Quotes for Entrepreneurs–July 2015

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Quotes

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I have been doing “Quotes for Entrepreneurs” in this format since April 2008. I used to try and tweet a good quote every two or three days. Now I have gradually increased my rate until I am selecting 40-60 a month. These posts are starting to resemble a selection of pages from a “commonplace book.”  

Quotes For Entrepreneurs–-July 2015

“This is no time for ease and comfort.
It is the time to dare and endure.”
Winston Churchill

Initially included in “Quotes on Courage” and used again in “Henri Frederic Amiel: How to Be Ready” I thought it was a good quote to lead off the second half of 2015. I have often used it as a reminder to teams I have managed when the going started to get rough.

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“Good design is the best compromise between what’s available, affordable, reliable, and functional for a need.”
Dean Kamen

This led to an exchange with Sara Allen (@ultrasaurus)

  • Sarah Allen:  Great design isn’t a compromise :)
  • Sean Murphy: Ah yes, the power of “and.” How about it achieves an appropriate balance or harmony?
  • Sarah Allen: Great design meets a need with what’s available in a way that is affordable, reliable, and delightful.

This is actually the “twitter version” of the longer quote below that originally appeared in “Dean Kamen on Good Design and Where to Begin

“Good design, I think, is the best compromise—and it’s always a compromise—between what’s currently available and the need to which it’s being applied. To me, that’s part of what’s exciting: trying to achieve that balance between all those variables of what’s available, affordable, reliable, functional.”
Dean Kamen in “Imagine Design Create” interviewed by Tom Wujec

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“Right now, before you do it, is the time to ask what you might have done differently.”
Robert Brault in “Round Up the Usual Suspects

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“The secret to collaboration is finding a rhythm that alternates between team creativity and individual creativity.”
Marty Neumeier

Originally collected in “Ten Design Thinking Quotes from Marty Neumeier

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“Before you call a meeting define what will happen as a result and what value will be delivered to each participant.”
Lisa Solomon in “Designing Time: Make Meaning

I profiled this outstanding presentation in “Lisa Solomon: The Choices An Effective Meeting Makes

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“It’s not mistakes that offer opportunity for growth, but the acknowledgement and deconstruction of mistakes.”
Scott Sambucci in “An Entrepreneur’s Lessons Learned.”

I originally blogged about this in “Scott Sambucci on “An Entrepreneur’s Lessons Learned”

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“Inevitably we construct ourselves. Let me explain. I enter this house and immediately I become what I have to become, what I can become: I construct myself. That is, I present myself to you in a form suitable to the relationship I wish to achieve with you. And, of course, you do the same with me.”
Luigi Pirandello

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“Often it is not physical limitations… but rather it is human made laws, habits, and organizational rules, regulations, personal egos, and inertia, which dominate the evolution of the future.”
Richard Hamming in “Art and Science of Engineering” [PDF]

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ff-manifesto-cover

“We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters.”
Peter Thiel’s original subtitle for Founder’s Fund Manifesto

For some reason this reminds me of a quote by Neal Stephenson I collected in “Quotes For Entrepreneurs–May 2012

“Any strategy that involves crossing a valley—accepting short-term losses to reach a higher hill in the distance—will soon be brought to a halt by the demands of a system that celebrates short-term gains and tolerates stagnation, but condemns anything else as failure. In short, a world where big stuff can never get done.”
Neal Stephenson in “Innovation Starvation

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“A  gift for quotation is a serviceable substitute for wit.”
Somerset Maugham “The Creative Impulse”

Certainly one of the reasons I collect quotes, bearing in mind “originality is little more than skill in concealing origins.” (with apologies to C. E. M. Joad)

h/t Quote Investigator “Quotation is a Serviceable Substitute For Wit.

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“The realist sees reality as concrete.
The optimist sees reality as clay.”
Robert Brault in “Round Up the Usual Suspects

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“Honesty is not brutal. Brutality is not honest. If what you’re saying is brutal, you’re leaving unspoken a deeper, respectful truth.”
Dale Emery (@dhemery) Tweet June 2011

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“Wisdom is what’s left after we’ve run out of personal opinions.”
Cullen Hightower

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“Conversation is, among other things, a mind reading game and a puzzle. We constantly have to guess why others say what they do. But we can become more agile if we wish.”
Theodore Zeldin in “Conversation: How Talk Can Change Our Lives.” (opening paragraph).

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“A true measure of your worth includes all the benefits others have gained from your success.”
Cullen Hightower

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Derek Hatfield Driving HomeQ: Do you have any idea how a project is going to end?

E. L. DOCTOROW: Not at that point, no. It’s not a terribly rational way to work. It’s hard to explain. I have found one explanation that seems to satisfy people. I tell them it’s like driving a car at night: you never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.

