Quotes For Entrepreneurs–November 2015

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Quotes, skmurphy

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Quotes For Entrepreneurs November 2015

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“It’s in your blood. That is just who you are. When you are an entrepreneur you are the puzzle. It is hard to just use a portion of what you have.”
Suzi Bank quoted 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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“Sending an email can be like letting go of an animal.”
James Guida in Marbles

One of the aphorisms selected in “Seven Aphorisms From James Guida’s Marbles.”

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“Any task accomplished without joy was a falsity to one’s true nature.”
Anais Nin in The Four-Chambered Heart

Reminds me of this quote by Logan Pearsall Smith that I first collected in Quotes for Entrepreneurs – April 2010 and included in  “Six Afterthoughts from Logan Pearsall Smith for Entrepreneurs

“The test of a vocation is a love of the drudgery it involves.”
Logan Pearsall Smith in “Afterthoughts”

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“It’s the dirt that makes a garden.”
William Stafford in “Sound of the Ax: Aphorisms by William Stafford

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“Another day, another email list to unsubscribe from that I never subscribed to.”
John D. Cook (@JohnDCook)

It seems like I unsubscribe to two or three newsletters a day now.

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“Great Products Sell Themselves.”
Kevin Systrom, Co-founder and CEO of Instagram

via Startup Vitamins (@startupvitamins) who also observed, “Really? A great product is all it takes?”

I hope my competitors use this as a guide: Ta-Da marketing kills more firms than premature scaling. It’s of a piece with these directions to oblivion:

“Marketing is the tax that products pay for being unremarkable.”
Robert Stephens [video] [slides]

For the record I like the Chartered Institute of Marketing’s definition of Marketing: “Identifying, anticipating and satisfying customer requirements profitably.”

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“Where is human nature so weak as in the bookstore?”
Henry Ward Beecher

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“The time to ask about shredding services is when the evidence is all in one piece.”
John Drybred

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“Knowledge is what happens when you rob suspicion of doubt.”
George Murray (@bookninja) in “Glimpse: Selected Aphorisms of George Murray

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“To the extent is requires a review of the status quo, adversity is not all bad.”
Beston Jack Abrams

This reminds me of Gerald Weinberg’s insight, “It may look like a crisis, but it is only the end of an illusion.” I find conversations get much more real when the glint from the sharp edge of disaster is clearly visible on the road ahead. Used in Beston Jack Abrams: Recognize and Act On The Truth.

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“Having a map doesn’t prevent you from making unexpected discoveries.”
James Geary in “My Aphorisms

The map is never the territory but inattention and filtering out anything that does not fit expectations is what prevents discovery. I selected this for “Ten Aphorisms For Entrepreneurs By James Geary.”

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“A burnt child dreads the fire; an old man who has often been singed is afraid of warming himself.”
Goethe in Maxims and Reflections

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“You cannot have a good “what” unless you have a good “why.”
What is your life story?
How does your company fit within your life story.
How does your company create your legacy.
You cannot pivot your purpose in life.”
Adeo Ressi in his StartupFest 2015 keynote

I used this as a point of departure in “Adeo Ressi: Don’t Lose Your Purpose In A Pivot.

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“Daily prayer to self: ‘Prove you’re not, at bottom, driftwood.'”
James Guida in Marbles

This might be called The Entrepreneur’s Prayer. The Desiderata is not a bad second choice if this one is not to your liking or you find yourself with more time on your hands. One of the aphorisms selected in “Seven Aphorisms From James Guida’s Marbles.”

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“The challenge is determining whether you may become outstanding in your field or just left out standing in your field. If all of us who are stubborn were undiscovered geniuses the world would be getting better a lot faster.”
Sean Murphy in e-mail response to forwarded story about Sir John Gurdon

A high school friend forward this and said this reminds me of some of my report cards.

nobel-gurdon_2363595c

“It has been a disastrous half. His work has been far from satisfactory. His prepared stuff has been badly learnt, and several of his test pieces have been torn over; one of such pieces of prepared work scored 2 marks out of a possible 50. His other work has been equally bad, and several times he has been in trouble, because he will not listen, but will insist on doing his work in his own way. I believe he has ideas about becoming a Scientist; on his present showing this is quite ridiculous, if he can’t learn simple Biological facts he would have no chance of doing the work of a Specialist, and it would be sheer waste of time, both on his part, and of those who have to teach him.”

