Quotes For Entrepreneurs December 2016

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Quotes, skmurphy

A collection of quotes of interest and use to entrepreneurs: these quotes for entrepreneurs were identified in December 2016. 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. Enter your E-mail address if you would like have new blog posts sent to you.

Quotes For Entrepreneurs December 2016

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“The shortest night of the year is Christmas Eve–from sundown to son up.”
William E. Vaughn writing as Burton Hillis

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“The absolute justice of the system of things is as clear to me as any scientific fact. The gravitation of sin to sorrow is as certain as that of the earth to the sun, and more so–for experimental proof of the fact is within reach of us all–nay, is before us all in our own lives, if we had but the eyes to see it.”
T. H. Huxley in a  Letter of reply to Charles Kingsley (23 September 1860), who had offered him consolation after Huxley’s young son had died some days earlier.

As an entrepreneur I strive to keep my goals and my actions aligned with a higher purpose. I try to create sustainable value for my customers, my employees, my partners, and the other communities I am a member of and therefore a stakeholder in.

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“The smallest good act today is the strategic point from which, months later, you may be able to go on to victories you never dreamed of.”
C. S. Lewis

h/t C. S. Lewis Daily Quotes (@CSLewisDaily)

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“Time, like a snowflake, disappears while we’re trying to decide what to do with it.”
Frank A Clarke

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“You probably can’t do more, faster.
You certainly could do less, sooner.”
Tim Ottinger (@tottinge)

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“Around computers it is difficult to find the correct unit of time to measure progress. Some cathedrals took a century to complete. Can you imagine the grandeur and scope of a program that would take as long?”
Alan PerlisEpigrams on Programming” SIGPLAN Notices Vol. 17, No. 9, September 1982

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“Local adaptation is necessary for any organizational change. So is holding to a new principle so you don’t get adapted back into business as usual.”
Esther Derby (@EstherDerby)

I think federated models that encourage the local autonomy of “loosely-coupled” units or “small piece loosely joined” are the best way to balance discovery and exploration with delivery and execution. The Swiss canton model and the United States model of state and local governments balancing the federal government enable a useful experimentation: the “states as laboratories” approach has proven it’s value and is a good approach for corporations.

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  • Tim Ottinger (@tottinge) Dec 1 : Observation-> question -> learning.
    It is ?/! at work.
  • Sean Murphy (@skmurphy): Observation -> question -> intervention/interaction/experiment -> learning.
    Seems to me you would have tinker to learn
  • Tim Ottinger: sometimes you do, and certainly it deepens learning, but sometimes thought experiments, math, sketches, etc will do.
  • Jay Bazuxi (@jaybazuzi): I greatly enjoy thought experiments, but I wonder if they make it too easy to accept false premises?
  • Sean Murphy: there is a value in thinking deeply but Albert Savoia developed pretotyping because everything works in “Thoughtland”
  • Tim Ottinger: Yes.

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“A client with a blank check kills creativity.”
Mokokoma Mokhonoana in “Confessions of a Misfit

This a month I would be willing to risk it. Any month next year also looks like a good time.

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“I have observed some common traits in creative people. They are able to totally focus on the problem or issue while at the same time suspending their judgment about it, or what may constitute a good solution. They tend to view the world as a wonderfully complex palette of grays rather than seeing it in black and white terms. They place no time pressure on their need to be creative even though their boss or client may have set very specific deadlines for them. They have a deep and unwavering faith that the answer, or answers, will reveal itself/themselves to them, rather than having an ego-centric view of themselves as being creative. Many view themselves as a conduit rather than a source.”
Tom Stirr

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“Consensus is no longer adequate for predicting the truth and bureaucracies are no longer capable of enforcing them.  This makes echo chambers inherently unstable without some form of interaffinity group cross fertilization and trading of ideas to keep them from become inbred and decadent. So who wants an echo chamber unless it is an open one?  Who wants an affinity group unless there is a door that club members can use to exit and enter?”
Richard Fernandez in “Suppose It Is a Black Swan

If everyone is in agreement perhaps it’s the wrong course of action. Reminds me of

“When all think alike, no one thinks very much.”
Walter Lippmann

Homophily can kickstart shared values but breeds blindspots. Groupthink, where all are afraid to express an opinion outside of group norms, has an equally corrosive effect on startups.

