Quotes for Entrepreneurs–July 2016

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Quotes, skmurphy

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Quotes For Entrepreneurs–July 2016

A mixed bag for the start of the second half of 2016, several quotes from Bill Watterson, author of the Calvin and Hobbes comic which contributes some, but most are from his May 20, 1990 graduation address at Kenyon College where he talks candidly about the realities of entrepreneurship. His latest book is “Exploring Calvin and Hobbes” where he observes:  “A comic strip, like anything else, has a natural life span. Art has to keep moving and discovering to stay alive, the last few years of the strip, and especially the Sundays, are the work I am the most proud of. This was as close as I could get to my vision of what a comic strip should be.” His most extensive interview prior to “Exploring Calvin and Hobbes was in “The Comics Journal” in March of 1989, roughly in the middle of his ten year run with the strip that ended in December of 1995.

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“Why is the human skull as dense as it is? Nowadays we can send a message around the world in one-seventh of a second, but it takes years to drive an idea through a quarter-inch of human skull.”
Charles Kettering

I used this in “If You Need Smarter Prospects, You Need a Better Message” The first half of my career was spent in semiconductors and networking, I helped people send messages around the world, now I work on getting new ideas adopted.

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Caroline Kee ADD Story

“If you have ADD your train of thought as you tell a story can get a little confusing for others.”
Caroline Kee (@CarolineDKee) in “ADD: Distractions Come at Me

h/t Susan Barton. My business partners struggle with Attention Surplus Disorder and sometimes confuse my crisp explanation of how I arrived at a conclusion with pointless rambling that wanders into outer space and under the sea.

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“Yes, I’ve heard that Thomas Edison failed 10,000 times before he invented the light bulb. However, he was a both genius and self-employed.”
Management Speak (@managerspeak)

A common failing of efforts to spark internal innovation: they reward success not learning.

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“There is no such thing as an overnight success. Most of us discover where we are headed when we arrive: we turn around and say, this is where I was going all along.”
Bill Watterson in his May 20, 1990 graduation address at Kenyon College

Condensed from this passage:

“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.”
Bill Watterson in his May 20, 1990 graduation address at Kenyon College

I use the full passage in “Bill Watterson on the Real World.

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“One thing hastens into being, another hastens out of it. Even while a thing is in the act of coming into existence, some part of it has already ceased to be.

Flux and change are forever renewing the fabric of the universe, just as the ceaseless sweep of time is forever renewing the face of the eternity.

In such a running river, where there is no firm foothold, what is there for a man to value among all the many things that are racing past him?

It would be like setting the affections on some sparrow flitting by, which in the selfsame moment is lost to sight.

A man’s life is no more than an inhalation from the air and an exhalation from the blood; and there is no true difference between drawing in a single breath, only to emit it again, as we do every instant, and receiving the power to breathe at all, as you did yesterday at your birth, only to yield it back one day to the source from which you drew it.”

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations Book 6 Section 15, translated by Maxwell Staniforth

I have blogged about similar quotes by H Rider Haggard and Venderal Bede in “A Storm Driven Sparrow.” I used the first half as part of the closing section in “Lost Arts and Roads No Longer Taken.”

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“Real life is the final test.”
Nicolai Grundtvig

One of his educational mottos for Danish folk high schools as quoted in Robert Greenleaf‘s “Servant as Leader

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Calvin: It's hard to be religious when certain people are never incinerated by bolts of lightning.“It’s hard to be religious when certain people are never incinerated by bolts of lightning.”
Bill WattersonCalvin and Hobbes Nov-8-1990

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“In a time of drastic change it is the learners who inherit the future. The learned usually find themselves equipped to live in a world that no longer exists.”
Eric Hoffer

more context:

“The central task of education is to implant a will and a facility for learning; it should produce not learned but learning people. The truly human society is a learning society, where grandparents, parents, and children are students together.

In a time of drastic change it is the learners who inherit the future. The learned usually find themselves equipped to live in a world that no longer exists.”
Eric Hoffer

I like this quote and used it for my personal home page at Cisco (Ten Quotes To Help You Bring Order Out of Chaos) and “Quotes on Foresight” in 2006.  It’s been a decade and it’s more true than ever so I thought I would recycle it.

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“Failure is a necessary consequence of doing something new.”
Ed Catmull in Creativity, Inc.

A Kelly Strategy helps you to manage failure by sizing your investment to assets and level of risk / reward.

