Quotes For Entrepreneurs May 2016

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Quotes, skmurphy

You can follow @skmurphy to get these quotes for entrepreneurs hot off the mojo wire or wait until they are collected in a blog post at the end of each month. These quotes for entrepreneurs were identified in May 2016. Enter your E-mail address if you would like have new blog posts sent to you.

Quotes For Entrepreneurs May 2016

“Make every decision–whether to expand the business, raise money, promote someone–according to what’s best for your customers.”
Derek Sivers in “Anything You Want

I referenced this in “Anything You Want by Derek Sivers.” This is a core concept for both lean and entrepreneurial thinking: am I adding something to my product or the supporting services that creates more value for my customers? This gets harder as you start to scale or you start to fail. As you scale more of your employees have less front line contact with customers–unless you invest a lot of effort in avoiding this–and have less of a feel for what they value. When you are starting to fail you may have to choose to abandon a product or a line of business to protect your ability to focus on opportunities.

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“Without self-denial and economy, patience and perseverance, and commencing with capital which you have earned, you are not sure to succeed.”
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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“When I hear TV commercials offer as a perk,’No salesperson will call you,’ I know the way salespeople are being trained needs a reboot.”
Jeffrey Lipsius in “Selling to the Point

Lipsius applies Timothy Gallwey’s “Inner Game of Tennis” to sales in “Selling to the Point

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“Economy is the art of making the most of life.”
George Bernard Shaw in Maxim for Revolutionists

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“And now the pundits who have been wrong about every step of this election will tell you what to expect next.”
Dave Pell (@davepell)

This reminds me of Michael Crichton’s talk “Why Speculate”  where he observed that modern media is now a “steady stream of guesses about the future.” He elaborates

“I want to mention in passing that punditry has undergone a subtle change over the years. In the old days, commentators such as Eric Sevareid spent most of their time putting events in a context, giving a point of view about what had already happened. Telling what they thought was important or irrelevant in the events that had already taken place. This is of course a legitimate function of expertise in every area of human knowledge.

But over the years the pundits’ thrust has shifted away from discussing what has happened, to discussing what may happen. And here the pundits have no benefit of expertise at all.”
Michael Crichton in “Why Speculate” a talk at International Leadership Forum, La Jolla (26 April 2002)

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“The opposite to being in despair is to have faith.”
Soren Kierkegaard

Always needed, often enough.

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It Could Be That the Purpose of Your Life is to Serve as a Warning to Others

“Virtuous men do good by setting themselves up as models before the public, but I do good by setting myself up as a warning.”
Michel de Montaigne in “Essays

This is actually the “polished version” from the opening paragraph of Book III Chapter VIII “On Conferences”  of Montaigne’s “Essays.”

“‘Tis a custom of our justice to condemn some for a warning to others. To condemn them for having done amiss, were folly, [..] for what is done can never be undone; but ’tis to the end they may offend no more, and that others may avoid the example of their offense: we do not correct the man we hang; we correct others by him. I do the same; my errors are sometimes natural, incorrigible, and irremediable: but the good which virtuous men do to the public, in making themselves imitated, I, peradventure, may do in making my manners avoided: […] publishing and accusing my own imperfections, some one will learn to be afraid of them. ”
Michel de Montaigne in “Essays

This reminded me of the Despair.com poster “Mistakes: It Could Be That the Purpose of Your Life is to Serve as a Warning to Others” shown at right.

It’s a humorous point but it’s also the case that project and startup post mortems are worthwhile exercises both for your own learning and to help the greater community of entrepreneurs.

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“It is the function of art to renew our perception.
What we are familiar with, we cease to see.”
Anais Nin

I used this as a sidebar quote in “Jerry Weinberg Interview.”

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“Failures are divided into two classes–those who thought and never did, and those who did and never thought.”
John Charles Salak

When I was younger I spent most of my time in the second category, as I have gotten older I have graduated into the first category.

