Quotes for Entrepreneurs–February 2016

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Quotes, skmurphy

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Leap Year: What Are You Going To Do With The Extra Day?

I signed up for an advance copy of Ash Maury’a Scaling Lean at leanstack.com/scaling-lean-book/ and read it this month.  I think this a significant book for entrepreneurs, especially bootstrappers. I have included three quotes from Ash in this month’s roundup.

Quotes For Entrepreneurs–-February 2016

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“I just feel that I’m in tune with the right vibrations in the universe when I’m in the process of working.”
Louise Nevelson

h/t Lani Picard

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“Most geniuses—especially those who lead others—prosper not by deconstructing intricate complexities but by exploiting unrecognized simplicities.”
Andy Benoit in “The Case For the Broncos” (Jan-13-2014 Sports Illustrated article)

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“Nothing is troublesome that we do willingly.”
Thomas Jefferson

A Decalogue of Canons for observation in practical life by Thomas JeffersonNumber seven on Jefferson’s A Decalogue of Canons for observation in practical life

  1. Never put off till tomorrow what you can do today.
  2. Never trouble another for what you can do yourself.
  3. Never spend your money before you have it.
  4. Never buy what you do not want, because it is cheap; it will be dear to you.
  5. Pride costs us more than hunger, thirst and cold.
  6. We never repent of having eaten too little.
  7. Nothing is troublesome that we do willingly.
  8. How much pain have cost us the evils which have never happened.
  9. Take things always by their smooth handle.
  10. When angry, count ten, before you speak; if very angry, a hundred.

Image courtesy of the Library of Congress. See also “Jefferson’s Canons of Conduct” for a longer list.

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“It does not take much strength to do things, but it requires great strength to decide what to do.”
Elbert Hubbard

h/t Conal Elliot Quotes Collection

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“Manners are inherited answers to inherited problems.”
George Murray (@bookninja) in “Glimpse: Selected Aphorisms of George Murray

As I mentioned in “Building Codes for Software” and “Serious and Competent People

“Traditions are solutions to problems we forgot we had.”
Sean Murphy

Chesterton’s fence.

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“The old generation is going. What will the new bring us? What shall we ourselves contribute?”
Henri Frederic Amiel in his Journal

I got an inkling of this sensation when I was a pallbearer at my grandfather’s funeral, that I would no longer be excused from adult responsibilities. With the death of my father I was promoted again. I am less clear on what the next promotion involves, but since it’s involuntary I can just focus on my current performance. More context from the same journal entry which I find resonates with my thinking more and more.

The old generation is going. What will the new bring us? What shall we ourselves contribute?  […] A shiver seizes us when the ranks grow thin around us, when age is stealing upon us, when we approach the zenith, and when destiny says to us: “Show us what is in thee!  Now is the moment, now is the hour, else fall back into nothingness! It is thy turn!  Give the world thy measure, say thy word, reveal thy nullity or thy capacity. Come forth from the shade! It is no longer a question of promising, thou must perform. The time of apprenticeship is over. Servant, show us what thou has done with thy talent. Speak now, or be silent forever.”
Henri Frederic Amiel in his Journal

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“The challenge of regulation is that you rarely see totality of what it kills and never see what it prevents from being born in the first place.”
Rick DeVos (@RickDeVos)

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“No point in trying to put out the Fires of Youth with the tepid broth of wary experience.”
James Lileks (@Lileks) in “The Bleat for Fri-Jan-22-2016″

I feel this way sometimes when I am trying to offer guidance about avoiding problems. Strangely the bitter fruit of experience is more readily accepted when folks are trying to get out of trouble than the tepid broth of wary experience when they are trying to assess a risk or opportunity. I suppose they drink the tepid broth “just in case” but eat the bitter fruit “just in time.”
More context:

Daughter got peeved at me tonight; one of those MUST YOU HAVE AN OPINION moments I get when I make the mistake of speaking freely instead of nodding my head and biting my tongue. It was a Teen Event at the Art Institute called the Art of Rebellion, which made my back teeth ache. Not because they shouldn’t rebel; no point in trying to put out the Fires of Youth with the tepid broth of wary experience. By all means, rebel, but against what, and why? That matters.”
James Lileks (@Lileks) in “The Bleat for Fri-Jan-22-2016″

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“Many things that look like nails do not benefit from being pounded.”
Russ Roberts in “How Adam Smith Can Change Your Life.

This reminds me of J. R. R. Tolkien’s observation that “All that is gold does not glitter.” More context from page 74-75 “How Adam Smith Can Change Your Life.

Sometimes even the best quantitative analysis is worse than none at all because it gives the illusion of science, what Hayek calls scientism. An awareness of reason’s limits is a caution sign to remind us that we’re not as smart as we think; we’re not perfect truth seekers. We’re flawed. Recognizing our flaws is the beginning of wisdom. Many things that look like nails do not benefit from being pounded. That should induce caution and humility for those with hammers.

