Quotes For Entrepreneurs–October 2015

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Quotes

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This month features a flurry of quotes from John D. Cook (@JohnDCook) gleaned from his tweet stream over the last two years. I have been a fan of his blog (“The Endeavor”)  for many years but somehow had overlooked the many platinum nuggets of insight he shared on twitter.

Quotes For Entrepreneurs October 2015

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“Entrepreneurs constantly confuse what they do with who they are.”
Howard Tullman
in the Preface to Barry Moltz’s “You Need To Be a Little Crazy

More context

“Identity is important because entrepreneurs constantly confuse what they do with who they are. We’re all certainly responsible for what we do but failing doesn’t make us bad people and succeeding doesn’t make us omniscient.”
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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“Nostalgia can be more deceiving than hope.”
Paolo Bianchi

Keep a contemporaneous log and gather data; don’t rely on memory.
h/t “The New Italian Aphorists” curated by Fabrizio Caramagna

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“Two individuals, conversing honestly, can be inspired by the feeling that they are engaged in a joint enterprise, aiming at inventing an art which has not been tried before.”
Theodore Zeldin  in “Conversation: How Talk Can Change Our Lives

I used this in the “Power of Dyads” section in “A Serious Conversation Can Change Your Life.”

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“It is a sign of great inner insecurity to be hostile to the unfamiliar.”
Anais Nin

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“Focus less on what others are doing, and more on if what you are doing is actually working.”
Expa (@Expa)

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“The kind of falling that may mean learning to walk.”
William Stafford in “Sound of the Ax: Aphorisms by William Stafford

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“We often put off doing something for as long as possible, then as we finally make the decision and step into the action, we’re surprised by its relative ease. We’re left to wonder why we dreaded it until we realize that most of life’s actions are within our reach, but decisions take willpower.”
Robert McKee in “Story

h/t Nathan Ketsdever’s Compassion in Politics

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“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft.”
Anne Lamott in “Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing And Life

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“The difference between an amateur and a professional is in their habits. An amateur has amateur habits. A professional has professional habits. We can never free ourselves from habit. But we can replace bad habits with good ones. We can trade in the habits of the amateur and the addict for the practice of the professional and the committed artist or entrepreneur.”
Steven Pressfield in “Turning Pro

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“Life? An unauthorized autobiography.”
Paolo Bianchi

h/t “The New Italian Aphorists” curated by Fabrizio Caramagna

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“Anybody able to pay attention cannot be a fool.”
Piero Busconi

h/t “The New Italian Aphorists” curated by Fabrizio Caramagna

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“Everything I am going to say to you is the child of a conversation. […] That is the aspect of conversation that particularly excites me: how conversation changes the way you see the world, and even changes the world.”
Theodore Zeldin in “Conversation: How Talk Can Change Our Lives.”

I used this as the opening quote for the “Product Features Are The Children of Conversations” section of “A Serious Conversation Can Change Your Life.”

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“Try to relax and enjoy the crisis.”
Ashleigh Brilliant

I used this as an interstitial quote in “Cultivating Calmness in a Crisis.

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“The man who insists upon seeing with perfect clearness before he decides, never decides. Accept life, and you must accept regret.”
Henri Frederic Amiel in his Journal

I think this is why B students often make better entrepreneurs, they are more comfortable being mostly right and don’t look at a lack of perfection as failure. A reasonable probability is as close to certainty as you can normally come before you need to make a decision before an opportunity changes or a competitor acts. Startups are no place for perfectionists.

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StartupVitamins492-GarryTan“It’s not innovation until it gets built.”
Garry Tan (@garrytan), Partner, Y Combinator

Which struck me as confusing invention–an idea that gets reduced to practice–and innovation–an invention that gets adopted and used by others.  Michael Schrage offered this quote:

“Innovation isn’t what innovators do….it’s what customers and clients adopt.”
Michael Schrage

Which I used in “Understanding vs. Mastery.” It’s part of a  longer passage from Michael Schrage on Innovation in Ubiquity, Volume 5, Issue 39, Dec-8-2004,

“When I say “investing in innovation” I mean investing in models, prototypes, and simulations that become platforms for innovating with the invention — the idea itself — and innovating with the actual users and customers for such inventions. It’s not enough to come up with a great idea, you really have to focus on how that idea diffuses throughout the community.

Innovation is not what innovators do but what customers adopt.”
Michael Schrage in “Michael Schrage on Innovation.”

I used the latter in “Michael Schrage on Innovation, Collaboration, Tools, and Incentives” This same thought is subtly implicit in James Brian Quinn’s definition of innovation:

“Innovation is the first reduction to practice of an idea in a culture.”
James Brian Quinn in “Intelligent Enterprise: A Knowledge and Service Based Paradigm for Industry

That I used in my “Quotes For Entrepreneurs–May 2008” collection.