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“Restlessness and discontent are the first necessities of progress.”
Thomas Alva Edison

I used this as the closing quote in “Restlessness & Discontent, Gumption & Sisu

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“All that is necessary to break the spell of inertia and frustration is this: act as if it were impossible to fail. That is the talisman, the formula, the command of right-about-face which turns us from failure towards success.”
Dorothea Brande in “Wake Up and Live”

I found her book “Becoming a Writer” very useful, “Wake Up and Live” less so. I like the quote if it helps to correct a fear of failure but not if it makes you foolhardy.

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“Without perseverance, talent is a barren bed.”
Welsh proverb

Another version from “Welsh Proverbs with English Translations” by Henry Halford Vaughan (1889)

Till perseverance it doth wed,
Talent has a barren bed.
Welsh proverb

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“Missing requirements are the hardest requirements errors to correct.”
Robert L. Glass in “The Facts and Fallacies of Software Engineering

h/t @CodeWisdom

When other entrepreneurs ask you for advice, start your critique with what they may have overlooked or left out, it’s easier to improve what they have done but less useful.

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“Harsh counsels have no effect; they are like hammers which are always repulsed by the anvil.”
Claude Adrien Helvetius

I used this in “Advising Entrepreneurs.

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“Letting your mind play is the best way to solve problems. For me, it’s been liberating to put myself in the mind of a fictitious six year-old each day, and rediscover my own curiosity.”
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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“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

Barnum was clearly a fan of bootstrapping, I used this in “P. T. Barnum’s Golden Rules For Making Money

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“Despair is the lack of the eternal.”
Soren Kierkegaard

If you cannot make entrepreneurship a calling and connect to a higher purpose than making money you are missing an opportunity for deep satisfaction.

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“There is a preschool ignorance that precedes knowledge and a postgraduate ignorance that follows it.”
Michel de Montaigne in Essays [on-line in Gutenberg]

This is a freer translation of

“A man may say with some color of truth that there is an Abecedarian ignorance that precedes knowledge, and a doctoral ignorance that comes after it: an ignorance that knowledge creates and begets, at the same time that it dispatches and destroys the first.”
Michel de Montaigne in Essays [on-line in Gutenberg]

You see this same challenge in entrepreneurs: those who don’t read at all and rely on direct experience can have some difficulty in building models and coming up with strategies. But those who have read so many books without actually going into business suffer from a different gap. Mortimer Adler comments on this same passage in “How to Read a Book”:

“Montaigne speaks of an “Abecedarian” ignorance that precedes knowledge, and a doctoral ignorance that comes after it. The first is the ignorance of those who, not knowing their A-B-C’s, cannot read at all. The second is the ignorance of those who have misread many books. They are, as Alexander Pope rightly calls them, “bookful blockheads, ignorantly read.” There have always been literate ignoramuses, who have read too widely, and not well. The Greeks had a name for such a mixture of learning and folly which might be applied to the bookish but poorly read of all ages. They are all “sophomores.”
Mortimer Adler, How to Read a Book, p. 11

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“Take your time to understand. Don’t just do something, be there.”
Marshall Rosenberg

Understanding precedes effective action.

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 “A man must seek his happiness and inward peace from objects which cannot be taken away from him.”
Alexander von Humboldt

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 “A moment’s insight is sometimes worth a life’s experience.”
Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. in “The Professor at the Breakfast Table” [on-line in Gutenberg]

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Fun Fact: wind chimes are made from the metallic bones of robots that tried to overthrow us. Hang them outside your house as a warning to the others.

“Fun Fact: wind chimes are made from the metallic bones of robots that tried to overthrow us. Hang them outside your house as a warning to the others.”
Source Unknown (earliest cite so far “Kevin-rf” in 2007 NASA Spaceflight Forum Post )

h/t Lord Steerforth (@Lord_Steerforth)

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“Always I will take another step. If that is of no avail I will take another, and yet another. In truth, one step at a time is not too difficult. I will persist until I succeed.”
Og Mandino

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“That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history is the most important of all the lessons that history has to teach.”
Aldous Huxley

h/t Justin Warren (@jpwarren)

I think it’s more complicated to extract lessons from history than many credit, but even the effort to uncover and organize them can pay dividends.

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“The smaller the final product,  the larger the machine needed to build it.”
Mike Palmer

Mike made this observation at a recent Bootstrapper Breakfast.