I used this as a point of departure for “The Unreasonable Entrepreneur” concluding that “unreasonable entrepreneur” is a redundancy: entrepreneurs want to replace the proven with the new. Worry instead about being stubborn instead of persevering.

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“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”
George Bernard Shaw in “Maxims for Revolutionists” (Maxim 1124)

I used this as an interstitial quote in “The Unreasonable Entrepreneur.”

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“Owning a small business, not knowing where the next dollar will come from, is less stressful than having a corporate job, at least for me.”
John D. Cook (@JohnDCook)

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“We are young, wandering the face of the earth
Wondering what our dreams might be worth
Learning that we’re only immortal for a limited time”
Rush “Dreamline”

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“Until you’ve seen some sign of your prey, you’re not hunting, you’re walking.”
George Murray (@bookninja) in “Glimpse: Selected Aphorisms of George Murray

Many people who begin a customer discovery effort start with a solution and lack an existence proof for a customer. Building a product you can use avoids this problem but can lead to a market size of one. Starting with a service you know at least three firms can use is harder but more likely to reach a minimum viable market.

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“It is not in the pursuit of happiness that we find fulfillment,
it is in the happiness of pursuit.”
Denis Waitley

Reminds me of quote by Robert Louis Stevenson I used in “Travelling Hopefully

“To travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive, and the true success is to labour.”
Robert Louis Stevenson in “El Dorado

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“Any industry that still has unions has potential energy that could be released by startups.”
Paul Graham (@paulg)

I think it’s more complex than “unions” but certainly K12 education, public sector (Federal, State, Municipal), and the automobile industry have sclerotic work rules that hinder flexibility and innovation. Graham clarified his intent with a later tweet “There is much more money in doing new things than in paying people less.” The latter certainly echoes Ford’s strategy among many others.

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“Software cannot substitute for domain expertise.
Don’t let fear of missing out hijack strategic thinking.
Ground product vision in execution feasibility.
Build for current state not future state.”
Hunter Davis in Pondering HomeJoy’s Failure

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“He who can, does.
He who cannot, teaches.
George Bernard Shaw in “Maxims for Revolutionists

The best player is often not the best coach, but it’s a rare that a good coach has never played.

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“Most people explore on roads already made.”
William Stafford in “Sound of the Ax: Aphorisms by William Stafford

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“Mathematics is what happens to life when you shed the emergent complications of conscious.”
George Murray (@bookninja) in “Glimpse: Selected Aphorisms of George Murray

Mathematical models allow you to boil the essential aspects of a situation into a set of simpler relationships. The test is not whether they are wrong or overlook nuances–by definition they must–but whether they grasp the essentials relative to your purpose and are therefore useful.

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KrebsCircleSociety

“How Society is (left diagram), how many would like it to be (right diagram)”
Valdis Krebs (@orgnet)

This diagram reminded me of an article by Christopher Alexander “A City is Not a Tree.” [PDF] [Also available as Part1 and Part2] Alexander begins: “The tree of my title is not a green tree with leaves. It is the name of an abstract structure. I shall contrast it with another, more complex abstract structure called a semilattice.” Essentially, he refers to the left as a semilattice and documents how it is found in the evolution of “natural cities” where the right is a right as a hierarchy or tree and symptomatic of planned or deliberately created communities. The latter tend to be lifeless as their lack of overlap does not conform to social realities. I explore this in more detail in “The Messy Order of Robust Communities.” [coming soon]

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[Seven decades of policies designed to suppress job creation, prevent innovation, and protect incumbents…] “I worry about robots!”
Marc Andreessen (@pmarca)

It’s a boiled frog effect: the pernicious policies have triggered a slow degradation in the equilibrium level of new job creation while robots are a recent arrival and therefore more salient as a potential source of trouble.

