wasn’t a great bowler himself, but he took charge and kept at it until he got a wicket. He handed the ball back to Nadella to give him the much-needed boost, and he went on to take further wickets.

Applying these three rules to the world beyond the cricket field is a good recipe for success.

Lesson 3: In a world of fierce competition, those that learn to play well with their rivals come out on top.

It’s interesting to see how Nadella approaches the challenge of competitors like Apple. The typical business instinct is to show no mercy in a relentless winner-takes-all battle. Instead, he chooses a different path. He makes an effort to reach out to his rivals and work together.

Nadella believes that working together with Microsoft’s competition doesn’t only benefit the company, but also the world. At an annual salesforce marketing event, he pulled out an iPhone and began showcasing its unique features on the giant screen. This, of course, stunned the audience. How could a Microsoft CEO show off an Apple product like this? What was he doing?

Well, this wasn’t just any iPhone. Nadella was actually using a smartphone running Microsoft software on Apple’s signature iOS. Nadella made an excellent case for combining the two systems to create a unique synergy. Users could have both their Apple iPhones and Microsoft programs like Skype, Outlook, Word, and OneDrive at the same time.

Over time, suspicion and skepticism melted into something that looked more like collaboration. It was Nadella’s openness and willingness to work towards the best solutions that helped the company to prosper.

Hit Refresh Review

What’s not to love about a book tracing the journey of what appears to be an ordinary kid from humble beginnings, who one day takes technology to some of the most impactful revolutionary changes of the digital era? It’s not only about the transformation of a person, but the evolution of a company, an industry, and even a culture. Hit Refresh is a truly inspirational read!

Who would I recommend the Hit Refresh summary to?

The 33-year-old soccer coach who’s not sure how to handle his weakest player. The 41-year-old app developer who needs some fresh inspiration, and anyone who is tempted to succeed by beating the competition to a pulp.

Last Updated on August 17, 2022

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Jim Farina

Seeing as he was a longtime reader and writing course student of mine, I was thrilled to see Jim write 20 summaries for us in 2019 and 2020. Hailing from Chicago with a full-time job as a manager and a family, I've watched Jim go from complete writing obscurity to having his work read, improve, and even featured on places like Better Marketing, the magazine I ran on Medium. He's now freelancing part-time, writing great stuff for companies like Best Buy and Bloomingdale's, and his first screenplay, Martin Eden, made quite the splash in several competitions.