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“I have always been concerned with establishing the veracity of what is presented as true, and what is something else.”
Dan Sutton in “Who Will Debunk the Debunkers

The Who Will Debunk the Debunkers” highlights Sutton’s evidence for Patrick Mathews as the the first to outline “natural selection” as a mechanism in his “Nullius in Verba: Darwin’s Greatest Secret” and also links to an article “Opinions, Errors, Knowledge, Crowdfixing” by Samuel Arbesman (author of a great book “The Half-Life of Facts: Why Everything We Know Has an Expiration Date“) that acknowledges an error he made in debunking the Popeye/Spinach myth.

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“Nullius in Verba — Take No One’s Word For It”
Motto of the Royal Society

The “About Us / History” page for the Royal Society explains the motto: “It is an expression of the determination of Fellows to withstand the domination of authority and to verify all statements by an appeal to facts determined by experiment.” Since I am from Missouri (the “Show Me” state) I liked this juxtaposition by Russell Seitz:

“The Royal Society’s view of the conflict between authority and evidence is made clear by its motto. Nullius in Verba is Latin shorthand for what Harry Truman meant when he said “I’m from Missouri. Show me.” It’s a notion the full quote from Horace — Nullius addictus judicare in verba magestri — expands into the gold standard of objectivity: “Not compelled to swear to any master’s words.”
Russell Seitz in “Nullius in Verba

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“The secret of patience is doing something else in the meantime.”
Anonymous

Earliest cite (which is not attributed) is a 1940 “Valve World” page 207. I like this model of patience as mindful multi-tasking that allows a situation to ripen before acting (again). It requires you to have a reliable estimate for an appropriate time to wait before checking again and reminds me of:

“The success of most things depends upon knowing how long it will take to succeed.”
Charles Louis de Montesquieu (1689-1755) in “Pensees Diverses

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“Men who drive sharp bargains with their customers, acting as if they never expected to see them again, will not be mistaken. They will never see them again as customers.”
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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“Watson is not reasoning. IBM should say what Watson can actually do. IBM is simply lying now and they need to stop.”
Roger Schank in “Fraudulent Claims Made by IBM about Watson and AI

A scathing indictment of IBM’s misrepresentation of Watson’s capabilities by a seminal leader in AI and cognitive computing. More context:

“We were making some good progress on getting computers to understand language but, in 1984, AI winter started. AI winter was a result of too many promises about things AI could do that it really could not do. Funding dried up and real work on natural language processing died too. [..]

Watson is not reasoning. You can only reason if you have goals, plans, and ways of attaining them, and a comprehension of the beliefs that others may have and a knowledge of past experiences to reason from. [..]
I invented a field called Case Based Reasoning in the 80’s which was meant to enable computers to compare new situations to old ones and then modify what the computer knew as a result. We were able to build some useful systems. And we learned a lot about human learning. Did I think we had created computers that were now going to outthink people or soon become conscious? Of course not. I thought we had begun to create computers that would be more useful to people.

It would be nice if IBM would tone down the hype and let people know what Watson can actually do can and stop making up nonsense about love fading and out thinking cancer. IBM is simply lying now and they need to stop.

AI winter is coming soon.”
Roger Schank in “Fraudulent Claims Made by IBM about Watson and AI.”

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Close Triangles Valdis Krebs“The basic method of building community is network weaving. The basic skill in network weaving is closing triangles.”
Valdis Krebs

A key practice for fostering entrepreneurial ecosystems: introduce entrepreneurs to each other. See also

Network weaving is also called “network closure” and the person in the top diagram before closure is called a “broker.”

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“Design your business to have no big client, just lots of little clients.”
Derek Sivers in “Anything You Want

I referenced this in “Anything You Want by Derek Sivers.” This is a hard one to manage because it’s much easier to sell to existing clients, and to get trapped early on by a major client, so that you cannot contemplate their loss and therefore cannot say “no” to them. But the result will be that you have built is a job or a captive consulting shop and not a long term viable business.

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Wife: What’s the biggest casino in the world?
Me: Silicon Valley
Ed Weissman (@edw519)

This reminds me of Tracy Kidder’s “pinball” analogy in “The Soul of the New Machine.” Most engineers play for a “free game,” a chance to work on the next product and play the game again.

