Quotes for Entrepreneurs June 2016

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Quotes

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Quotes For Entrepreneurs June 2016

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“Happy is the father whose child find his attempts to amuse amusing.”
Robert Wilson Lynd

And happy is the game designer whose early customers find his game entertaining. I used this in my Father’s Day 2016 post.

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“Prepare to double: have a plan for what would happen if the business doubled. ‘More of the same’ is never the answer.”
Derek Sivers in “Anything You Want

I referenced this in “Anything You Want by Derek Sivers.” For planning purposes this is a reasonable stress test for a business operating plan. Figure out what will break and what’s now possible with twice as many customers, with twice as much revenue, with twice as many employees (note that ratios between customer count, revenue, and headcount may not remain constant).

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“A buried past lives underground’
Frans Hiddema

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“In a theater, it happened that a fire started offstage. The clown came out to tell the audience. They thought it was a joke and applauded. He told them again, and they became still more hilarious. This is the way, I suppose, that the world will be destroyed-amid the universal hilarity of wits and wags who think it is all a joke.”
Soren Kierkegaard in “Either/Or: A Fragment of Life”

I think some businesses die this way as well. The founders don’t take certain risks seriously and fail to react to warnings in time to make a difference. Detecting the harbingers of real problems and separating them from outliers is a challenge. There is an inverse risk in the early market what look like the weak signals of opportunity can often be mirages.

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“The first handshake in life is the greatest of all: the clasp of an infant around the finger of a parent.”
Evan Esar

I used this in my “Father’s Day 2016” post.

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“Firgun: Taking pleasure in another’s success, with a good heart and without jealousy.”

h/t Ian Makgill (@ianmakgillMay 19 tweet More context:

“You tell your friend how much she deserves the prize she just won – and you really mean it. Or perhaps your coworker comes up with such a great idea that you can’t stop going on about how much you like it. What you’re engaged in is firgun–a vicarious, ungrudging joy for someone else or pride in another person’s accomplishments. The concept doesn’t have an exact one-word translation in English.

“It describes a generosity of spirit, an unselfish, empathetic joy that something good has happened, or might happen, to another person,” writes Israeli-born U.S. journalist Irin Carmon. Lefargen, to use the infinitive, is to make someone feel good without any ulterior motives or nasty thoughts. This absence of negativity is an integral part of genuine firgun.”

Shoshana Kordova in “Word of the Day Firgun: The Art of Tooting Someone Else’s Horn” (Aug 25, 2014).

I just learned this word today but I really like it. I think it’s an integral element of a successful entrepreneurial ecosystem.

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“Fame is a vapor; popularity an accident; riches take wings; the only earthly certainty is oblivion; no man can foresee what a day may bring forth; while those who cheer to-day will often curse to-morrow…”
Horace Greeley  in Chapter 18 “The Tribune” of his autobiography “Recollections of a Busy Life.” (1872)

I used this as the opening quote for “Memorial Day 2016.” See also “The Twisted Route of a Quotation” by PJ Thompson for more on the Greeley quote.

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“The only time you must not fail is on the last time you try.”
Charles Kettering

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“Watching my career explode on the launchpad caused some soul searching. I tell you all this because it’s worth recognizing that there is no such thing as an overnight success. You will do well to cultivate the resources in yourself that bring you happiness outside of success or failure. The truth is, most of us discover where we are headed when we arrive. At that time, we turn around and say, yes, this is obviously where I was going all along. It’s a good idea to try to enjoy the scenery on the detours, because you’ll probably take a few.”
An excerpt from Bill Watterson‘s May 20, 1990 graduation address at Kenyon College

I used this in “Overnight Success” and “Bill Waterson on the Real World.

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“Behind intimidating messages are simply people appealing to us to meet their needs.”
Marshall Rosenberg

A very useful rule of thumb for negotiations. I used this in “Fifteen Quotes on Negotiation.

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“Analysis kills spontaneity, just as grain, once it is ground into flour, no longer springs and germinates.”
Henri Frederic Amiel

Planning vs. improvisation, details vs. whole, things vs. people, judging vs. perceiving.

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“Remember not only to say the right thing in the right place, but far more difficult still, to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.”
Benjamin Franklin

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“No persons are more frequently wrong, than those who will not admit they are wrong.”
François de La Rochefoucauld

h/t Justin Warren (@jpwarren) Allowing for the possibility of error can do a lot to prevent it.

