Quotes For Entrepreneurs–November 2016

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Quotes

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Quotes For Entrepreneurs November 2016

entrepreneur emotional cycle

Kyro Beshay (@kyro Jul-31-2015): “Data from the first 4 months of my ongoing research.”
I don’t think I have observed a damping of the oscillations when I look back 13 years, or at least the sensation of “I’m a winner” is always followed quickly by the need to “shut up and keep working.” I used this diagram in “Discovery, Invention, Growth, and Renewal

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“What one knows is, in youth, of little moment; they know enough who know how to learn.”
Henry Adams in The Education of Henry Adams [Online at Gutenberg]

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“The central asymmetry of life is: In a strategy that entails ruin, benefits never offset risks of ruin”
Nassim Nicholas Taleb in “The Logic of Risk Taking

He makes an additional point that once your start to run risks that can bankrupt or kill you, you lower the threshold to make the same or riskier courses of action in the future.

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“I can assure you that there is the greatest practical benefit in making a few failures early in life. You learn that which is of inestimable importance–that there are a great many people in the world who are just as clever as you are. You learn to put your trust, by and by, in an economy and frugality of the exercise of your powers, both moral and intellectual; and you very soon find out, if you have not found it out before, that patience and tenacity of purpose are worth more than twice their weight of cleverness.”
Thomas Huxley in On Medical Education (1870)

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“Electronic Health Records: A vast uncontrolled poorly designed experiment threatens all health care”
Edward Tufte in a tweet on The Unintended Consequences of Medicine’s Digital Age

Tufte has proposed several design and methodology innovations for health records, two in particular are worth noting: sparklines to show  a summary of a variables history to provide context on the current state (e.g. blood sugar over last 24 hours or last six months of readings); the suggestion that patients bring a short written summary of their view of the condition that brought them in for a visit to save time and prevent items from being forgotten, the physician is still free to go beyond the write-up to ask questions but they are starting from a written summary.

Here is an excerpt from the EHR article, it’s worth reading in its entirety.

According to some experts such as Paul Berggreen, MD, an Arizona gastroenterologist, one reason is that most “EHRs were designed as a billing [and data collection] system first and a care record second.” Indeed, EHR vendors sell their products not to clinicians but rather to health system business leaders, who focus on regulatory and billing requirements. Not surprisingly, EHR vendors have developed their products replete with cumbersome check boxes and protocols to ensure data are available for easy administrative query and for billing purposes.
The Unintended Consequences of Medicine’s Digital Age

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“Technology today is the campfire around which we tell our stories. There’s this attraction to light and to this kind of power, which is both warm and destructive. We’re especially drawn to the power. Many of the images of technology are about making us more powerful, extending what we can do. Unfortunately, 95 percent of this is hype, because I think we’re powerful without it.”
Laurie Anderson in “America’s Multi-Mediatrix”

I first used this in “Time Capsule: SKMurphy Profile at UnderTheOak” in early 2003 and  then included it in an earlier roundup of quotes for entrepreneurs: “Quotes on Foresight (Understanding the Future)” in 2006.

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“Before you start working on something ask yourself,
“For long will what I am about to work on matter?”
Mokokoma Mokhonoana
 in “Confessions of a Misfit

this tweet led to an interesting exchange:

  • Larry Lang (@llang629) But then I’d never load the dishwasher again :-)
  • Sean Murphy (@skmurphy) in my experience loading the dishwasher is one of several daily tasks that constitute an irreducible element of foreplay
  • Larry Lang (@llang629) I’ve heard it said that a man loading a dishwasher is way more appealing than a naked man to many women. :-)
  • Sean Murphy (@skmurphy) It’s always dangerous to generalize from your own experience but I can only offer that I do my best work in the dark.

