Quotes For Entrepreneurs April 2016

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Quotes, skmurphy

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Quotes For Entrepreneurs April 2016

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“When I wonder what we’ll do for dinner, I’m generally not worrying.”
George Murray (@bookninja) in “Glimpse: Selected Aphorisms of George Murray

It’s a good test for a bootstrapper, if you can spare cycles to figure out where you would like to eat things are going OK.

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“Reading a book these days is like an act of war against the attention-industrial complex.”
Tiago Forte (@fortelabs)

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“When fast and slow time meet, fast time wins. This is why no one ever gets the important things done first.”
Thomas Hylland Eriksen in “Tyranny of the Moment: Fast and Slow Time in the Information Age (2001)

George Siemens (@gsiemens) Longer extract:

When fast and slow time meet, fast time wins. This is why one never gets the important things done because there is always something else one has to do first. Naturally, we will always tend to do the most urgent tasks first. In this way, the slow and long-term activities lose out. In an age when the distinctions between work and leisure are being erased, and efficiency seems to be the only value in economics, politics and research, this is really bad news for things like thorough, far-sighted work, play and long-term relationships.”
Thomas Hylland Eriksen in “Tyranny of the Moment: Fast and Slow Time in the Information Age (2001)” [emphasis in original]

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“What moves men of genius, or rather what inspires their work, is not new ideas, but their obsession with the idea that what has already been said is still not enough.”
Eugene Delacroix

h/t Lani Picard  This reminds me Shaw’s maxim for revolutionists that I used in “The Unreasonable Entrepreneur

“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 #124 in Maxim for Revolutionists

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“Success comes from persistently improving and inventing, not from persistently doing what’s not working.”
Derek Sivers in “Anything You Want

I referenced this in “Anything You Want by Derek Sivers.” Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result is not persistence, it’s insanity. Not every change is an improvement, and not every invention becomes an accepted innovation, but if you don’t keep tinkering with your approach you will definitely fail. It’s only an experiment if it can falsify an hypothesis you had about your business or customer needs.

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Attacking A Walled City: it’s rarely successful to enter a strongly held market with incremental technology.”
Gordon Bell in “High Tech Ventures”

This is a twitter length summary of a longer excerpt I used in “Be Wary of Attacking a Walled City

Attacking A Walled City
A classic marketing flaw is to attack a large company’s customer base with a competitive replacement product. Rarely is this approach successful, since customers would prefer to buy from a few suppliers that are also the leaders. The new product typically attacks a strongly held market by using a different or incrementally improved next-generation technology. Existing suppliers, particularly start-ups, are unwilling to give up their market position and can hold their share of the market by enhancing their products through evolution. Attacking the customer base (e.g., IBM, Lotus 1-2-3 clone) of a supplier that is unwilling to accept the loss of revenue (e.g., add-on disk memories) or loss of control (e.g., database) is a flawed approach. It will succeed only if the new technology is compelling and the competitor cannot move prices rapidly (e.g., plug-compatible IBM mainframes).”

Gordon Bell page 234 of High Tech Ventures

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“It is equally important that you do not commence business where there are already enough to meet all demands in the same occupation.”
P.T. Barnum in “Golden Rules For Making Money

I used this in “P. T. Barnum’s Golden Rules For Making Money

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“I have seen the future and it needs work.”
Lee Felsenstein quoted in the “Afterward 2010” chapter of “Hackers” by Steven Levy

I used this quote in “Restlessness & Discontent, Gumption & Sisu.” Lee Felsenstein was one of the prime movers behind the Homebrew Computer Club and one of my inspirations for the Bootstrappers Breakfast. I have had the chance to meet him and hear him speak several times–Silicon Valley remains a very small place despite what you may hear–and he remains an energetically discontent engineer. People who are content or phlegmatic rarely try to change things.