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“When something terrible happens people wake up.”
Jenny Holzer

Some leaders refuse to wake up–or at last keep their eyes close–apparently on the theory if they refuse to acknowledge it then nothing (terrible) happened. It would be an OK strategy if the event was an outlier but a really bad strategy when it proves to be a harbinger.

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“Whenever a rude awakening occurs – it’s an eclipse to behold!”
Lani Picard

This reminds me of Gerald Weinberg’s observation that what looks like a crisis is only the end of an illusion. Unfortunately, it also reminds me of recent events in Paris and similar events that are likely to be visited upon happy crowds elsewhere.

If you are uncomfortable with references to recent events, then consider that these last two quotes can also be applied to entrepreneurs ignoring the evidence in front of their eyes in a failing startup.

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“Product strategy is a prediction about how your future actions will move the market.”
Rich Mironov in “4th Law of Software Development: You Cannot Outsource Strategy

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“Because half a dozen grasshoppers under a fern make the field ring with their importunate chink, whilst thousands of great cattle, reposed beneath the shadow of the British oak, chew the cud and are silent, pray do not imagine that those who make the noise are the only inhabitants of the field; that of course they are many in number; or that, after all, they are other than the little shrivelled, meagre, hopping, though loud and troublesome insects of the hour.”
Edmund Burke, in”Reflections on the Revolution in France

h/t My Small Boat

I am not sure what will replace the current legacy media–newspapers, television, radio–for news and information, but social media still looks more like the grasshoppers than the cattle.

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“It is my ambition to say in ten sentences; what others say in a whole book.”
Friedrich Nietzsche

My ambition as well.

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“When my daughter was about seven years old, she asked me one day what I did at work. I told her I worked at the college–that my job was to teach people how to draw. She stared back at me, incredulous, and said, “You mean they forget?”
Howard Ikemoto

h/t Lani Picard

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“Thoughts are but dreams till their effects be tried.”
Shakespeare in “The Rape of Lucrece

h/t Lani Picard

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“Not all who are lost, wander.”
Seth Godin in “Not all who are lost, wander.

Godin continues: “Going faster doesn’t make you less lost. It’s okay to ask for directions.  (Knowing you’re lost is half the battle.)” Disorientation can be paralyzing: act, sense, and respond.

A clever riff on Tolkien‘s “Not all those who wander are lost” from “All that is gold does not glitter.” (aka “The Riddle of Strider”). This concludes your Tolkien fix for November.

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“It is a strange trade that of advocacy. Your intellect, your highest heavenly gift is hung up in the shop window like a loaded pistol for sale.”
Thomas Carlyle

I feel this way about our lead generation and sales support offerings some days. We are advocates for sale in the shop window. Carlyle’s use of “trade of advocacy” refers to the practice of law.

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“Great products are curated, with well-chosen collections of features that fit together to solve a specific set of problems.”
Rich Mironov in “4th Law of Software Development: You Cannot Outsource Strategy

My twitter version of “A great product is a curated set of features that offer a coherent solution to a specific range of problems.” Rich Mironov

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“COINCIDENCE: You weren’t paying attention to the other half of what was going on.”
John Brunner in “Stand on Zanzibar

One person’s mindfulness is another’s apophenia.

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“What I learned on my own I still remember.”
Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Applying it and teaching it to someone else also helps but I think Taleb is implying the learning flowed from direct practical experience with “on my own” and not just by reading.

h/t My Small Boat

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“Now that I have mutated into some oddball species of salesman, the point of customer conversations is not to win the argument but find a win-win settlement.”
Sean Murphy in “Joseph A Murphy 1925-2007, 7 Years On

Closing thought on learning not only how to argue but how to negotiate.

