Quotes For Entrepreneurs–August 2016

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Quotes

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Quotes For Entrepreneurs–August 2016

My birthday is this month so a few more quotes focus on mortality. I don’t mind growing old–especially as more of my friends no longer have the opportunity–but I do meditate on it more often than I used to.

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“A man ninety years old was asked to what he attributed his longevity. “I reckon,” he said with a twinkle in his eye, “it is because most nights I went to bed and slept when I should have sat up and worried.”
Garson Kanin

It’s useful to think very deeply about a situation but beyond a certain level of effort or length of time you need to do some drifting and recharge. I think you need a mental circuit breaker for detecting an impasse and triggering activities that can lead to a change in perspective. I used this as the closing quote to Drifting 

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“It is a most mortifying reflection for a man to consider what he has done, compared to what he might have done.”
Samuel Johnson

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“America’s wealth is not an inventory of goods; it is an organic entity, a fragile pulsing fabric of ideas, expectations, loyalties, moral commitments, visions.”
George Gilder in “Unleash the Mind

I really like this insight and have used it in “George Gilder: Entrepreneurship is the Launching of Surprises” and “Ten Principles for Trust and Integrity from Adventures in Missions.

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“The lightning flash of misunderstanding”
Mark John Levy in The Workings of an English Jewish Christian Heart (1892) [on-line at Archive.org]

I am a huge fan of using your intuition but a leap to the wrong conclusion is not uncommon.

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“In a controversy the instant we feel anger we have already ceased striving for the truth, and have begun striving for ourselves.”
Thomas Carlyle

Also a good self-test during a sale: if you are angry or striving for “control” you may close a transaction but you are probably going to miss the “win-win” moves you need to make to create an ongoing business relationship.

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“The desire for everything to run smoothly is a false goal–it leads to measuring people by the mistakes they make rather than their ability to solve problems.”
Ed Catmull in Creativity, Inc.

There are related risks where a startup gets stuck in firefighting mode and is always solving problems but never getting to some kind of equilibrium operation and in carpentry mode where the team continues to build but never ships–avoiding fires and any kind of operation.

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Calvin: Look, a dead bird!
Hobbes: It must have hit a window.
Calvin: Isn’t it beautiful? It’s so delicate. Sigh… once it’s too late, you appreciate what a miracle life is. You realize that nature is ruthless and our existence is very fragile, temporary, and precious. But to go on with your daily affairs, you can’t really think about that…which is probably why everyone takes the world for granted and why we act so thoughtlessly. It’s very confusing. I suppose it will all make sense when we grow up.
Hobbes: No doubt.

Bill Watterson‘s “Calvin and Hobbes

My birthday is this month, it always makes me feel my mortality.

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“Life is a shipwreck, but we must not forget to sing in the lifeboats.”
Voltaire

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“I’ve learned so much from my mistakes…
I’m thinking of making some more.”
Cheryl Cole

t’s hard to learn how to fail intelligently but the alternative is either getting stuck because you are afraid to fail or making the same mistakes over and over.

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Caroline Kee ADD Projects
photo credit: Caroline Kee (@CarolineDKee) in “ADD: Distractions Come at Me” h/t Susan Barton

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“If you need smarter prospects, you need a better message”
Sean Murphy

A piece of advice I give more often than you might think, I decided to use it as a title: “If You Need Smarter Prospects, You Need a Better Message.”

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“Love truth but pardon error.”
Voltaire

h/t Justin Warren (@jpwarren) In “Forgive and Remember” [partial PDF] Charles Bosk points out the medical profession is quick to forgive errors of judgment but punishes errors that flow from the wrong values.

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

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“We usually see only the things we are looking for–so much so that we sometimes see them where they are not.”
Eric Hoffer in “The Passionate State of Mind and Other Aphorisms

h/t PJ Thompson “Seeing Things” This is also a risk for entrepreneurs in the early stages of startup, they can chase mirages; established entrepreneurs risk overlooking harbingers and symptoms of serious problems to come.

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“Retention is about customers realizing value not exploring a wealth of features.”
Sean Murphy

This is true for software demonstrations, customer interviews, and the deployment of new releases.

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“No single event can awaken within us a stranger whose existence we had never suspected. To live is to be slowly born.”
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry in “Flight to Arras

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“Operational Excellence generates your profits today.
Innovation excellence will generate your profits tomorrow.”
Gijs van Wulfen

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“Just as those who practice the same profession recognize each other instinctively, so do those who practice the same vice.”
Marcel Proust

I am not sure if entrepreneur is a label for a profession or a vice. See also “The Deformation Professionelle of the Entrepreneur.”