Humility is an acquired taste. Once you come to like it, it’s a dish best served hot. It’s amazing how liberating it can be to say “I don’t know.”

Russ Roberts in “How Adam Smith Can Change Your Life.

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“The sea gets deeper as you go further into it.”
Venetian proverb

Cited by Nassim Nicholas Taleb in “Anti-Fragile: Things that Gain from Disorder” (see Derek Siver’s notes on Anti-Fragile for a good summary for entrepreneurs).  New markets are fractal and require customer discovery and customer development.

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“A man does not know what he is saying until he knows what he is not saying.”
G. K. Chesterton

h/t Quotes for Public Speakers (No. 209) G. K. Chesterton This is especially true for product claims that will differentiate your offering. If you are trying to be all things to all people you won’t succeed.

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“Attack the undefended hills.”
Bill Hewlett

His prescription for successful new product introductions. In “Customer Development: Scouting New Markets” I suggest that there are no undefended markets but that some are less heavily defended than others.

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“Turning forty is like looking up and realizing it’s two in the afternoon.”
George Murray (@bookninja) in “Glimpse: Selected Aphorisms of George Murray

So is working in a startup. Turning fifty is telling yourself it’s only 3:30 in the afternoon but you can work to 6:30 and get done most of what you had planned.  I don’t plan to retire but I don’t expect to work much past 80.

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“The child does not begin to fall until she becomes seriously interested in walking, until she actually begins learning. Falling is thus more an indication of learning than a sign of failure.”
Polly Berrien Berends in “Whole Child/Whole Parent

I used this quote as a point of departure in the “Learning to Walk” section of “Am I Making a Fool of Myself?

“Inaction trades visible failure for stagnation. One of the keys to prospering as an entrepreneur is to plan for iteration, to chart a course through a series of small survivable failures, where each one contributes to your knowledge. Just as a child is spurred to walk by observing adults, an entrepreneur is inspired by other entrepreneurs’ accomplishments in creating new products and services within the framework of a business that can sustain and enhance them. But just as for a child learning to walk, there are no shortcuts that don’t involve a lot of small falls before she is running with scissors.”
Sean Murphy in “Am I Making a Fool of Myself?

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“Many people have puzzled over the the secret of creativity. I contend that it is basically no more than the extension into adult life of these vital childlike qualities.

  • The child asks new questions; the adult answers old ones; the childlike adult finds answers to new questions.
  • The child is inventive; the adult is productive; the childlike adult is inventively productive.
  • The child explores his environment; the adult organizes it; the childlike adult organizes his explorations and, by bringing order to them, strengthens them. He creates.”

Desmond Morris in ‘The Human Zoo

h/t Lani Picard [reformatted into list from blank text in original]

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Binoculars by Edith Soto

“We’re riding out tonight to case the Promised Land.”
Bruce SpringsteenThunder Road

Used in Customer Development: Scouting A New Market

There are no undefended markets. Established markets are characterized by entrenched competitors who have strong brand identify and deep customer relationships. Any new market worth having is at least lightly defended by the status quo of current alternatives. When you are scouting a new market you have to determine where you can make a clear contribution that will differentiate your offering from the alternatives currently available–including “doing nothing.”

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“Individuals gain insights.
Innovations depend on teams.”
Gary Klein (@KleInsight)

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“If you take care of important things, the urgent things don’t show up as often.
The opposite is never true.”
Seth Godin in “Deconstructing Urgent vs. Important

h/t Andrew Verboncouer (@averbs)

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“You’re going to need every ounce of common sense you’ve got.
Just spunk won’t be enough; you’ve got to have gumption.”
James Agee in “A Death in the Family

It’s the core of the advice that a father gives his daughter after the sudden and unexpected death of her husband.  Spunk is the ability to take action, to raise your hand, to speak up, to stand out. Gumption is the wisdom and the ability to persevere. I think entrepreneurs focus too much on cultivating their spunk and not enough on their common sense and their gumption.

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“Rituals
To Do: Imagining Futures, Ordering & Planning
Doing: Perseverance, Steering, Control
Done: Reflection, Acknowledgement, Integration”
Jabe Bloom (@cyetain)

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“We are all chameleons taking color from our surroundings.”
Austin O’Malley “Keystones of thought”

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“Blessed be childhood, which brings down something of heaven into the midst of our rough earthliness.”
Henri Frederic Amiel in his Journal

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“As you solve one set of problems, new ones appear. That is part of the nature of life.”
Lee Kuan Yew in “The Wit and Wisdom of Lee Kuan Yew

Cited in Lee Kuan Yew 1923-2015

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“The day will happen whether or not you get up.”
John Ciardi