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“Nothing ages as fast as the future.”
Stanislaw Lem

I have not been able to source this. It’s similar to (bold added)

“Nothing ages faster than the future. Built on the rubble of a historic community, Southwest is now the city’s most dated neighborhood.”
Michael Schaffer in “Tomorrowland” (July 10, 1998 Washington City Paper)

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“A problem thoroughly understood is always fairly simple. Found your opinions on facts, not prejudices. We know too many things that are not true.”
Charles Kettering

Both our prejudices and our obsolete paradigms introduce mild to blinding astigmatisms into our vision of the problem.  You cannot question everything you think you know but I like Josh Billings’ observation:

“I have lived in this world just long enough to look carefully the second time into things that I am most certain of the first time.”
Josh Billings in “Chicken Feed

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“It’s only memory that requires time; recognition happens between moments.”
George Murray (@bookninja) in “Glimpse: Selected Aphorisms of George Murray

In the OODA Loop (Observe-Orient-Decide-Act) it’s the difference between Decide, which requires time and consideration, and Orient which happens below the level of conscious control. Intuition and pattern matching are fast. And sometimes wrong: it’s possible to have a flash of misunderstanding as well as a flash of insight.

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“Most of what matters in your life takes place in your absence.”
Salman Rushdie in “Midnight’s Children”

In an interview with John Haffendenm Rushdie explained what he meant:

“An important idea for me was that people leak into each other like flavors when you cook. I was trying to write about how people are pieces of each other. It not just that public life affects private life, but separately lived private lives can affect each other quite fundamentally: things which become a central part of you can actually have happened three stages away from you, and have been passed on to you through successive leakages.”
Salman Rushdie in an interview with John Haffenden

This quote also reminded me of

“Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.”
Allen Saunders

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“Initiative is doing the right thing without being told.”
Elbert Hubbard

By empowering the rest of the team you enable much faster action and a “recon pull” that let’s the people with the best situational awareness dictate the course of action most likely to be correct. Startups have to cultivate this approach because they must confront established competitors at weak points–“hit them where they ain’t”–because they lack the resources for head to head competition.

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“Activity is the only road to knowledge.”
George Bernard Shaw in Maxim for Revolutionists

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“We confuse variety and range with quality.”
Seth Godin in “Not Even One Note

Although Godin is talking about presentations and performances it’s equally applicable to feature content: one or two that provide clear value beat the Swiss Army Chainsaw approach that tries to substitute quantity for quality. More context:

“We add many slides to our presentation before figuring out how to utter a single sentence that will give the people in the room chills or make them think. We confuse variety and range with quality.

Practice is not the answer here. Practice, the 10,000 hours thing, practice alone doesn’t produce work that matters. No, that only comes from caring. […] When we care enough, we raise the bar, not just for ourselves, but for our customer, our audience and our partners.”
Seth Godin in “Not Even One Note

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“Money is in some respects like fire; it is a very excellent servant but a terrible master.”
P.T. Barnum in “Golden Rules For Making Money

I used this in “P. T. Barnum’s Golden Rules For Making Money” The notion of fire as an excellent servant but terrible master dates to American proverbs a century older.

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“Urgency is a product of pessimism”
George Murray (@bookninja) in “Glimpse: Selected Aphorisms of George Murray

I found this thought provoking and ultimately very insightful. Urgency is typically driven by fear of loss, fear of missing out, or fear of failure. But driven by fear. The right action at the right time feels ripe or smooth or flowing but not urgent.

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“When ‘push comes to shove’, the only human being you can count on to identify your personal integrity is yourself.”
Lani Picard

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“For an idea to get big it has to be useful and being useful does not need funding. Start now with a humble prototype of your big vision and you will be in the game.”
Derek Sivers in “Anything You Want

I referenced this in “Anything You Want by Derek Sivers.” Forcing yourself to start small leads to survivable failures that not only cost less but occur more quickly. You learn faster and refine your vision more rapidly.

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It wasn’t until quite late in life
that I discovered how easy it was
to say, “I don’t know.”
Somerset Maugham

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“Hindsight is 20/20, but only if you are looking back.”
George Murray (@bookninja) in “Glimpse: Selected Aphorisms of George Murray

It’s important to pause to reflect: bake after actions and retrospectives into your process.