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“It is a misfortune to pass at once from observation to conclusion, and to regard both as of equal value; but it befalls many a student.”
Goethe in Maxims and Reflections

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“Don’t wait for a disaster to get to know your neighbors.”
Ashleigh Brilliant

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“Taking delight in the journey takes confidence. It pushes the envelope of design.”
Seth Godin in “Getting There

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“I don’t understand how it could take “up to five business days” to be removed from a mailing list. Are they using clay tablets?”
John Haprian (@fshapps)

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“Founders take out the trash.
There are easier ways to be happy.”
Adeo Ressi in his StartupFest 2015 keynote

This was an excerpt I selected for additional commentary in “Adeo Ressi: Don’t Lose Your Purpose In A Pivot” I observed, “Leadership as service is not a common theme in Silicon Valley, or at least a reality recognized by many Silicon Valley CEO’s. In the early going you have to sweat the details with your co-founders, then you have to learn how to let go and help the team you have hired do a better job than you could.”

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“Failure can get to be a rather comfortable old friend.”
Mignon McLaughlin

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“The Revolution will be improvised.”
Kareem Badr in an Austin Improv Forum post

This is the earliest cite I could find, here are some later ones:

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“I have never been much of a follower although I like to learn.”
Barry Moltz in “You Need To Be a Little Crazy

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

It reminds me of

“I am always ready to learn although I do not always like being taught.”
Winston Churchill

I suppose if those things which hurt also teach then many things that teach also hurt. Some days I am not sure I can stand learning much more if only because the removal of stupidity often burns.

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“The desert, with no walls, is the most intricate labyrinth.”
Rinaldo Caddeo

h/t “The New Italian Aphorists” curated by Fabrizio Caramagna

I think one of the reasons that what Bijoy Goswami’s bootstrapping model calls the early customer phase the “Valley of Death” because the constraints are not clear. His 2007 Bootstrapper Bootcamp Video is worth purchasing and viewing.

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“I think it’s still a long time before we’ll have building codes for software.”
Rich Skrenta in  “There is no building code for software”

I used this as a point of departure in “Building Codes For Software” a concept gaining more interest as people understand the implications of “Internet of Things.”

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“The past is strapped to our backs.
We do not have to see it;
we can always feel it.”
Mignon McLaughlin

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“At a basic level venture capitalists are arbitrageurs: they have access to more information than those with the capital, and access to more capital than those with information, and they profit by exploiting the mismatch.”
Ben Thompson in Venture Capital and the Internet’s Impact

On implication that many startups take a while to realize is that VC’s are always gathering information about emerging technologies and products to maintain their advantage. Much of the time an outreach call, especially from a junior associate, is to validate a potential investment in one of your competitors.

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“We have an entire generation of startup founders who don’t have muscle memory from getting their burn rates back into shape from 2008/09 or 2001-2005.”
Mark Suster in “What Everyone Should Take Away from Twitter’s 8% Staff Reductions

It’s funny to compare this to Mike Arrington’s 2007 “Twice Shy Entrepreneur” where he laments

“Generally speaking, experience counts for something. So you’d expect entrepreneurs who’ve been through the ups and downs of a tech startup to have an advantage over the newcomers. Or at least have an equal chance at success. But in fact the opposite may be true. A number of venture capitalists I’ve spoken with have said that too many “old guard” entrepreneurs are not being bold enough in their business decisions, and it’s hurting their startups.”
Mike Arrington “Twice Shy Entrepreneur

I revisited this a year later in 2008 in Michael Arrington’s “Twice Shy” One Year Later

“What a difference a year makes. Now the “newcomer entrepreneurs” have had the chance to lay employees off and are encouraged by the VC’s on their boards to focus on profit and survival instead of bold growth. And the experienced entrepreneurs–like Arrington–are probably feeling a little less out of sync with the environment.”
Sean Murphy in Michael Arrington’s “Twice Shy” One Year Later

Probably within a year many of the Unicorn CEO’s–and many others–may find themselves learning how to manage their burn rate.

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“Don’t measure anything unless the data helps you make a better decision or change your actions. If you’re not prepared to change your diet or your workouts, don’t get on the scale.”
Seth Godin in “Analytics Without Action

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“Instead of flowing, the creative juices sometimes ebb.”
John Drybred “Creative Juices

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“Moderation in good fortune is but apprehension of the shame which follows upon haughtiness, or a fear of losing what we have.”
La Rochefoucauld

h/t @LaRochefoucau1d

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“If we don’t respect the past, we’ll find it harder to build a future.”
Julian Fellowes

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“Entrenched customs represent a social equilibrium, and moving away from that equilibrium is difficult to do on your own.”
Megan McArdle in “Tipping is Strange, and Strangely Hard to Get Rid Of

This is why many innovations have to adopted in a niche or subculture before gaining wider acceptance.