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how-does-health-psychology-measure-up-11-728
Slide 11 from “How does health psychology measure up” A critical look at measurements in health psychology by Matthew Hankins 16th September 2011. See Hankin’s blog post. Many of the same flaws afflict survey tools that attempt to assess entrepreneurial psychology (another branch of abnormal psychology to some, an effort to assess models of “positive mental health” to others).

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“The person who lives ethically always has a way out when everything goes against him; when the darkness of the storm clouds so envelopes him that his neighbor cannot see him, he still has not perished, there is always a point to which he holds fast, and that point is–himself.”
Soren Kierkegaard in “Either/Or: A Fragment of Life”

If you cannot be true to yourself in times of trouble you compound your difficulties.

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“A humble entrepreneur understands not only his virtues and talents but also the reality of his weaknesses and the limits of his strengths.”
inspired by #27 of Montesquieu’s “Thoughts”

Original version:

“27. Christian humility is no less a dogma of philosophy than of religion. It does not signify that a virtuous man must think himself a worse man than a thief does, or that a man of talent must believe that he has none, since this is a judgment impossible for the mind to form. It consists [8] in making us visualize the reality of our vices and the imperfections of our virtues.”
Charles Louis de Montesquieu (1689-1755) in “Pensees Diverses

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“Courage that can fear can take the road with safety.”
Publilius Syrus

Entrepreneurs are prudent risk takers, striking the balance between observation and action, exploration and reflection, tinkering and execution.

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“When a thing is funny, search it for a hidden truth.”
George Bernard Shaw in “Back to Methuselah” [online at Gutenberg]

An event that is surprising or funny often marks the start of learning. Isaac Asimov had a similar take:

“The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not ‘Eureka!’ but ‘That’s funny …”
attributed to Isaac Asimov

I used this second quote in “Market Discovery and Exploration Requires Models from Physics, Biology, and Psychology

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“Only fools mind appearing foolish.”
Mokokoma Mokhonoana in “Aphorisms for Grown Children and Childish Grownups.”

Whether you call it “beginner’s mind” or “newcomer’s eyes” if you suffer from the illusion of knowledge and are unwilling to ask basic questions it will take much longer to get to a deep understanding of a market or a technology.

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“Improving education starts with two objectives: one is to recognize that the goal is to get students to think like experts, to analyze situations and find new ways to solve problems; and two, each course needs to have constructive goals—a vision of what you expect that they can do when they’ve completed the course.

The way an expert approaches a situation is to fully understand it. A good plumber walks into a situation and goes through a thought process to identify what is the root cause, where is it leaking, and why is it leaking, before he starts pulling things apart. An expert identifies what needs to be fixed and what’s the least disruptive way to fix the problem. The same thing applies to a detective at a crime scene or an engineer trying to build a car or a bridge.”

David Cheriton in “The Goal is to Get Students to Think Like Experts.”

h/t Dorai Thodla (@dorait)

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“Self-deprecating humor is not a trick, it stems from true understanding of your foibles.”
Tom Peters (@tom_peters)

h/t Valdis Krebs (@orgnet)

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“Death in itself is nothing; but we fear
To be we know not what, we know not where.”
John Dryden, Aurengzebe

I used this as the closing quote for “Memorial Day 2016.”

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“What is now proved was once, only imagined.”
William Blake, “Proverbs of Hell in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell

While not everything that can be imagined is ultimately proven, an idea that is proven starts out as an idea or hypothesis, often triggered by careful observation and the willingness to inspect the obvious–in retrospect–hiding in the everyday.

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“What is anxiety? It is the next day.”
Soren Kierkegaard

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“The art of writing history is the art of emphasizing the significant facts at the expense of the insignificant. And it is the same in every field of knowledge. Knowledge is power only if a man knows what facts not to bother about.”
Robert Wilson Lynd

This is also true in interviewing prospects and capturing the essence of their concerns. You have to have a coherent set of hypothesis you are exploring, discard the 90-95% of the conversation that is not relevant, and come away with data that supports and falsifies your understanding as well as insights for refinements and new directions.

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“The younger generation is more in need of examples than criticism.”
Evan Esar

Which is a shame because it’s much easier to critique than offer a good example.

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“Anger is a signal that you’re distracted by judgmental or punitive thinking, and that some precious need of yours is being ignored.”
Marshall Rosenberg

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“TV is a couch for the mind.”
Mokokoma Mokhonoana in “Aphorisms for Grown Children and Childish Grownups.”