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“Growing fast isn’t the problem. Building stuff that doesn’t provide sustained value for the customer is. Metrics don’t tell you when you’re customer is doing something bad for them, but good for you. They tell you to encourage the behavior.”
Startup L. Jackson (@StartupLJackson)

I merged two @StartupLJackson tweets into this closing quote for “Don’t Let LinkedIn Become a Time Sink.” It summarized why LinkedIn is now on a trajectory that carries them past the well past the tipping point of utility for many. Until someone crafts a viable replacement they will likely continue to degrade their interface to squander more of their customers’ attention on ads.

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{Tell someone to watch 120 hr tv series} O cool I’ll check it out
{Tell someone to read one book} ya right, I WISH I had time to read
Nina Gann (@NinaTreeMonkey)

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“Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that is the stuff life is made of.”
Benjamin Franklin

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“The possession of great power necessarily implies great responsibility.”
William Lamb, Lord Melbourne in a speech June 27, 1817

h/t Garson O’Toole “Quote Investigator” (@QuoteResearch) cited in “The Parliamentary Debates From The Year 1803 To The Present Time” Vol. 36. (London: T.C. Hansard, 1817) p. 1227.

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“Life isn’t long enough to do all you could accomplish. And what a privilege even to be alive. In spite of all the pollutions and horrors, how beautiful this world is. Supposing you only saw the stars once every year. Think what you would think. The wonder of it!”
Tasha Tudor

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“This isn’t my emergency.”
First responder mantra

Gary Klein writes, “A cop told us he rehearses this mantra to keep from stressing out as he gets ready to go into action.”

While empathy can make you more effective in an emergency, sympathy may paralyze you. I talk to a number of entrepreneurs who are in difficult–but not life threatening–circumstances. I try to remain empathetic and objective and offer my perspective on the facts, a range of actions that are open to them, and the likely consequences that will flow from each choice. But it’s their assessment of the consequences and their decision as to what action to take.

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“I’d a lot rather be the man who bought the Brooklyn Bridge than the man who sold it.”
Will Rogers

I feel the same way about some “advice for entrepreneurs.” It’s much closer to a short con than a long term viable strategy. If you cannot get repeat customers–unless you are selling products like coffins that are a once in a lifetime purchase–or stay in the same place for three years then you probably need to adjust your approach.

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“It became clear to me and to many others that to defeat a networked enemy we had to become a network ourselves.”
Stanley McChrystal in “It Takes a Network

More excerpts for context (bolding added):

And just like their allies in al Qaeda, this new Taliban is more network than army, more a community of interest than a corporate structure.

For the U.S. military that I spent my life in, this was not an easy insight to come by. It was only over the course of years, and with considerable frustrations, that we came to understand how the emerging networks of Islamist insurgents and terrorists are fundamentally different from any enemy the United States has previously known or faced.

In bitter, bloody fights in both Afghanistan and Iraq, it became clear to me and to many others that to defeat a networked enemy we had to become a network ourselves. We had to figure out a way to retain our traditional capabilities of professionalism, technology, and, when needed, overwhelming force, while achieving levels of knowledge, speed, precision, and unity of effort that only a network could provide.”
Stanley McChrystal in “It Takes a Network

Valdis Krebs (@orgnet) pointed out this echoed a Rand report by John Arquila “It Takes a Network” from 2002. McChrystal actually implemented the strategy and documents what’s needed to build a robust network organization but he had to have been aware of Arquila’s work, which is probably why he added “and to many others” in the “it became clear to me and many others that to defeat a networked enemy we had to become a network ourselves.”

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“What you already know is merely a good departure point.”
Keorapetse Kgositsile

h/t Conal Elliot Quotes Collection

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“We may be unable to always act wisely but nothing prevents us from acting kindly.”
Beston Jack Abrams

I used this in Beston Jack Abrams on Curiosity, Experimentation and Action

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“Scientists discover the world that exists; engineers create the world that never was.”
Theodore von Karman

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