From a 1986 Paris Review interview of E. L. Doctorow by George Plimpton: E. L. Doctorow, The Art of Fiction No. 94

I cited a slightly different version in “Quotes for Entrepreneurs – September 2009

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“The kind of conversation I am interested in is one in which you start with a willingness to emerge a different person. It is always an experiment, and results are never guaranteed. It involves risk. It’s an adventure in which we agree to cook  the world together and make it taste less bitter.”
Theodore Zeldin in “Conversation: How Talk Can Change Our Lives.”

I cited this in “A Serious Conversation Can Change Your Life.”

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“Sales and marketing are two ends of a continuum. At the sales end your outreach is narrow and deep. At the marketing end it is broad and shallow. And for an early stage startup, narrow and deep is what you want — not just in the way you appeal to users, but in the type of product you build. Which means the kind of marketing you should be doing should be indistinguishable from sales: you should be talking to a small number of users who are seriously interested in what you’re making, not a broad audience who are on the whole indifferent.

Successful startups almost always start narrow and deep.”
Jessica Livingston “Why Startups Need to Focus on Sales Not Marketing

I fully agree with this approach but in the last five years or so I have had serious conversations with more than a dozen YCombinator teams who were focused on a B2B problem and I never heard this sentiment. The focus was always on attacking a big market and demonstrating week to week growth in users. Admittedly it’s a small sample and almost exclusively  teams that were in trouble.

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“Lawyers ask questions to which they already know the answers.
Scientists ask questions to which they don’t know the answers
Philosophers ask questions which don’t have answers.
Engineers provide answers.”
Kevin Murphy

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“There never was a particular he couldn’t understand,
but there were too many in too long a row,
and like many another he was overwhelmed.”
William Stafford in “Parentage”

This is what happens in a poorly designed software demo, you try and do too much between the question “How do I accomplish X ” and all of the possibilities you show. The word “if” as in “If you want to do Y” is one in particular to be wary of. Phrase is as a direct question: “Do you want to see Y?” But it’s better focus closing the loop on X first.

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“A true Knowledge Cafe is about individual learning, and insights; the surfacing of assumptions, issues, problems, and opportunities; seeing things that have not been seen before or seen only dimly.”
David Gurteen in “A True Knowledge Cafe

See his “How to Run a Knowledge Cafe

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“Some men think about the defects of their friends, and there is nothing to be gained by it. I have always paid attention to the merits of my enemies, and found it an advantage.”
Goethe in Maxims and Reflections

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“Nobody is bored when he is trying to make something that is beautiful, or to discover something that is true.”
William Inge

h/t Gerald Weinberg (@JerryWeinberg)

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“When you are riding a new trail go slow.”
Austin O’Malley “Keystones of thought”

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“Wisdom is a love affair with questions.
Knowledge is a love affair with answers.”
Julio Olalla in “Amo La Vida”  (starts at 7:02)

Amo La Vida is a Soul Biography, part of a series of  short films by Nic Askew

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“There are very few human beings who receive the truth, complete and staggering, by instant illumination. Most of them acquire it fragment by fragment, on a small scale, by successive developments, cellularly, like a laborious mosaic.”
Anais Nin in “Journals Of Anais Nin Volume 3”

Used as an interstitial quote in Good and Bad Reasons to Pivot.

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“You may recognize the utility of an idea, and yet not quite understand how to make a perfect use of it.”
Goethe in Maxims and Reflections

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“Find your unspeakable fear and say it aloud: stop rehearsing your easy fears that have become habits.”
Seth Godin in “I’m Afraid of That.

Twitter version, here is more context:

“If you can say this out loud, when you’ve been holding back, avoiding your confrontation with the truth, you will free yourself to do something important. Saying it takes away the power of the fear.

On the other hand, if you say it 8 times or 11 times or every time, you’re using the label to reinforce your fear, creating an easy escape hatch to avoid doing something important. Saying it amplifies the fear.

The brave thing is to find the unspeakable fear and speak it. And to stop rehearsing the easy fears that have become habits.”
Seth Godin in “I’m Afraid of That.

See also “Be Careful How You Tell Yourself “The Story So Far

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“Communicating intent and not instruction empowers people to think. Try starting with ‘I intend to…'”
David Marquet (@ldavidmarquet)

This is a key principal behind mission orders: communicate your intent to delegate more effectively and enable the team to amplify the result by picking an approach that best matches their strengths and the emerging realities of the situation.

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“Hire character, train skill.”
Peter Schutz

Barry Popik observes the saying “has been credited since 2005 to former Porsche CEO and motivational speaker Peter W. Schutz, but it’s uncertain when he first said it.  The saying means that, most importantly, one should hire people with good character; skill can and should be trained.”