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“Perhaps one should not think so much of oneself, though it is an interesting subject.”
Norman Douglas in “An Almanac” (1945)

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“117. It goes against the grain of modern education to teach children to program. What fun is there in making plans, acquiring discipline in organizing thoughts, devoting attention to detail and learning to be self-critical?”
Alan PerlisEpigrams on Programming” SIGPLAN Notices Vol. 17, No. 9, September 1982

On twitter I recast this as “Learning to program teaches children how to make plans, organize their thoughts, pay attention to detail, and critique their own work.” Alan Perlis

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“You can invent alone, but you can’t innovate alone.”
Gijs van Wulfen

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“He jests at scars that never felt a wound.”
Shakespeare in “Romeo and Juliet

It’s easy to think you will avoid other entrepreneurs’ mistakes: the problem is that they look very different from the inside than the outside.

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“We don’t know who the hero is until the ship sinks.”
Kinky Friedman in an interview in Dallas Observer Nov-8-2016

I think there is visionary leadership and situational leadership. You need both: the first puts a plan together, the second–whose “stout heart breaks bad luck“–achieves the objectives even as the plan falls apart. An architect needs carpenters to implement the vision and firefighters to protect it. You need at least one firefighter on your team, maybe two, but without an architect and carpenters you will be limited to intelligently preserving the status quo.

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“Everything that frees our spirit without giving us control of ourselves is ruinous.”
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe  in Maxims and Reflections

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“It’s funny how many thoroughly honest people keep everything they find.”
Kin Hubbard in “Abe Martin’s Almanack” (1911)

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“They think that intelligence is about noticing things are relevant (detecting patterns); in a complex world, intelligence consists in ignoring things that are irrelevant (avoiding false patterns)”
Nassim Nicholas Taleb in “The Bed of Procrustes: Philosophical and Practical and Aphorisms

This reminds me of two other quotes

“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few.”
Shunryu Suzuki

“The accumulation of experience does not weigh people down; it lightens them up.”
Gary Klein in “Sources of Power

I referenced the Suzuki quote in “Dorothea Brande’s ‘Becoming a Writer:’ 6 Tips for Entrepreneurs” to point out that it has another, less appreciated meaning: a beginner, or someone who can recapture the wonder of a child, can once more see many possibilities.

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confidence vs. knowledge
Image tweeted by Management Speak It’s an illustration of Alexander Pope’s “A little learning is a dangerous thing.”

“A little learning is a dangerous thing ;
Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring:
There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain,
And drinking largely sobers us again.”
Alexander Pope “An Essay on Criticism.”

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“It seems to me, after a long life spent in study–and study means unlearning as well as learning–to be a student’s first duty to retain an open mind upon subjects he has not found time to probe to the bottom.”
James Bryce, 1st Viscount Bryce in Modern Democracies Volume 1 (emphasis added)

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“What all the wise men promised has not happened, and what all the damned fools said would happen has come to pass.”
Lord Melbourne  from “Memoirs of the Right Honourable William, Second Viscount Melbourne, Volume 1” by William Torrens

h/t “It Doesn’t Affect You, But It Does” Melbourne is also the source for

“The possession of great power necessarily implies great responsibility.”
William Lamb, Lord Melbourne in a speech June 27, 1817

I collected this latter quote in “Quotes for Entrepreneurs November 2015” (for more on this second quote see “Great Power” by Garson O’Toole the “Quote Investigator.”

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“Winners know what to fight for and when to compromise.
Losers compromise on what they shouldn’t and fight for what isn’t worthwhile.”
Sydney J. Harris in “Winners and Losers

Used in “12 From Sydney J. Harris’ “Winners and Losers” For Entrepreneurs

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Johnny Curran (@toughsmarthoops): what can I do for the next 60 days to become a clearer, more independent thinker?

Naval Ravikant (@naval): Read the greats in math, science, philosophy. Ignore your contemporaries and news. Avoid tribal identification. Truth above social approval.

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“The most important thing parents can teach their children is how to get along without them.”
Frank A. Clark

I try to do this by treating them as adults and advising them as candidly as I would a close friend. I used this in Father’s Day 2016.