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“The love of economy is the root of all virtue.”
George Bernard Shaw in Maxim for Revolutionists

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“Count no day lost in which you waited your turn, took only your share and sought advantage over no one.”
Robert Brault

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“Watching my career explode on the launchpad caused some soul searching.”
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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“Experience precedes technical knowledge. Words can only represent actions, ideas, experiences.”
Timothy Gallwey in “The Inner Game of Tennis

“Verbal instruction to someone without relevant experience lives disconnected in the mind.”
Timothy Gallwey in “The Inner Game of Tennis

“Too many instructions seriously compromises access natural learning processes.”
Timothy Gallwey in “The Inner Game of Tennis

I tweeted these three quotes based on this excerpt that I used in “Inner Game of Tennis for Entrepreneurs

“In the effort to understand how to use technical knowledge or theory, I believe that it is more important to recognize that, fundamentally, experience precedes technical knowledge. […] Words can only represent actions, ideas, experiences. […] When verbal instruction is passed on to another person who does not have in his bank of experience the action being described, it lives in the mind totally disconnected from experience. […] If we let ourselves lose touch with our ability to feel our actions, by relying too heavily on instructions, we can seriously compromise our access to our natural learning processes and our potential to perform.”
Timothy Gallwey in “The Inner Game of Tennis

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“Bad founders buy into this crap.
Good founders rush to profitability.
Great founders bootstrap.”
Marc Hedlund (@marcprecipice)

In response to

“Bad investors ask about the founders’ school.
Good investors ask why they picked this idea.
Great investors ask about their childhoods.”
Sam Altman (@sama)

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“Details as they glide into view like a pack of werewolves emerging from the fog into the pale moonlight.”
Sean Murphy

This a series of tag lines I developed as variations on “Details as they unfold.” I would append this to an email when I thought a situation had suddenly become quite serious and required serious thought. I used this as an interstitial quote in Fred Brooks’ “No Silver Bullet” Revisited

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“Heisenberg’s Release Uncertainty Principle says you can accurately know what the software will do, or when you’ll get it, but not both.”
Steve Purcell (@sanityinc) October 13, 2015

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“Could you fax over a copy?”
“No, I can’t fax because of where I live.”
“Where do you live?”
“The 21st century.”
Matthew Hankins (@mc_hankinstweet

Hankins has a hilarious twitter feed.

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“Whenever possible sell your results not your time as a consultant.”
John Haprian (@fshapps)

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“For a hundred that can bear adversity, there is hardly one that can bear prosperity.”
Thomas Carlyle

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“Genius may have its limitations, but stupidity is not thus handicapped.”
Elbert Hubbard

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“Anyone can hold the helm when the sea is calm.”
Publilius Syrus maxim 358

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“Nobody wants constructive criticism; it’s all we can do to put up with constructive praise.”
Mignon Mclaughlin

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“Fear is the lengthened shadow of ignorance.”
Arnold H. Glasow in “Glasow’s Gloombusters

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“Oh yeah, it never reversed. It should have. You were accidentally put in the bad pile.”
Matt Cutts, apologizing for Google destroying Metafilter’s business in “Lessons from a Lifestyle Business” by Matt Haughey

Evidence that Google’s “algorithm” is more manual than automatic and will probably be a regulated utility at some point. More context:

“I woke up and the site was making half as much money overnight.

Matt Cutts, the head of Google’s webspam team, said, “Oh yeah, I think you’re ensnared in this update. I see a couple weird things. But sit tight, and in a month or two we’ll re-index you and everything will be fine.” […]

I kept waiting. For a year and a half, I waited. The revenues kept trickling down. It was this long terrible process, losing half overnight but then also roughly 3% a month for a year and a half after. It got to the point where we couldn’t pay our bills. That’s when I reached out again to Matt Cutts, “Things never got better.” He was like, “What, really? I’m sorry.” He looked into it and was like, “Oh yeah, it never reversed. It should have. You were accidentally put in the bad pile.”

excerpts from “Lessons from a Lifestyle Business” by Matt Haughey

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“The medicine for disaster is equanimity.”
Publilius Syrus

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

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