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“The more a feller thinks he knows the less money he seems to make.”
Kin Hubbard in “Abe Martin’s Almanack” (1911)

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“An Englishman’s mind works best when it is almost too late.”
Edgar Vincent,Lord D’Abernon

So do many entrepreneurs’ minds for that matter–including mine.

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“It’s ineffably sad that today ‘that’s academic’ often means ‘that’s irrelevant.'”
Nicolas Kristof in “The Dangers of Echo Chambers on Campus

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“To preserve mental resources, make low-stakes decisions quickly.”
Thought Unfinished (@unfinishthought)

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“Decentralization is not the goal.
It’s just a tool we use to achieve censorship resistance.
Censorship resistance is the goal.”
Roger Ver (@rogerkver)

Federated models distribute authority and enable experimentation, speed progress, and are resilient against failure.

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“There is a need for organized abandonment: the systematic withdrawal of resources–money, but above all, people–from yesterday’s efforts.”
Peter F. Drucker in “Managing in Turbulent Times

I used this as part of a longer excerpt from “Managing in Turbulent Times” in “Discovery, Invention, Growth, and Renewal.”

“There is a need for organized abandonment: the systematic withdrawal of resources–money, but above all, people–from yesterday’s efforts. […]

Every product, every service–external and internal–every process, every activity needs to be put on trial every few years with the question: “If we weren’t in this already, would we go into it knowing what we now know?” […]

The time to ask these questions and act upon the answers is not when the institution is in trouble. It is while it is successful. For then it is most likely to have resources allocated to the past, to things that did produce, to goals that did challenge, to needs that were unfulfilled.”

Peter F. Drucker in “Managing in Turbulent Times

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“I still think of myself as I was 25 years ago. Then I look in a mirror and see an old bastard and realize it’s me.”
David Allen

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“No one respects the flame quite like the fool who’s badly burned.
From all this you’d imagine that there must be something learned.
Recriminations fester and the past can never change.”
Pete Townshend “Slit Skirts”

This is a good time of year to look back and translate regrets into the start of new habits and new approaches for 2017. I find Romans 12:2-3 a good guide:

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment.” Romans 12:2-3

The trick is also not to think too harshly of yourself and your team, and to make sure that those things that hurt also teach.

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Winners say, “There ought to be a better way”.
Losers say, “That’s the way it’s always been.”
Sydney J. Harris in “Winners and Losers

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

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“He picked up the lemons that Fate had sent him and started a lemonade-stand.”
Elbert Hubbard

Source for “when life hands you lemons, make lemonade.” Be relentlessly resourceful.

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“You can learn many things from children.  How much patience you have, for instance.”
Franklin P. Jones

I remember holding my son in the middle of the night when he was just a few weeks old. He was giving his best imitation of a car alarm and I had no idea what was wrong. I asked him a few times in a few different ways but he lacked the power at speech at that age and I lacked the ability to troubleshoot these problems. Looking back it was a good experience that made me a better father but at the time it was stressful. I used this quote originally in Father’s Day 2016.

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“The way out of a rut is small wins”
Thought Unfinished (@unfinishthought)

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“Honesty consists of the unwillingness to lie to others; maturity, which is equally hard to attain, consists of the unwillingness to lie to oneself.”
Sydney J. Harris

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“Look up and not down, look forward and not back, look out and not in, and lend a hand!”
Edward Everett Hale in “Ten Times One is Ten” (1870)

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“Hofstadter’s Law: It will always take longer than you think it will, even if you take into consideration Hofstadter’s Law.”
Douglas Hofstadter

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“A genuinely creative career must like a milking stool stand on three legs. There must be accident, there must be sweat, there must be dissatisfaction.”
Robert Ardrey

More context

“I find myself frequently maintaining to any young passer-by upon whose attention I can force myself that a genuinely creative career must like a milking stool stand on three legs. There must be accident, there must be sweat, there must be dissatisfaction. That one must work hard is too obvious for comment here. That one must be endowed with native dissatisfaction is very nearly as obvious, for it is the engine that drives you: dissatisfaction with the world and the arts as you find them, dissatisfaction with your own best efforts to capture the uncapturable. What is not so obvious is the support which one must gain from accident, from those dispositions of wind and stars over which one has no control.”