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“Engineering is a great profession. There is the satisfaction of watching a figment of the imagination emerge through the aid of science to a plan on paper. Then it moves to realization in stone or metal or energy. Then it brings homes to men or women. Then it elevates the standard of living and adds to the comforts of life. This is the engineer’s high privilege.”
Herbert Hoover in “Engineering as a Profession

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“The classified ads (and stock-market quotations) are the bedrock of the press. Should an alternative source of easy access to such diverse daily information be found, the press will fold.”
Marshall McLuhan in “Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man”  (1964)

Written when Craig Newmark was twelve, 31 years before he founded Craigslist and started to wreck havoc on newspapers by attacking a key source of revenue for them–classified ads.

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“Trust is the real currency of early customer relationships.”
Sean Murphy

An observation I made in “Tom DeMarco on Leadership, Trust, and Training” as a counterpoint to

“Always give trust slightly in advance of demonstrated trustworthiness. New leaders acquire trust by giving trust.”
Tom DeMarco in”Slack

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“The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.”
Ernest Hemingway

h/t Justin Warren (@jpwarren) Of course there are levels of trust in terms of disclosure and delegation.

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“The words “I don’t know” are the most important ones a leader can say because they open the door to learning.”
David Marquet (@ldavidmarquet)

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“Delusion may triumph, but the triumphs of delusion are but for a day.”
Thomas Macaulay

It’s hard to fool people or Nature for long, but you can fool yourself for years: hence the need to cultivate candid friends, good judgement, and self-awareness. I find meditation can help me detect self-deception.

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“The best preservative to keep the mind in health is the faithful admonition of a friend.”
Francis Bacon

I came across quote by Francis Bacon and thought it nicely encapsulated my earlier comment on candid friends as key to dispelling self-delusion. This also the value of joining a community of practice if you want to hone you knowledge and expertise in a particular area or discipline.

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“Life demands more thinking than remembering.”
Mokokoma Mokhonoana in “Aphorisms for Grown Children and Childish Grownups.”

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“I never work better than when I am inspired by anger; for when I am angry, I can write, pray, and preach well, for then my whole temperament is quickened, my understanding sharpened, and all mundane vexations and temptations depart.”
Martin Luther

I identify strongly with this sensation, but try to take care to let my work product “cool” before sharing it with someone “for their own good.” I think my anger counteracts some of the shortcomings of ADD but adds others. I used this in “Eleven Tips From Lynnea Hagen on Getting Unstuck.

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“In the space of two days I had evolved two plans, wholly distinct, both of which were equally feasible. The point I am trying to bring out is that one does not plan and then try to make circumstances fit those plans. One tries to make plans fit the circumstances. I think the difference between success and failure in high command depends upon the ability, or lack of it, to do just that.”
George S. Patton, War as I Knew It (1947), p. 116.

Vox 7 biggest problems facing science

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“Scientists often learn more from studies that fail. But failed studies can mean career death. So instead, they’re incentivized to generate positive results they can publish. And the phrase ‘publish or perish’ hangs over nearly every decision.”
Julia Belluz, Brad Plumer, and Brian Resnick in “The 7 biggest problems facing science, according to 270 scientists

It’s hard to measure learning, especially the value of a failed hypothesis, a successful prediction often seems more useful even when it may represent at best incremental progress. I don’t think the majority of problems cited in the article are new, and it’s possible we have created too many research labs that rely on government funding. I don’t know what correct ratio of grant applications to funding should be, I think if you were to peel back the success rate there would be a number of relevant factors and the funding for genuinely novel experiments might be below 1%.

I used this quote and the above commentary in “Citizen Science: An Open Source Model For Collaboration

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“There is precious instruction to be got by finding that we are wrong.”
Thomas Carlyle

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Release “off-track” thoughts. Write them on slips of paper or in an “ideas journal.”
Lynnea Hagen (@LynneaHagen) in “Stuckness.”

I find a combination of jotting down ideas on 3×5 cards and using a “morning pages” file very helpful. I used this in “Eleven Tips From Lynnea Hagen on Getting Unstuck.

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Calvin Panic

  • Hobbes: Do you have an idea for your story yet?
  • Calvin: No, I’m waiting for inspiration. You can’t just turn on creativity like a faucet. You have to be in the right mood.
  • Hobbes: What mood is that?
  • Calvin: Last-minute panic.

This “last minute panic” is sometimes called a charrette by architects, an all-nighter by students, or the “fertile void of sleepless nights” by entrepreneurs. Manolis Kellis has the full set of strips on “You have to be in the right mood.” See Cecily Drucker’s Startup Secrets for more on the fertile void of sleepless nights.

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“A Maine farmer was sitting quietly looking over fields and valleys in the evening sunset.  When he was asked, “What are you doing?” his answer was short and to the point. “Noticing.”
Richard Gilbert in “Noticing: Awareness as a form of prayer

Careful observation and mindfulness is a source of competitive advantage for an entrepreneur. Seeing something new in the mundane and the obvious has led many entrepreneurs to insights for a new products.