If you are not getting enough done in your startup revisit your viewing habits. I was surprised that I spent as much time watching Netflix as if I had read another 100 books. Not everything is a waste but it’s worth paying attention to.

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“Working hard for something we don’t care about is called stress; working hard for something we love is called passion.”
Simon Sinek

h/t Fred O’Bryant’s Quotations Collection, Volume 7

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“Centuries of success applying Newtonian models to complicated problems has fooled us into believing with enough data and hard work, the complex riddles of economies can be decoded.”
Stanley McChrystal “Team of Teams”

h/t Valdis Krebs

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“It is not the oath that makes us believe the man, but the man the oath.”
Aeschylus Fragment 385

Unlike a financial prospectus where past results of future performance, case studies and testimonials for a product or service, if based on actual results, do indicate the validity of a brand promise. A long way of saying “have done, can do” is a strong promise.

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“We are shaped and fashioned by what we love.”
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

One key is to let them find their own path as they help you find yours. See Things I Have Learned From My Children for more on this. I used this in “Father’s Day 2016

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“I’ve got a theory that if you give 100 percent all of the time, somehow things will work out in the end.”
Larry Bird

h/t Samuel Clemons (@Samuel_Clemons)

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“What you see, yet cannot see over, is as good as infinite.”
Thomas Carlyle

This reminds me of a line by the Oracle in “The Matrix Reloaded

Oracle: “We can never see past the choices we don’t understand.”

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“Nothing dispels enthusiasm like a small admission fee.”
Kin Hubbard

We found it discouraged multi-level marketing promoters, “no money down” mortgage brokers, sellers of healing crystals, and similar bullshit artists; but it encouraged bootstrappers to come to the Silicon Valley Bootstrapper Breakfasts.

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“There are no foolish questions, no man becomes a fool until he has stopped asking questions.”
Charles Steinmetz

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“The recipe for making a proverb:
take one gallon of truth
boil it down to a pint,
sweeten with kindness,
and lay away to cool.”
Josh Billings

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“Silence is often a better response than anything you might say.”
Sean Murphy (from commentary in “Fifteen Quotes on Negotiation“)

Something to bear in mind during negotiations. Especially in reacting to threats, a long pause can do more to trigger a retraction or revised offer than your first or even second verbal reaction. Also, if you have made an offer or request wait until the other party responds: do not follow up and start to negotiate with yourself.

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“One life; a little gleam of Time between two Eternities; no second chance to us for evermore!”
Thomas Carlyle

Carpe Diem.

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“The great end of life is not knowledge but action.”
Thomas Huxley

More context

“The great end of life is not knowledge, but action. What men need is, as much knowledge as they can assimilate and organise into a basis for action; give them more and it may become injurious. One knows people who are as heavy and stupid from undigested learning as others are from over-fulness of meat and drink.”
Thomas Huxley

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“Research is an organized method of trying to find out what you are going to do after you cannot do what you are doing now.”
Charles Kettering

The full quote implies a commitment to constant improvement

“Research is an organized method of trying to find out what you are going to do after you cannot do what you are doing now. It may also be said to be the method of keeping a customer reasonably dissatisfied with what he has. That means constant improvement and change so that the customer will be stimulated to desire the new product enough to buy it to replace the one he has.”
Charles Kettering

Any new product or offering normally has to be enough an improvement over the current solution to convince a prospect to make a change.

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“A man sits as many risks as he runs.”
Henry David Thoreau in “Walden Chapter 6: Visitors

It’s interesting to compare the attitudes of employees and entrepreneurs, both are at risk for losing their jobs but each see the other’s approach as the riskier. I side with the entrepreneurs if only because I feel more control. More context (h/t Thoreau Reader)

“The old and infirm and the timid, of whatever age or sex, thought most of sickness, and sudden accident and death; to them life seemed full of danger — what danger is there if you don’t think of any? — and they thought that a prudent man would carefully select the safest position, where Dr. B. might be on hand at a moment’s warning. To them the village was literally a community, a league for mutual defense, and you would suppose that they would not go a-huckleberrying without a medicine chest. The amount of it is, if a man is alive, there is always danger that he may die, though the danger must be allowed to be less in proportion as he is dead-and-alive to begin with. A man sits as many risks as he runs.”
Thoreau in “Walden Chapter 6: Visitors

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