Robert Ardrey in “Plays of Three Decades: Thunder Rock / Jeb / Shadow of Heroes”(1968)

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“Hope is more patient than despair and so outlasts it.”
Yahia Lababidi in “Aphorisms on Art, Morality, Spirit

Unless you do something stupid while in despair.

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“It is not despair, for despair is only for those who see the end beyond all doubt. We do not.”
J.R.R. Tolkien in The Fellowship of the Ring

More context:

“Thus we return once more to the destroying of the Ring,” said Erestor, “and yet we come no nearer. What strength have we for the finding of the Fire in which it was made? That is the path of despair. Of folly I would say, if the long wisdom of Elrond did not forbid me.”

“Despair, or folly?” said Gandalf. “It is not despair, for despair is only for those who see the end beyond all doubt. We do not. It is wisdom to recognize necessity, when all other courses have been weighed, though as folly it may appear to those who cling to false hope. Well, let folly be our cloak, a veil before the eyes of the Enemy! For he is very wise, and weighs all things to a nicety in the scales of his malice. But the only measure that he knows is desire, desire for power; and so he judges all hearts. Into his heart the thought will not enter that any will refuse it, that having the Ring we may seek to destroy it. If we seek this, we shall put him out of reckoning.”

“At least for a while,” said Elrond. “The road must be trod, but it will be very hard. And neither strength nor wisdom will carry us far upon it. This quest may be attempted by the weak with as much hope as the strong. Yet such is oft the course of deeds that move the wheels of the world: small hands do them because they must, while the eyes of the great are elsewhere.”
J.R.R. Tolkien in The Fellowship of the Ring

I used this sentence from the longer passage in my December 2008 Quotes for Entrepreneurs, inspired in part by the impact of the 2008 recession on Silicon Valley:

“It is wisdom to recognize necessity, when all other courses have been weighed, though as folly it may appear to those who cling to false hope.”
J.R.R. Tolkien in The Fellowship of the Ring

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“Whoever is abandoned by hope has also been abandoned by fear; this is the meaning of the word ‘desperate’.”
Alfred Schopenhauer
in “Parerga and Paralipomena” (1851)

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“463. “We can be fully conscious of our failings, without being humiliated at the thought.”
Vauvenargues in “Reflections and Maxims” (1746) [Archive.org]

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“Humans like to give and to receive without cheating or being cheated: we want to be part of networks of mutual reciprocal obligation.”
Bradford DeLong

This is my twitter-length summary of a longer passage in the essay that I used this as a recipe for happiness in my Christmas Day 2016 blog post.

“Humans are, at a very deep and basic level, gift-exchange animals. We create and reinforce our social bonds by establishing patterns of “owing” other people and by “being owed”. We want to enter into reciprocal gift-exchange relationships. We create and reinforce social bonds by giving each other presents. We like to give. We like to receive. We like neither to feel like cheaters nor to feel cheated. We like, instead, to feel embedded in networks of mutual reciprocal obligation. We don’t like being too much on the downside of the gift exchange: to have received much more than we have given in return makes us feel very small. We don’t like being too much on the upside of the gift exchange either: to give and give and give and never receive makes us feel like suckers.

We want to be neither cheaters nor saps.”
Bradford DeLong in Regional Policy and Distributional Policy

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“Most of the good things that have happened to me, happened by accident when I was trying to help someone else.”
Frank A Clarke

I felt this most acutely when I was helping my father-in-law come up with a plan for managing his myelofibrosis, a rare blood / bone marrow disorder. I spent a fair amount of time in on-line forums for people with rare blood disorders–many offered a lot of practical tips for managing the challenges of living with the disease–and reading medical texts and decoding words like ‘hepatomegaly.” It reminded of trying to read second year French or German, I knew many of the words but was still looking at least one every sentence. Trickier were plain English words that had a different meaning in a medical text (e.g. “differential” is not a math function or a gear in your rear axle but symptoms that are used to differentiate different potential diseases). He surprised us all by living after a decade after his diagnosis and dying suddenly about two weeks before Christmas–it’s more than a decade ago but mid-December still has an echo of his passing.