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“What’s most interesting about some books is the question: How did this crap ever get published?”
Ashleigh Brilliant

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“Anxiety is the exact time of a broken clock.”
Rinaldo Caddeo

h/t “The New Italian Aphorists” curated by Fabrizio Caramagna

Certainly true for worry that does not lead to mitigation strategies and the crafting of countermeasures. Anxiety solves nothing if it does not lead to action.

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“There are two pips in a beaut, four beauts in a lulu, eight lulus in a doozy, and sixteen doozies in a humdinger. No one knows how many humdingers  there are in a lollapalooza.”
George Carlin

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“Please stop listening to people who are not your potential customers.”
William Pietri (@WilliamPietri)

I value William Pietri’s insights: he can spot a fundamental mistake that is so common it’s overlooked. He elaborates:

“I have made this mistake myself, and I know how tempting it is. You have questions, and if you ask them of people convenient to you, they will give you answers. Those answers are mostly worthless. How do I know? I’ve also given useless answers like that because I wanted to be helpful and sound smart, and because I thought I could imagine what actual customers would say.

Go find your potential customers. Do 30-60 minute interviews with a few dozen of them. Start out with general questions. Ask them what’s going well, and what problems they’re having. Ask them what services they use, and what services they’ve looked for. Ask them about their lives and motivations. And if you need, at the end, you can show them a few products and ask their feedback. One of those products can be yours.”
William Pietri (@WilliamPietri)

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“What we’re able to do never catches up with all that needs to be done.”
John Drybred  in “Unfinished

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“Do not make something unless it is both necessary and useful; but if it is both, do not hesitate to make it beautiful.”
Shakers proverb

 h/t Jared Erondu (@erondu)

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“The most important trip you may take in life is meeting people halfway.”
Henry Boyle

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“A man is never so on trial as in the moment of excessive good-fortune.”
Lew Wallace in “Ben Hur

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“Harsh reality is always better than false hope.”
Julian Fellowes

Always true for bootstrappers. This is from Downton Abbey Season 5 Episode 6, the fuller line may be reminiscent of advice entrepreneurs have gotten from peers who recognize someone else who will not be able to sustain regular employment and will have to find their way in their own business.

Dr. Clarkson:  “My advice to you, Thomas, would be to accept the burden that chance has seen fit to lay upon you and to fashion a good a life as you’re able. Remember, harsh reality is always better than false hope.”

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“Education is the progressive discovery of our own ignorance.”
Will Durant

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“Most of the wins from big data come from having more direct data. Not simply more data, but being able to measure new things.”
John D. Cook (@JohnDCook) in “New data, not just big data

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“The paperless office is possible, but not by imitating paper. Note that the horseless carriage did not work by imitating horses.”
Theodor Holm Nelson (@TheTedNelson)

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“Scientists want to understand things.
Engineers want to make things.”
John D. Cook (@JohnDCook)

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“Productivity tip: Work hard.”
John D. Cook (@JohnDCook)

If I ever get around to doing a list of top quotes for entrepreneurs this will be on it.

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“Relevance is not something you can predict. It is something you discover after the fact.” Thomas Sowell

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“History is fractal. The closer you look, the more complicated, yet always repeating patterns.”
Theodor Holm Nelson (@TheTedNelson)

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“The cheapest, fastest and most reliable components of a computer system are those that aren’t there.”
Gordon Bell

h/t John D. Cook (@JohnDCook)

Another benefit to simplification and doing more with less.

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“Before you promise to change the world, it makes sense to do the hard work of changing your neighborhood.”
Seth Godin in “Do-able

More context

Given the resources you have (your assets, your time, your patience), what’s the biggest thing it’s quite likely you can pull off?

Our culture is organized around the people who get on base, who reliably keep their promises, who deliver. “Quite likely,” is a comforting story indeed. […]

Aiming too high is just as fearful a tactic as aiming too low. Before you promise to change the world, it makes sense to do the hard work of changing your neighborhood.

Do what you say, then do it again, even better.

We need your dreams, but we also need your deeds.

Seth Godin in “Do-able

h/t John D. Cook (@JohnDCook)

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“Precautions are always blamed. When successful they are said to be unnecessary.”
Benjamin Jowett

h/t John D. Cook (@JohnDCook)

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