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“To evolve means we’ve been listening.”
Yahia Lababidi in Aphorisms on Art, Morality, and Spirit

For an entrepreneur to evolve the business means listening at least to customers and prospects.

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“Science is, I believe, nothing but trained and organized common sense, differing from the latter only as a veteran may differ from a raw recruit.”
Thomas Huxley  “On the Educational Value of the Natural History Sciences” (1854)

Also listed as LXXVI in his posthumous “Aphorisms and Reflections.

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“Listen to the cry of a woman in labor at the hour of giving birth — look at the dying man’s struggle at his last extremity, and then tell me whether something that begins and ends thus could be intended for enjoyment.”
Søren Kierkegaard

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“Sleep is when all the unsorted stuff comes flying out as from a dustbin upset in a high wind.” William Golding

I used this as an opening quote in “What a mixmaster our dreams are for our memories.”

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“All over the world it is customary for people to wish one another a long life. this cannot be ascribed to a knowledge of what life is, but rather to what man is by nature, namely will-to-live.”
Alfred Schopenhauer in “Parerga and Paralipomena” (1851)

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“Life is a great bundle of little things.”
Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. in “The Professor at the Breakfast Table” [on-line in Gutenberg]

Reminds me that not only  “the Devil is in the details” but also

“God is in the details”
popularized by Mies van der Rohe but true origin is older)

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“For more than three decades, macroeconomics has gone backwards. The treatment of identification now is no more credible than in the early 1970s but escapes challenge because it is so much more opaque. Macroeconomic theorists dismiss mere facts by feigning an obtuse ignorance about such simple assertions as “tight monetary policy can cause a recession.” Their models attribute fluctuations in aggregate variables to imaginary causal forces that are not influenced by the action that any person takes. A parallel with string theory from physics hints at a general failure mode of science that is triggered when respect for highly regarded leaders evolves into a deference to authority that displaces objective fact from its position as the ultimate determinant of scientific truth.”
Paul Romer in “The Trouble With Macroeconomics” (Jan 2016)

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“Every act of conscious learning requires the willingness to suffer an injury to one’s self-esteem. That is why young children, before they are aware of their own self-importance, learn so easily; and why older persons, especially if vain or important, cannot learn at all.”
Thomas Szasz “Education” The Second Sin, 1973

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“How should we treat clients? Like people.
How should we treat employees? Like people.
Vendors? People.
How should we treat people? Better.”
J Wolfgang Goerlich (@jwgoerlich) in pinned tweet from 22 May 2014

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“Try using the urge to look at your phone as a reminder to become present.”
Aaron Simon (@Aaron__FF)

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“The essence of progress is anomaly.”
Steven Monteray

Or at least detecting anomalies that are part of a deeper pattern. The risk is apophenia: seeing patterns in random flux.

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“Every mountain has that one place when you begin to know that it is a mountain.”
William Stafford

Old entrepreneurs are better at spotting mountains but sometimes mistake foothills for the summit and don’t attempt them. Young entrepreneurs or those coming from a different background or industry often ask “how hard can it be?” They mistake mountains for hills or end up exploring in difficult terrain which summons–in some cases–creative solutions they didn’t realize that they were capable of. Failure is always an option which is why it can be best to find other ways to test the depth of the water some other way than diving in with both feet.

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“There is nothing as uncertain as a sure thing.”
Kin Hubbard in “These Days

I used this as a closing quote in Paul Saffo: Forecasting is “Strong Opinions, Weakly Held”

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“Our ingenuity far outstrips the wisdom we need to cope with its consequences.”
Greg Norminton in “The Lost Art of Losing

I used this in “Quotes on the Limitations of Cleverness

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“The most common form of suicide is by neglecting one’s talents.”
Kenneth D. Rotar