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“When a man is in the right path, he must persevere. Perseverance is sometimes but another word for self-reliance.”
P.T. Barnum in “Golden Rules For Making Money

I used this in “P. T. Barnum’s Golden Rules For Making Money

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“You can’t get to the moon by piling up chairs.”
Theodor Holm Nelson (@TheTedNelson)

h/t John Cook. Climbing taller and taller trees does not work either. This is one of the risks of A/B testing and other micro-tactical methods: they are useful for measuring traction and exploring in the neighborhood of your current offering but they don’t help you estimate the likely limits of  your exploration.

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“Don’t try two new things at the same time.”
Theodor Holm Nelson (@TheTedNelson)

Nelson tweeted this on Aug-1-2015 as one of his “Work Maxims.” In general I think it’s good advice but sometimes you need two or three degrees of freedom off the beaten path to innovate successfully. For example you may need a catalyst when combining two things to create a third.  The challenge is to explore laterally where people have not tried the combination of existing elements than to try to get ahead of the axis of advance.

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“You may have noticed, the less I know about a subject, the more confidence I have, and the more new light I throw on it.”
Mark Twain

I used this in “Three Advantages of Younger Entrepreneurs in B2B Startups

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“The only cure for grief is action.”
George Henry Lewes

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“Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.”
Anne Lamott

h/t Indigo Colton @indigocolton

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“We try to divide the world into pioneers and town planners and ignore the issue that without settlers, none of this works.”
Simon Wardley

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“When a company has a reputation for fair dealing, its costs drop: trust cuts the time spent second-guessing and lawyering.”
Joel Peterson in “The 10 Laws of Trust

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“It’s not denial. I’m just selective about the reality I accept.”
Calvin in Bill Watterson‘s “Calvin and Hobbes

h/t Daily Calvin and Hobbes Quote this reminded me of Russell Ackoff’s definition of creativity:

“Creativity is the ability to identify self-imposed constraints and explore the implications of their removal.”
Russell Ackoff

Which is my “shortened for twitter” version of this excerpt from an interview with Ackoff in “Strategy & Leadership” vol 31 No. 3 2003 pgs 19-26

Robert K. Allio: Let me ask you to advise the individual who sees such an opportunity and creates a vision. The manager wants to develop a strategy to implement that vision. How does the manager develop effective strategy?

Russell Ackoff: This requires design, and designs that lead require creativity. Creativity involves a three-step process. The first step is to identify assumptions that you make which prevent you from seeing the alternatives to the ones that you currently see. These are self-imposed constraints. The second step is to deny these constraining assumptions. The third is to explore the consequences of the denials. Creativity of individuals can be enhanced by practice, particularly under the guidance of one who is creative.”
Russell L. Ackoff, iconoclastic management authority, advocates a ‘systemic’ approach to innovation

There is a better version in “The Democratic Corporation”

“Creative leaps are discontinuities, qualitative changes. They involve three steps: identification of self-imposed constraints (assumptions); removing them; exploring the consequences of their removal. That is why there is always an element of surprise when we are exposed to creative work–it always embodies the denial of something we have taken for granted, usually unconsciously.”
Russell Ackoff in “The Democratic Corporation” (page 99)

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“Nobody asks me how things oughta be! I’ve got tons of ideas!”
Calvin in Bill Watterson‘s “Calvin and Hobbes

h/t Daily Calvin and Hobbes Quote Calvin as a budding entrepreneur. “Why not?” and “What if?” are questions as important as “Why?” for an entrepreneur.

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“Men who get money with too great facility, cannot usually succeed. You must get the first dollars by hard knocks, and at some sacrifice, in order to appreciate the value of those dollars.”
P.T. Barnum in “Golden Rules For Making Money

I think this is true when investment comes too easily–whether from a VC or a relative–and why bootstrapping is a better strategy in the early days. I think when money comes too easily spending it becomes too easy and your “Venture Lifestyle Business” become “transfusion dependent” on new investment.

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“Machine firms value efficiency.
Professional firms focus on individual proficiency.
Autocratic organizations value centralized control.
Project firms value teamwork to create novel outputs.”
Henry Mintzberg in “Species of Organizations
[note that what I call “autocratic” Mintzberg refers to as “entrepreneurial” which I believe is a serious misnomer.]

Entrepreneurs avoid the Startup Dollhouse fantasy by learning from larger project organizations that are entrepreneurial in their design to create new outputs.