This reminds me of

“The best way out is always through.”
Robert Frost “A Servant to Servants

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“There is no business in your business model without revenue.”
Ash Maurya in “Scaling Lean

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“A rough estimate is better than no estimate.”
Ash Maurya in “Scaling Lean

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“Running experiments is NOT the most important thing scientists do.”
Ash Maurya in “Scaling Lean

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“Suspicion and evidence are always holding the elbows of intuition.”
George Murray (@bookninja) in “Glimpse: Selected Aphorisms of George Murray

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How SW projects are managed:
“I’ve set the wedding date!”
“Cool! How long have you two been dating?”
“Well, I haven’t asked her out yet”
Farooq Butt (@fmbutt)

h/t John Mckenna (@jwm00) strangely the next deliverable rarely slips by much and can come early: “We are expecting our first child in …”

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“In order to have a bright long-term future, you need to have a series of survivable short term futures. You need to survive in order to ultimately win.”
Heidi Roizen in “Dear Startups: Here is How To Stay Alive

It’s that time in the business cycle (remember 2008 and 2001?) when VC’s discover the value of bootstrapping and positive cash flow.

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“As a man grows older he either talks more and says less or talks less and say more.”
Evan Esar

Also true for startup messaging: if you are talking about more and more without simplifying or focus on a key problem you are failing.

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“I breathe deeply and certainty enters into me like light, like a piece of science, and curious music seems to hum inside my fingers.
Is there a single person on whom I can press my belief?
No sir.
All I can do is say, here’s how it went. Here’s what I saw.
I’ve been there and I’m going back.
Make of it what you will.”
Leif Enger in Peace like a River

It’s the close of the protagonist description his near death experience in the novel. But it captures the sensation of a new insight and one of those moments in childhood when the pieces fit together before they were in a jumble on the table. “Peace like a River” is very well written and offers many insights about growing up.

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“That awkward moment when you realize your intuition was off by a couple orders of magnitude.”
John D. Cook (@JohnDCook)

In my experience it’s beyond awkward into disorienting or even panic. Examples include 9-11 with the fall of the twin towers and the grounding of all airplane travel in the US for weeks, the Jonestown massacre, the fall of Skylab where I had assumed the NASA would get it’s act together left me strangely prepared for the Challenger and Columbia disasters. Of course sometimes it works the other way: my father makes a full recovery from what I was advised was soon to be a fatal stroke, my three month old niece has open heart surgery and makes a full recovery, and I go to work for a company headquartered in East Palo Alto that becomes the multi-billion global giant Cisco.

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“Live so that you can at least get the benefit of the doubt.”
Kin Hubbard

One of the advantages of playing a long game, trying to create more value than you capture, is that over time prospects and customers are more likely to forgive your inevitable mistakes and stumbles.

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“Silicon Valley is no longer as concerned about serving the customer, and even sees great opportunity in exploitation.”
William Davidow in “What Happened to Silicon Values

h/t Mark Zimmerman in  “Do The Right Thing Well” I used this in “Bill Davidow on Silicon Valley Values

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“No answer is also an answer.”
English proverb

In a sales situation “no” can often be communicated by a non-committal response, silence, or a change of subject. This is true in both problem discovery and customer discovery interviews; it’s also important to listen for what isn’t said.

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“Most people would prefer to have two advisers, one for the hour of danger, when they are afraid—and then, when things go well again, then they would prefer not to have anything to do with him, because the sight of him reminds them of how weak they were, and now they prefer to imagine that they have triumphed by dint of their own strength–not by God’s.”
Soren Kierkegaard in his Journal NB2 entry 251 (1847)

I think there is some truth in this and it points out the value of a community of practice model for entrepreneurs like the Bootstrappers Breakfast or a mastermind group. A peer group helps you with challenges and opportunities and offers a diversity of perspectives.

The Quotable Kierkegaard” edited and arranged by Gordon Marino is a good one volume source of Kierkegaard quotes.

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“It’s good to have money to buy the things that money can buy, but it’s better not to lose the things that money cannot buy.”
George Horace Lorimer

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“A man is usually more careful of his money than his principles.”
Ed Howe

It’s more important to conserve social capital (your reputation for integrity) than cash, especially in a downturn. Two blog posts from 2008:

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“I still, after all these years, still find talking to customers the hardest. I always come up with reasons why I don’t have to, why I don’t have to set a meeting.”
Eric Ries

David Telleen-Lawton uses this as a point of departure in “The Nitty Gritty of Setting Up Customer Discovery Meetings.”

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“To understand the present and anticipate the future, one must know enough of the past, enough to have a sense of the history of a people. One must appreciate not merely what took place but more especially why it took place and in a particular way. This is true of individuals, as it is for nations.”
Lee Kuan Yew

Cited in Lee Kuan Yew 1923-2015

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