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“Like many people, I found that what I was chasing wasn’t what I caught. I’ve wanted to be a cartoonist since I was old enough to read cartoons, and I never really thought about cartoons as being a business.”
Bill Watterson in his May 20, 1990 graduation address at Kenyon College

I referenced this in “Bill Watterson on the Real World” where I suggested: Don’t take a job with a company that has very different values. Don’t do business with people who are shortsighted, greedy, or otherwise unpleasant. Don’t take investment  from people you don’t want to take input and direction from. If you cannot connect the dots between what you are doing and what you want to be doing, do something else that is in closer alignment. We all have to work for someone, for many people, pick managers and customers and business partners who respect your values.

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“An important key to success is self-confidence.
An important key to self-confidence is preparation.”
Arthur Ashe

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“Observation more than books, experience rather than persons, are the prime educators.”
Amos Bronson Alcott

That’s why I always suggest you start with observation and run a “measure-learn-build” loop not a “build-measure-learn.”

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“There’s only one person who can give you the permission you need to be an entrepreneur: the customer.”
Justin Jackson (@mijustin)

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“Education is a manufacturing process whereby raw materials called curious boys are turned into products called obedient men.”
Mokokoma Mokhonoana in “Aphorisms for Grown Children and Childish Grownups.”

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“In the brave new world of social media, no one talks on the record.”
Debra Saunders in “Nero Fiddles, Twitter Burns

Twitter’s “Trust and Safety Committee” is starting to look like the Star Chamber when it was used as an instrument of suppression.  I think many social software applications (applications that get better or become more useful the more people use them) we rely on today–Google Search, GMail, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc–may become more regulated in the next two decades if they cannot become more transparent. I am not at all a fan of regulation (nor any of @Nero’s tweets for that matter) so this is a prediction not a wish on my part. But they have become a significant part of people’s lives and do not seem to have enough transparency or a way to compel it. For a startup perspective on this see “Big Data and its Developer Fallout.” More context on Saunders quote:

“In the brave new world of social media, no one talks on the record. No social media platform discloses which actions specifically led to a user’s banishment. They give lip service to transparency, then hide behind their platforms and their doublespeak.

So when I asked Twitter why it exiled Yiannopouolos, I got a vanilla statement emailed by a spokesperson who told me nothing and did not want to be named.”

Debra Saunders in “Nero Fiddles, Twitter Burns

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Good products start with the line: “People need me to…” not “I want to…”
Justin Jackson (@mijustin) in “Why you’re not making sales

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An interesting exchange on an office hours call today

  • Entrepreneur: I want to make a lot of money so I can change the world. Also I have some expensive tastes.
  • Me: I also have expensive tastes.
  • Entrepreneur: like what?
  • Me: Paying for my children’s college without saddling them with loans.

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“The correct response to a world that is growing more complex is to delay specialization, not to advance it. People think, because it takes so long to be good at something and jobs are so complex, I need to specialize earlier. No. Start later. The fact that skill levels in sports is rising means you should start practicing one sport later, not earlier. Because the question of fit is more important than ever. You can’t tell if you’re good at something at five, you can at 12. Play seven different of sports between five and 12. Same is true of education and careers. Slow down a little—learn your larger set of skills and then you can hone in and specialize once you have that broad set of capabilities and know where your fit and passion lie.”
Malcolm Gladwell in “The Key To Success: Don’t Be Afraid To Look Like a Fool

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“I won’t be wronged.
I won’t be insulted.
I won’t be laid a hand on.
I don’t do these things to other people.
I require the same from them.”
John Wayne as J.B. Books in “The Shootist”

Founders must hold themselves to the same standards that they impose on other members of the team.

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“It appears that some folks do great things easily—that’s because we don’t see them struggle through the necessary preparations.”
Frank A Clarke

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“It seems plausible that dumb things happen because no one in the room wanted to speak up and risk appearing dumb.”
Matthew Hankins (@mc_hankins)

One of the valuable roles a founder or early employee can play in the organization as it scales up is to continue to ask basic (“stupid”) questions and see if a clear explanation is provided. For example, “Tell me the problem you are trying to solve” when answered with an tool, implementation, or description of the solution and not the problem means that the team is at risk of going off track.

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“We shape our buildings and afterwards our buildings shape us.”
Sir Winston Churchill

I used this in “Time Capsule: SKMurphy Profile at UnderTheOak” and “Kenopsia: Bare Ruined Choirs Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang” observing in the latter that our on-line collaboration spaces–forums, email lists, wikis, shared documents, shared folders–affect us in similar ways. The choice of platform fosters certain behavior in a community even as the members change.