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“There are two kinds of light–the glow that illumines, and the glare that obscures.”
James Thurber in Lanterns and Lances?

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“The map makes your situational awareness shareable, enabling common review, common updates, and effective teamwork.”
Sean Murphy

My response to Simon Wardley’s (@swardley) tweet: “The single hardest thing about mapping is trying to explain to executives why situational awareness is important.”

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“If you ever want to find out just how uninteresting you really are, get a job where the quality and frequency of your thoughts determine your livelihood.”
Bill Watterson in his May 20, 1990 graduation address at Kenyon College

I referenced this in “Bill Watterson on the Real World.

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“Leaders approach leadership as a practice –more like soccer than history class.”
David Marquet (@ldavidmarquet)

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“Children are the bomb-sniffing dogs of personality.”
George Murray (@bookninja) in “Glimpse: Selected Aphorisms of George Murray

I think it’s also useful to pay attention to you unconscious first reaction–what your inner self is telling you about someone.

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“If the stars should appear one night in a thousand years, how would men believe and adore; and preserve for many generations the remembrance of the city of God which had been shown!”
Ralph Waldo Emerson in “Nature

More context

“To go into solitude, a man needs to retire as much from his chamber as from society. I am not solitary whilst I read and write, though nobody is with me. But if a man would be alone, let him look at the stars. The rays that come from those heavenly worlds, will separate between him and what he touches. One might think the atmosphere was made transparent with this design, to give man, in the heavenly bodies, the perpetual presence of the sublime. Seen in the streets of cities, how great they are! If the stars should appear one night in a thousand years, how would men believe and adore; and preserve for many generations the remembrance of the city of God which had been shown! But every night come out these envoys of beauty, and light the universe with their admonishing smile.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson in “Nature” (opening paragraph)

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“People standing to make meetings shorter treats the effect, not the cause. Run meetings properly & don’t worry about pointless cofactors.”
Ed Weissman (@edw519)

I really like Weissman’s perspective. His “not(AdviceForHackers)” has a number of practical observations.

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“66. Making something variable is easy. Controlling duration of constancy is the trick.”s
Alan Perlis “Epigrams on Programming” SIGPLAN Notices Vol. 17, No. 9, September 1982

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“Many modern entrepreneurs have limited exposure to the notion of failure or layoffs because it has been so long since these things were common in the industry.”
Bill Gurley in “On the Road to Recap: Why Unicorn Financing Just Became Dangerous For All Involved

It’s been 8 years since the 2008 retrenchment and 15 since the dotcom meltdown. See also “Mike Arrington’s Twice Shy Entrepreneur: One Year Later

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“My handwriting is so bad even pharmacists can’t read it.”
Nat Segaloff in an interview with John Winokur

A lost art in the digital age, I still use 3×5 cards to take most of my notes in face to face conversations but use a headset for calls so I can type. I think the typed notes capture more details but the handwritten notes normally capture the essentials.

More context

“I write on a desktop computer. Hate laptops and touch pads. My handwriting is so bad even pharmacists can’t read it. I used to write on a 1940s Royal upright manual typewriter and you know what? I think my writing was better because I really had to think first about what I was typing because retyping was a bitch.”

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“Two pairs of key tools every B2B entrepreneur  must to use to understand prospects & customers:

  • Their eyes
  • Their ears

Sean Murphy

Inspired by too many blog posts on key tools.

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“It’s never what people do that make us angry,
it’s what we tell ourselves about what they did.”
Marshall Rosenberg

h/t Conal Elliot Quotes Collection

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“Teachers should prepare the student for the student’s future, not for the teacher’s past.”
Richard W. Hamming in “The Art of Doing Science and Engineering” [PDF]

Hamming’s lecture “You and Your Research” is also worth reading.

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“In Paris they simply stared when I spoke to them in French; I never did succeed in making those idiots understand their own language.”
Mark Twain

Many an entrepreneur feels the same way. I used this as an interstitial quote in “If You Need Smarter Prospects, You Need a Better Message.