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“In some circumstances, the refusal to be defeated is a refusal to be educated. ”
Margaret Halsey

Interesting to compare this to:

“The people who say you are not facing reality
actually mean that you are not facing their idea of reality.
Reality is above all else a variable.
With a firm enough commitment,
you can sometimes create a reality which did not exist before.”
Margaret Halsey

The latter embodies the essence of innovation and entrepreneurship to visualize something new and bring it into the marketplace.

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“Cheapest, fastest, and most reliable components are those that aren’t there.”
Gordon Bell

True also for designing workflows and prioritizing tasks:

“There is nothing quite so useless, as doing with great efficiency, something that should not be done at all.”
Peter F. Drucker

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Logical consequences are the scarecrows of fools and the beacons of wise men. The only question which any wise man can ask himself, and which any honest man will ask himself, is whether a doctrine is true or false. Consequences will take care of themselves; at most their importance can only justify us in testing with extra care the reasoning process from which they result.”
Thomas H. Huxley in “On the Hypothesis that Animals Are Automata, and Its History” (1874)

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“If you knew how many times a startup would require a creative solution, you might pick an easier path.”
Sean Murphy in “If You Knew How Hard a Startup Would Be

Twitter length quote condensed from the opening paragraph:

A new startup is often driven by a desire for autonomy, self-expression, and lifelong learning. Or it’s a creative solution to a lack of alternatives. Albert Hirschman observed that “creativity always comes as a surprise to us” which led him to suggest “the only we can bring our creative resources fully into play is by misjudging the nature of the task.” If you knew how many times a startup require would require a creative solution–if you knew how hard a startup would be–you might pick an easier path.
Sean Murphy in “If You Knew How Hard a Startup Would Be

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“Generosity is a virtue for individuals, not governments. When governments are generous it is with other people’s money, other people’s safety, other people’s future.”
P. D. James in “Children of Men”

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“Spoon feeding in the long run teaches us nothing but the shape of the spoon.”
E. M. Forster

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

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“Artists do not retire, they die.”
Mokokoma Mokhonoana in “Aphorisms for Grown Children and Childish Grownups.”

I think this is true for anyone with a calling, e.g. doctors, lawyers, clergy, entrepreneurs, ..

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“My object in living is to unite
My avocation and my vocation
As my two eyes make one in sight.
Only where love and need are one,
And the work is play for mortal stakes,
Is the deed ever really done
For heaven and the future’s sakes.”
Robert Frost “Two Trumps in Mud Time”

This is my birthday wish for this year: to unite my avocation and my vocation, to continue to make my consulting practice a calling for another two decades or so.

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“You will not be too busy to die.”
Abbott Eliot Kittredge

More context:

“My friend, there will come one day to you a Messenger, whom you cannot treat with contempt. He will say, “Come with me;” and all your pleas of business cares and earthly loves will be of no avail. When his cold hand touches yours, the key of the counting-room will drop forever, and he will lead you away from all your investments, your speculations, your bank-notes and real estate, and with him you will pass into eternity, up to the bar of God. You will not be too busy to die.”
Abbott Eliot Kittredge from “Forty Thousand Quotations: Prose and Poetical” by C. N. Douglas (1917)

This reminds me of

“No one on their deathbed ever says they wish they had spent more time at the office”
Arnold Zack to Paul Tsongas (in 1985 after Tsongas diagnosed with cancer)

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“Nothing is as painful, or as necessary, as peeling off one’s own layers of self-deception.”
Andrew Shindyapin (@ph0rque)

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“Creating a life that reflects your values and satisfies your soul is a rare achievement. To invent your own life’s meaning is not easy, but I think you’ll be happier for the trouble.”
Bill Watterson in his speech to Kenyon College graduates 1990

I used this in “Bill Watterson on the Real World.” I was re-reading his talk on my birthday and was reminded that “the self is not something one finds, it is something one creates.” At least according to Thomas Szasz.

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“When you show up offering change, understand that the status quo isn’t the enemy of the bureaucracy, it is their entire reason for being.”
Seth Godin in “Bureaucracy, Success, and the Status Quo

I think there are a couple of tests to tell if you are working in a bureaucracy: process is valued over results, learning is not valued and in fact may be actively discouraged, and the focus not on solving root cause problems but in managing them profitably. Corporate bureaucracies may market pressures but government bureaucracies are harder to prune. Cardwell’s Law that “every society, when left on its own, will be technologically creative for only short periods” offers some suggestion on the value of national rivalries that stay peaceful (e.g. the Space Race). More context on the quote:

“Every organization or project that succeeds begins to erect a bureaucracy around that success, because keeping success from going away is a basic need.