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Shooting a bear doesn't make you a badass. Feeding a polar bear while her cub humps your leg makes you a badass.

“Shooting a bear doesn’t make you a badass.
Feeding a polar bear while her cub humps your leg makes you a badass.” >
You Had One Job (@_youhadonejob1)

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“One of the most glorious messes in the world is the mess created in the living room on Christmas day. Don’t clean it up too quickly.”
Andy Rooney

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

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“When all you are trying to do is the right thing,
it isn’t hard to act, for you have no distractions.”
William Stafford

This reminds me of a question Thurgood Marshall asked, “What is the quality of your intent.” It’s one I am guided by in “Advising Entrepreneurs.”

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“The supernatural is miracle, and miracle is an objective phenomenon independent of all preceding causality. […]  For the indifferent there are no miracles. It is only the religious souls who are capable of recognizing the finger of God in certain given facts.”
Henri Frederic Amiel in his Journal

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“Epiphanies often take the form of a sudden realization that things you once took for granted are on the brink of extinction.”
Richard Fernandez in “The Last Headline of 2016

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“The things we fear most in organizations—fluctuations, disturbances, imbalances—are the primary sources of creativity.”
Margaret Wheatley

h/t Lex Schroeder (@lexschroeder)

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“Certain lessons cannot be taught, only learned.”
Greg Norminton in “The Lost Art of Losing

I think this is true for anything involving multi-skill integration (e.g. riding a bike). This to me is the promise of simulation and emulation (e.g. models of your business, wind tunnels, flight simulators, etc..).  One of my long term dissatisfactions with what  I have accomplished so far with my consulting practice is that I have not done enough to provide interactive models with adjustable parameters (so that an entrepreneur can not only try out different strategies but different base assumptions). When coupled with explanations these models would enable problem or design space exploration for deeper understanding and faster learning.

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“If Amazon wanted to stimulate creativity among its developers, it shouldn’t try to guess what kind of services they might want; such guesses would be based on patterns of the past. Instead, it should be creating primitives — the building blocks of computing — and then getting out of the way. In other words, it needed to break its infrastructure down into the smallest, simplest atomic components and allow developers to freely access them with as much flexibility as possible.”
Brad Stone in “The Everything Store

h/t Ben Thompson in “The Amazon Tax” This seems to match the approach Steve Hodas took to reinvigorate innovation in the New York public schools, force them to provide API’s for operational data so that startups could build a plethora of new apps for internal change agents to evaluate and refine. See Steve Hodas’ Lean Startup 2013 Talk Offers Recipe for Re-Invigorating Intrapreneurs

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“Few people complete their experience of an event until they have talked about it.”
Martin Langford

Listening is part of helping others understand.

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“Education is an admirable thing. But it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught.”
Oscar Wilde

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“Can someone show me the great products that were developed from survey responses?”
Matthew Gunson (@MatthewGunson)

h/t Dave Rothschild (@daverothschild)

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“Measurement is at the intersection of goals and reality: agreeing on what to measure and comparing notes on what is measured is an excellent mechanism for building trust.”
Sean Murphy

Inspired by Seth Godin’s “Shared Reality, Shared Goals

“The best way to persuade someone of your new approach is to begin with three agreements:

  1. We agree on the goals. We both want the same outcomes, we’re just trying different ways to get there.
  2. We agree on reality. The world is not flat. Facts are actually in evidence. Statistics, repeatable experiments and clear evidence of causation are worth using as tools.
  3. We agree on measurement. Because we’ve agreed on goals and reality, we agree on what success looks like as well.

All three allow us to enroll on the same journey, and to hold each other accountable for our work. Any other approach disrespects your partners and leaves you in a corner, without allies.”

Seth Godin in “Shared Reality, Shared Goals

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