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“To be truly happy is a question of how we begin and not of how we end, of what we want and not of what we have.”
Robert Louis Stevenson in “El Dorado

Cited in “Traveling Hopefully” my inaugural post for 2011. Here is a longer extract for context from a great essay on establishing goals in life and working toward them

“We live in an ascending scale when we live happily, one thing leading to another in an endless series. There is always a new horizon for onward-looking men, and although we dwell on a small planet, immersed in petty business and not enduring beyond a brief period of years, we are so constituted that our hopes are inaccessible, like stars, and the term of hoping is prolonged until the term of life. To be truly happy is a question of how we begin and not of how we end, of what we want and not of what we have.”
Robert Louis Stevenson in “El Dorado

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Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from Cthulhu.”
Hugh Hancock

I have added this to my list of “sufficiently advanced” laws in “Nature, Technology, and Magic.” Here see two opposing view of the Universe: H. P. Lovecraft with his view that there are some things that man is not mean to know, and that the direct experience of the fundamental nature of the world will drive you insane, and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and the “Omega Point,” the Universe is life affirming and that direct experience of the fundamental reality is to feel loved and be loving. J. B. S. Haldane may be correct either way:

“I have no doubt that in reality the future will be vastly more surprising than anything I can imagine. Now my own suspicion is that the Universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose.”
J. B. S. Haldane in  Possible Worlds and Other Papers (1927), p. 286

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“I particularly value conversations which are meetings on the borderline of what I understand and what I don’t, with people who are different from myself.”
Theodore Zeldin  in “Conversation: How Talk Can Change Our Lives

I used this s a closing quote in “A Serious Conversation Can Change Your Life.”

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“Information is about who did what, where and when while knowledge is more about how and why.”
David Gurteen in “A True Knowledge Cafe

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“Biggest startup epiphany of last month: revenue = non-dilutive capital.”
Jennifer 8. Lee (@jenny8lee)

this led to a short exchange

  • Jenny Lee: “Biggest startup epiphany of last month: revenue = non-dilutive capital.”
  • Sean Murphy: see “8 Tips for Evaluating Funding Alternatives if revenue exceeds variable cost it’s a plus, you also accrue learning curve effects.
  • Jenny Lee: Paying customers=proof of demand for product. Getting funded=proof that investors thinks there will be demand for your product. [Thumbs Up]
  • Sean Murphy: Seth Godin had a great perspective on this today: “Raising Money is Not the Same Thing as Making a Sales
  • Jenny Lee: I like the fact about raising money over and over is hard.

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“As is often the case with baffling errors it is really quite simple. We tend to fixate on incorrect assumptions, and overlook the obvious, surprisingly frequently. I have found that one way to break through such barriers is to use the ‘Spaniel’ method: Carefully explain the program to your dog. Since the dog knows nothing of programming, you must justify every statement you make. In the process you will often discover the mistake.”
W. W. Waite

Quoted in “Literate Programming and the ‘Spaniel’ Method” by Nick Hatzigeorgiu and Apostolos Syropoulos
h/t Conal Elliot Quotes Collection

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“The taste of the usual was like cinders in his mouth, and there were moments when he felt as if he were being buried alive under his future.”
Edith Wharton, The Age of Innocence

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Rome wasn’t built without a deadline: there is no time like the last minute.”
Kevin Murphy

which is the twitter version of

There is no truth that the unofficial Boy Scout Motto is “There is no time like the last minute.” It is, however, the unofficial Motto of my Boy Scout Troop. And that was before I even joined.
Kevin Murphy in “Rome Wasn’t Built Without Deadlines

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“I am not a fan of closing techniques.
You are not closing anything.
You are starting a long-term business relationship.”
Scott Sambucci (@salesqualia)

He made this remark in a Q&A today. I have blogged about Scott several times, here are two:

I used this as an interstitial quote in “Early Sales Efforts Foster Value Co-Creation.”

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“Be relentlessly generous, without focusing on when it will come back to you.”
Seth Godin in “Shadows and Light

I think this is the high order bit, Paul Graham’s “Be relentlessly resourceful” is also important but no one succeeds without the help from others that flows from a reservoir of goodwill.

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“Entrepreneurs learn to rely equally on thought, analysis, and anticipation–in addition to speed, talent, and execution.”
Howard Tullman in the Preface to Barry Moltz’s “You Need To Be a Little Crazy

We explore this in “Webinar Replay: You Need to Be a Little Crazy

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“Entrepreneurship is an open field but I often linger at the gate of an opportunity unsure what direction to move in.”
Sean Murphy

A line that caught my eye in an email I wrote to an old friend. I think “analysis paralysis” is more my failure mode than “extinction by instinct.” Perhaps it was all of those course in optimization theory I took in college that shaped my orientation to search for the best solution. Satisficing, or finding the “good enough” quickly–especially in highly uncertain and rapidly changing situations–is sometimes hard to accept at an emotional level.