When you show up offering change, understand that the status quo isn’t the enemy of the bureaucracy, it is their entire reason for being.

At some point, successful organizations stay successful by fighting off their instinct to support the bureaucracy. But far more often, people associate the bureaucracy with the organization’s success, as though they are one in the same, and work overtime to protect it from anything that feels threatening.”
Seth Godin in “Bureaucracy, Success, and the Status Quo

 

“Don’t see your qualifications as a sign to stop seeking knowledge.”
Mokokoma MokhonoanaConfessions of a Misfit

Or your age I suppose. In building on the last quote, our minds seem intent on erecting a bureaucracy around new thinking once we have achieve some measure of success, even if that measure is only longevity. The risk is to become someone who not only never forgets but who never learns.

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“If a man carefully examines his thoughts he will be surprised to find how much he lives in the future. His well being is always ahead. Such a creature is probably immortal.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson in his Journals 16 February 1827 entry

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“When you are a leader that is open to listening before talking, you hear information that would have been otherwise lost.”
Connor Gillivan in “5 Principles of Sound Startup Leadership

This quote inspired me to write Leadership Starts With Careful Listening and Observation.

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“Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway.”
Earl Nightingale

h/t Dave Horner (@DaveTwice)

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“It’s said that ‘power corrupts’, but actually it’s more true that power attracts the corruptible. The sane are usually attracted by other things than power. When they do act, they think of it as service, which has limits. The tyrant, though, seeks mastery, for which he is insatiable, implacable.”
David Brin in “The Postman

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“The merit rating rewards people that conform to the system. It does not reward attempts to improve the system.”
W. Edwards Deming in “The Merit System”

h/t The Ideal of a Performance Rating to Capture Merit is Alluring by John Hunter

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“Not ignorance, but ignorance of ignorance, is the death of knowledge.”
Alfred North Whitehead

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“Resting on your laurels is as dangerous as resting when hiking through snow. You doze off and die in your sleep.”
Ludwig Wittgenstein

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“Man is least himself when he talks in his own person.
Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.”
Oscar Wilde, The Critic as Artist

I used this in “Seven Best Insights From StartupLJackson on Startups” and “Hard Drive: Seven Practices I Used to Launch a Successful Startup.”

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“As a rule, theory does not precede practice. Its role is to structure and codify already proven practice. Its role is to convert the isolated and “atypical” from exception to “rule” and “system,” and therefore into something that can be learned and taught and, above all, into something that can be generally applied. Theory organizes the new realities; it rarely creates them.”
Peter F. Drucker in “The New Realities” (preface to revised edition 2003)

Careful observation followed by tinkering and experimentation enables empirical approaches such as recipes and heuristics, these are subsequently refined into theories and rules and systems. One area where theory can precede breakthrough is the application of existing theory into related fields yet to re-organize around them: there is a very large difference between “it’s never been done before” and “it works over there but it has not been tried here.”

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“Every great movement must experience three stages: ridicule, discussion, adoption.”
John Stuart Mill

Open quote in chapter 2 “brewing trouble” of “Innovation and its Enemies” by Calestous Juma

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“I was thinking about ecological computing. […] Pretty soon we’re going to have to grow software, and we should start learning how to do that. We should have software that won’t break when something is wrong with it. As a friend of mine once said, if you try to make a Boeing 747 six inches longer, you have a problem; but a baby gets six inches longer ten or more times during its life, and you never have to take it down for maintenance.”
Alan Kay in “Kay + Hillis” (Wired Jan-1-1994)

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“It is difficult for one who has enjoyed uninterrupted good fortune to have a due reverence for virtue.”
Cicero

I like this, it reminds me of

“It’s hard to detect good luck–it looks so much like something you’ve earned.”
Frank A. Clark

and this:

“If you have things right in your life
but do not know why,
You are just lucky, and you will not move
in the little ways that encourage good fortune. ”
William Edgar Stafford  in “The Little Ways That Encourage Good Fortune”

I used the latter two quotes in “The Lucky And The Wise

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“Man is a tool-using Animal…. Nowhere do you find him without tools; without tools he is nothing, with tools he is all.”
Thomas Carlyle

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

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“Death twitches my ear. ‘Live,’ he says; ‘I am coming.'”
Virgil (70-19 BC) “Copa” (The Female Inn Keeper) last line.

See also the “glass is already broken” insight from “Thanksgiving 2011.”

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“The deepest definition of youth is life as yet untouched by tragedy.”
Alfred North Whitehead

This is also the difference between a business plan presented for funding and an operating plan to run the business, the latter is mindful of the possibilities of tragedy and how to mitigate and recover from them.

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