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“Men have become the tools of their tools.”
Henry David Thoreau in Walden

Another one I originally used in “Time Capsule: SKMurphy Profile at UnderTheOak.”

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“Startups are first an idea: the entrepreneur’s challenge is to make it visible, to sketch the likeness of an imaginary business for critique.”
Sean Murphy

I tweeted this after re-reading Sketching The Likeness Of An Imaginary Business

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“And every day you’re in this place
You’re two days nearer death
But you go….”
Great Big Sea “The Chemical Worker’s Song” [video]

Startups can be as toxic an environment as any industrial plant: founders must pay attention to the kinds of jobs and workplace their decisions and management style is creating.

Colorants Industry History site credits “the ICI Song” to Ron Angel in 1964.

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“A speculator is a man who observes the future, and acts before it occurs.”
Bernard Baruch

An entrepreneur sees a possible future and acts as midwife to help it come into existence.

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“Change is the essence of life; be willing to surrender what you are for what you could become.”
Reinhold Niebuhr

I used this as an interstitial quote in “Kierkegaard: Creativity Must Master Dread of the Unknown” to counterpoint that in moving forward we always have to let go or leave behind something we value today for the possibility of something better.

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“A paper whose journalism appeals to only half the country has a dangerously severed public mission.”
Liz Spayd in “Why Readers See New York Times as Liberal

How do you detect your own biases on what you are choosing to read–and to write for that matter?

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“My own behavior baffles me. For I find myself not doing what I really want to do, but doing what I really loathe…I often find that I have the will to do good, but not the power. That is, I don’t accomplish the good I set out to do, and the evil I don’t really want to I find I am always doing…What a wretched man I am!”
Romans 7:15-24

h/t Amy Hoy in “Just F#*!ing Ship.” Reminds me of

“Our bodies are our gardens to which our wills are gardeners.”
Shakespeare (Othello)

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“A man who is in business must be honest or move frequently; and in my business, removal is inexpedient. It is cheaper to be honest than to move.”
Robert Eleazar Barton in “The Keeper of the Inn” collected in “Safed and Keturah” (1921)

I think social media can encourage locust like behavior where people can easily join a new group, broadcast their pitch and move on. It’s a high r strategy (or low investment / low trust building) that generates a very low yield from a large number of prospects approached.

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“Self-employment killed the weekend.”
Mokokoma Mokhonoana in “Aphorisms for Grown Children and Childish Grownups.”

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“Getting stuck can be caused by not knowing what you really want, or what type of person you’re committed to being.”
Lynnea Hagen (@LynneaHagen) in “Stuckness.”

Clarity on priorities is always energizing. Merlin Mann said it best in his Inbox Zero Notes, “We procrastinate when we have forgotten who we are.” I used this in “Eleven Tips From Lynnea Hagen on Getting Unstuck.

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“VTA is not focused on moving people where they want to go.
VTA is focused on moving people where VTA wants them to go.”
Mayor Barry Chang of Cupertino, speaking in Mountain View, April 12, 2016.

Comment left in “Scaled Back Bus Lane Gets Lukewarm Response

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“A software demonstration is
the presentation of the set of  specific capabilities
needed to solve a customer’s critical business issue.”
Peter Cohan in “Great Demo!

I referenced this in “Extracting Insights From A Competitor’s Software Demo.”

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“When we raise prices on our current subscribers, we invite them to rethink their decision.”
Mark Stiving in “Latest Netflix Price Increase: A Customer’s Perspective

 

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“Self-editing is one of the most difficult forms of self discipline.”
Austin Kleon in “Steal Like an Artist

To edit your own content means you must have a clear view of a target audience and their needs and wants, self-awareness of how your work will appear to them, and the self-discipline to conform your writing to their needs. This also applies to software that you write

Kleon uses “steal” for shock effect and defines “good vs. bad” stealing:

  • Good vs. Bad
  • Honor vs. Degrade
  • Study vs. Skim
  • Steal from Many vs. Steal from One
  • Credit vs. Plagiiarize
  • Transform vs. Imitate
  • Remix vs. Rip off

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“I never hear parents exclaim impatiently, ‘Children, you must not make so much noise,’ that I do not think how soon the time may come when, beside the vacant seat, those parents would give all the world, could they hear once more the ringing laughter which once so disturbed them.”
Abbott Eliot Kittredge from “Forty Thousand Quotations: Prose and Poetical” by C. N. Douglas (1917)

It’s been great to have the boys home from college this summer.

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