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“The capital equation of the new startup world has changed.”
Clark Dong (2007)

Originally a comment on VentureBeat, lost when they switched comment systems but preserved in Clark Dong: Software Startups Don’t Need VC’s To Start

“The VC model was created in the early days of the semiconductor era when an entrepreneur needed millions of dollars of startup capital before they could can make a run at it. That is no longer the case. It is now possible to start a play, tighten the belts a little, and reach revenue. The capital equation of the new startup world has changed.”
Clark Dong (2007)

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“Contentment wears slippers; curiosity wears boots.”
Beston Jack Abrams

Used in “Beston Jack Abrams on Aphorisms.”

h/t James Geary “Still More Aphorisms by Beston Jack Abrams.”

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“Just because there’s lightning now and then, you shouldn’t plan on using it to electrify your house.”
Seth Godin in “Harper Lee and the two mythical promises

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“Why do you climb mountains anyway?”
To get away from people who ask such questions.
Henry Mintzberg in “Why I Climb

This is why entrepreneurs go to Bootstrapper Breakfasts: they don’t hear “get a job” or “raise money first.”

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“A derailed tram considers itself independent.”
Valeriu Butulescu

While many entrepreneurs find it difficult to work for others, not having a job does not make you an entrepreneur.

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“Do not hesitate to take the blame, for it puts the blame where you can do something about it.”
Robert Brault in “Round Up the Usual Suspects

Used in “Beston Jack Abrams: Recognize and Act On The Truth

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The business plan is Palo Alto’s answer to the Los Angeles screenplay: everyone is writing one in parallel with their day job. Both are “industry towns.”
Sean Murphy

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“Dreams are not the opposite of reality. Dreams inform reality.”
Seth Godin in “Opposition

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“If everything you do needs to work on a three-year time horizon, then you’re competing against a lot of people. But if you’re willing to invest on a seven-year time horizon, you’re now competing against a fraction of those people… Just by lengthening the time horizon, you can engage in endeavors that you could never otherwise pursue.”
Jeff Bezos, Wired, Jeff Bezos Owns the Web, December, 2011

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“Every day the invisible challenges the imagination to a duel.”
Fabrizio Caramagna

h/t Drew Byrne  “Aphorisms for Modern Living
Jeanette Winterson reminds us in–“Like all familiar objects, it had become invisible”–that invisibility is as much a matter of perception and paradigms that filter our observations.

I collected this in Five Aphorisms from Fabrizio Caramagna

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“Experience mourns, but even while doing so–plans.”
William Stafford in “Sound of the Ax: Aphorisms by William Stafford

This is the insight behind After Action reviews, post mortems, and retrospectives.

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“I must be a mermaid, I have no fear of depths and a great fear of shallow living.”
Anais Nin in The Four-Chambered Heart

More context from “The Four Chambered Heart

“Djuna, you’re taking me to the bottom of the sea to live, like a real mermaid.”
“I must be a mermaid, Rango. I have no fear of depths and a great fear of shallow living. But you, poor Rango, you’re from the mountain, water is not your element. You won’t be happy.”
“Men from the mountains always dream of the sea, and above all things I love to travel. Where are we sailing now?”
Anais Nin in The Four-Chambered Heart

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“It is easier and in the long run more profitable to get a job than to start your own business. If you want to have your own business for the money, then forget it: go get a job. That motivation will never sustain you through the ups and downs of starting and building your own business.”
Barry Moltz in “You Need To Be a Little Crazy

We explore this in “Webinar Replay: You Need to Be a Little Crazy

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“Simplicity is the most difficult thing to secure in this world; it is the last limit of experience and the last effort of genius.”
George Sand

h/t Conal Elliot Quotes Collection

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“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then is not an act, but a habit.”
Will Durant in “The Story of Philosophy: The Lives and Opinions of the World’s Greatest Philosophers (1924)

From Chapter II: Aristotle and Greek Science; part VII: Ethics and the Nature of Happiness. Often misattributed to Aristotle because Durant’s summation of Aristotle’s ideas were taken as a direct quote of Aristotle’s writings.

h/t David Alan Quote Archive

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“I am superstitious to this extent–I believe that giving up before you begin is bad luck.”
Robert Brault in “The Second Collection

His “Second Collection” is another great book of quotes, proving “Round Up the Usual Suspects” was no fluke.

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“A fish lives in the ocean, but it cannot see all around it; it cannot take a view of the whole; therefore it cannot judge what the ocean is.”
Henri Frederic Amiel in his Journal

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“Our culture made a virtue of living only as extroverts. We discouraged the inner journey, the quest for a center. So we lost our center and have to find it again.”
Anais Nin

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