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The innovator has for enemies all those who derived advantages from the old order of things.”
Niccolò Machiavelli in “The Prince” Chapter 6

h/t Tor Gronsund (@tor); More context

“There is nothing more difficult and dangerous, or more doubtful of success, than an attempt to introduce a new order of things in any state. For the innovator has for enemies all those who derived advantages from the old order of things, whilst those who expect to be benefited by the new institutions will be but lukewarm defenders. This indifference arises in part from fear of their adversaries who were favored by the existing laws, and partly from the incredulity of men who have no faith in anything new that is not the result of well-established experience. Hence it is that, whenever the opponents of the new order of things have the opportunity to attack it, they will do it with the zeal of partisans, whilst the others defend it but feebly, so that it is dangerous to rely upon the latter.”
Niccolo Machiavelli in “The Prince” Chapter 6

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“The great enemy of truth is very often not a lie but a myth that gives us the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.”
John F. Kennedy in his 1962 commencement address at Yale University

h/t Glen Alleman; true for many of the startup shortcuts to overnight success. This is a summary of:

“For the great enemy of truth is very often not the lie–deliberate, contrived, and dishonest–but the myth–persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic. Too often we hold fast to the clichés of our forebears. We subject all facts to a prefabricated set of interpretations. We enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.
John F. Kennedy in his 1962 commencement address at Yale University

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“Curiosity is one of the most permanent and certain characteristics of a vigorous intellect.”
Samuel Johnson in The Rambler, Number 103, 12 March 1751

Used as an interstitial quote in “Connect With Your Purpose” It’s the first sentence of the opening paragraph to The Rambler #103, later in the paragraph he notes “we are continually at the same distance from the completion of our schemes,” which is something I can relate to.

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“Inside every large problem is a small problem struggling to get out.”
Tony Hoare

Try to see to root cause and actions that will catalyze a full solution. Many aspects of a large problem may be the system reacting to a small core problem.

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“Bad decisions made with good intentions, are still bad decisions.”
Jim Collins in “How the Mighty Fall”

h/t Startup Vitamins I think good intentions are necessary but not sufficient, but that intent (or values) matters. Good intentions are more likely to improve or fix bad decisions, and good decisions made with bad intentions are more likely to get undone. It’s also important to distinguish between decisions and outcomes (choices or strategies vs. effects or impacts). You can have good intentions, make good choices based on the best available information, and still have bad outcomes.

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“Above the cloud with its shadow is the star with its light.”
Victor Hugo.

This reminds me of Per Aspera Ad Astra

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“A danger foreseen is half avoided.”
English Proverb

An insight that inspired Klein’s premortem technique. I used this in “How to Tell When Your Team Has a Workable Plan of Action.

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Peak Productivity PhDComics

This reminds me of

“Embrace the ‘fertile void’ of sleepless nights. Lots of creativity can occur then.”
Cecily Drucker

Part of a longer excerpt in “Cecily Drucker’s Startup Secrets.” I used this graphic as an illustration in “13 Tips for Getting Up Early and Arriving Early.”

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“Failure is a probability, sometimes it’s 1 but it’s never 0”
Sean Reilly (@reilly_se)

This reminds me of the anonymous quote: “Failure is not an option, it’s just a nagging possibility that helps me stay focused.”

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“So, we end up with today’s VCs running a playbook they didn’t write, investing money they didn’t make, chasing returns they’ll never see.”
Bryce Roberts (@bryce) in “Are We Reaching the Limits of Silicon Valley’s Venture Model?

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“Kindness can become its own motive.
We are made kind by being kind.”
Eric Hoffer

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“A kindness done to good men is never thrown away.”
Plautus

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“Beginning today, treat everyone you meet as if they were going to be dead by midnight. Extend to them all the care, kindness, and understanding you can muster, and do it with no thought of any reward. Your life will never be the same again.”
Og Mandino

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“It pays to have big dreams but low overhead.”
Seth Godin in “Errors in Scale.”

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“A strategy you can’t implement is called hope.”
Justin Warren (@jpwarren)

This reminded me of “A goal without a plan is just a wish” which is commonly attributed to Antoine de Saint Exupéry but Barry Popik (@barrypopik) in 2013 concluded, “The authorship of the saying remains unknown.” The first step to testing a strategy:

“A goal is a dream with a deadline.”
Napoleon Hill

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