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“A number of porcupines huddled together for warmth on a cold day in winter; but, as they began to prick one another with their quills, they were obliged to disperse. However the cold drove them together again, when just the same thing happened. At last, after many turns of huddling and dispersing, they discovered that they would be best off by remaining at a little distance from one another. In the same way the need of society drives the human porcupines together, only to be mutually repelled by the many prickly and disagreeable qualities of their nature. The moderate distance which they at last discover to be the only tolerable condition of intercourse, is the code of politeness and fine manners; and those who transgress it are roughly told—in the English phrase—to keep their distance. By this arrangement the mutual need of warmth is only very moderately satisfied; but then people do not get pricked. A man who has some heat in himself prefers to remain outside, where he will neither prick other people nor get pricked himself.”
Arthur Schopenhauer in “Parerga und Paralipomena

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“It is the function of art to renew our perception. What we are familiar with we cease to see. The writer shakes up the familiar scene, and, as if by magic, we see a new meaning in it.”
Anaïs Nin

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“Predicting one’s fate is much easier than changing it.”
Bruce Kriger

Diagnosis and understanding the likely evolution is different from crafting an effective prescription or successful intervention.

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“Any organization that predates the Internet will be constrained by systems that merely replicate paper-based processes (e.g. “sending” files)”
Al Davidson (@drsnooks)

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“More often the miracle is what does not happen.”
Peter Yovu

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“Nature is trying very hard to make us succeed, but nature does not depend on us. We are not the only experiment.”
R. Buckminster Fuller  in an Interview, Minneapolis Tribune 30 April 1978

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“What if you could stun everyone into having the same good dream: that’s what a literary work accomplishes, momentarily.”
William Stafford

Good leaders can do the same when sharing their vision for the future.

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“Knowledge does not advance practice. Rather practice advances knowledge.”
Richard Pascale, Jerry Sternin and Monique Sternin in “Power of Positive Deviance

h/t David Gurteen “Knowledge and Practice” See also “Positive Deviance FieldGuide” (PDF) and “The Positive Deviance Initiative.” Positive deviance is a very important model for entrepreneurs to master, see “Early Customer Conversations: Use Appreciative Inquiry and Amplify Positive Deviance” for more.

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“Thinking of using ‘safe to learn’ instead of ‘safe to fail.’ Clearer intent without the mistaken impression we are trying to fail.”
Steve Holt (@SKHolt) Nov-11-2-16 tweet

Safe to Fail” comes from Dave Snowden’s Cynefin framework thinking. This is a much better framing of the need and the goal. You need to be able to fail safely to learn, but the goal is learning. Holt agreed: “Exactly. The goal is learning, not failing. But the ability to accept the risk of failing is a path to learning.”

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“Fail fast to succeed early.”
“Learn fast to succeed early.”
Curt Carlson in “Creating an Innovative Enterprise” (Slide titled “Many Unproductive Ideas”)

Video from his presentation at 2016 Drucker Forum on Entrepreneurship at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6pFk-42hpsI

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“Change breaks the brittle.”
Jan Houtema (like Tara Ploughman, another pseudonym for Paul Graham)

Change also breaks the fragile and bends the flexible.

Related:

  • Chinese proverb ‘A tree that is unbending is easily broken’.
  • (Aesop–Perrry #70) THE OAK TREE AND THE REED: A story about a reed and an oak, urging us not to rely on strength.
    A reed got into an argument with an oak tree. The oak tree marveled at her own strength, boasting that she could stand her own in a battle against the winds. Meanwhile, she condemned the reed for being weak, since he was naturally inclined to yield to every breeze. The wind then began to blow very fiercely. The oak tree was torn up by her roots and toppled over, while the reed was left bent but unharmed.
    Those who adapt to the times will emerge unscathed.
  • “In the fell clutch of circumstance
    I have not winced nor cried aloud.
    Under the bludgeonings of chance
    My head is bloody, but unbowed.”
    William Ernest Henley (1849–1903) in “Invictus

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“Use the word “project” and managers want to make bigger ones.
Use the word “bet” and we’d prefer to make smaller ones.”
Jim Benson (@ourfounder)

h/t Andy Carmichael (@andycarmich)

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