Quotes for Entrepreneurs–March 2017

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Quotes, skmurphy

I collect quotes for entrepreneurs from a variety of sources and tweet them on @skmurphy about once a day where you can get them hot off the mojo wire. At the end of each month I curate them in a blog post that adds commentary and may contain a longer passage from the same source for context. Please enter your E-mail address if you would like have new blog posts sent to you.


Quotes for Entrepreneurs–March 2017

I am quoting myself a lot this month, recycling commentary from older posts and replies to tweets. I resemble James Geary  in this regard, who says, “I practice the ‘spontaneous combustion’ method of composition; that is, the aphorisms spontaneously occur in longer stretches of text.This is in contrast to the “deliberate composition” method, whereby an author deliberately sits down to write aphorisms and consciously works on individual lines to that end.”

+ + +

“18. Long continued prosperity sometimes vanishes in a moment, as the heat of summer is ended by a stormy day”
Vauvenargues in “Reflections and Maxims” (1746) [Archive.org]

+ + +

“I find conversations get much more real when the glint from the sharp edge of disaster is clearly visible on the road ahead.”
Sean Murphy in “Beston Jack Abrams: Recognize and Act On The Truth.”

Part of my commentary on this quote I collected in Beston Jack Abrams: Recognize and Act On The Truth.

“To the extent it requires a review of the status quo, adversity is not all bad.”
Beston Jack Abrams

+ + +

Things that make my heart sing:

  1. Pareto improvements
  2. People updating on evidence
  3. People cooperating in one-off prisoner’s dilemmas

Julia Galef (@juliagalef)

A Pareto improvement is a change that improvements at least one person’s lot  in a group (or an economy) without making anyone else worse off. It can also be applied to an element of a fitness criteria or figure of merit such that one aspect is improved without subtracting from any other.  To “update on evidence” (also called Bayesian updating) is to adjust your estimate for the likelihood of an event or a hypothesis based on new observations or data.

+ + +

“There are two questions we have to ask ourselves: Where am I going? Who will go with me?” Howard Thurman

Finding a supportive mastermind group and one or more communities of practice to “go with you” is the key to going far as an entrepreneur.

+ + +

“Nobody listened to reason on an empty stomach.”
Kin Hubbard in “Short Furrows

The status quo is always the most important competitor for your product–and your message.

+ + +

“Some people chase offense as if outrage were an orgasm.”
Diana S. Fleischman (@sentientist)

I used this the opening quote for “Beware Anger”

+ + +

Office Hours Button“A startup is the future struggling like a newborn infant to draw the first few breaths. Most days I play midwife and/or neonatal nurse.

Feel free to reach out if you are feeling short of breath.”
Sean Murphy

See also SKMurphy Office Hours For Startups: Set Your Own Agenda. This was originally  a comment from March 2016 Quotes for Entrepreneurs in response to

“If a fish is the movement of water embodied, given shape, then cat is a diagram and pattern of subtle air.”
Doris Lessing in “Particularly Cats

+ + +

“Corporations, in the name of efficiency, suppress variation by ‘getting all the ducks in line.’ To optimize productivity, they evolve highly refined and internally consistent operating systems. Payoff results as long as the music lasts. But all that streamlining and re-engineering limits diversity, suppresses self-organization and curtails a bottom up emergent response to disruptive change.”
Richard Pascale, Jerry Sternin and Monique Sternin in “Power of Positive Deviance

h/t David Gurteen in The Power of Positive Deviance

See also “Positive Deviance FieldGuide” (PDF) and “The Positive Deviance Initiative” I stressed the power of positive deviance for intrapreneurs in “Managing Change in an Organization: An Incomplete Resource List.” It’s an interesting argument that reducing variation below a certain threshold removes the “requisite variety” necessary to maintain effective control of–or at least to mount an effective response to changes in–the environment.

The twitter version: “Corporations suppress variation for efficiency, limiting self-organization and bottom up emergent response to change.”

+ + +

“Meditation is the weight room for the mind.”
Ed Latimore (@EdLatimore)

+ + +

“I tell you, my friend, all happiness depends on courage and work. I have had many periods of wretchedness, but with energy, and above all, with illusions, I pulled through them all. That is why I still hope, and hope much.”
Honore de Balzac, letter to friend Laurent-Jan, December 10, 1849

h/t “A Boat Against the Current: Quote of Day for Jan-22-2014

+ + +

“Measurement and imagination are locked in a dance they can do either badly or well.”
Marty Neumeier

I think you need intuition and imagination to leap away of a local maximum, a product which any small change seems to make worse. I originally collected this in “Seven Quotes on Learning and Measurement From Marty Neumeier.

+ + +

“I was a bit too leisurely…I was busy doing something close to nothing, but different than the day before.”
Prince from lyrics to Raspberry Beret

I heard this on the radio today and realized this was a great definition of entrepreneurial procrastination.

+ + +

“Doing things that don’t scale is a hell of a lot less exciting and way more grueling than most feel-good origin stories make you believe.”
Kyro Beshay (@kyro)

You are always doing things that don’t scale: every business has core activities by founders or senior leadership or expert groups that don’t scale: exception handling is what enables smooth operation the majority of the time.

+ + +

“Tell me to what you pay attention and I will tell you who you are.”
Jose Ortega y Gasset in “Man and Crisis

h/t Ryan Holiday (@RyanHoliday) More context:

“There is no doubt that the most important mechanism in every animate being is attention. For that reason I have so often repeated: ‘Tell me what  you pay attention to and I will tell you who you are.’ Well, then; standing in front of those monkeys in the Retiro, I observed that not for a single instant do they stop paying attention to their physical environment, the landscape around them. They are as alert to it as though obsessed by any change that might happen in their cosmic surroundings. I thought how terribly tiring it would be for a man to be so ceaselessly attentive to his surroundings, so held by them, so held by them. Man’s situation permits him to be more or less inattentive to what is going on outside in the landscape, in the world of things, and at times to turn the focus of his attention inward and direct it toward himself. This capacity, which seems so simple, is what makes man as such possible. Thanks to it, he can turn his back on the outside, which is the landscape, get out of it, and go inside himself.”
Jose Ortega y Gasset in “Man and Crisis” (Translation of En torno a Galileo (from a course given in 1933-1934; published in 1956)).

+ + +

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
Howard Thurman

+ + +

“Under Obama the United States has sustained a worldwide assassination campaign against anyone it unilaterally deems to be a terrorist, anywhere in the world, indefinitely.”
Paul Miller in “Reassessing Obama’s Legacy of Restraint

More context:

“While superficially appealing for its apparent realism and humility, the net effect of Obama’s counterterrorism strategy was to abandon any effort to achieve lasting peace and resign the world to a state of endless war. Under Obama the United States has sustained a worldwide assassination campaign against anyone it unilaterally deems to be a terrorist, anywhere in the world, indefinitely. Even setting aside the troubling moral considerations of this policy, the apparent economy of lean counterterrorism operations is undone when they continue into their third or fourth decade. And the United States is unlikely to burnish its reputation abroad when drone strikes are the most visible aspect of its foreign policy.

Obama’s policy has simply failed. According to a RAND Corporation report, the number of jihadist groups increased by 58 percent since 2010, the number of fighters more than doubled in the same time frame, and attacks increased nearly tenfold since 2008. By every measure jihadist groups are more popular, more widespread and more powerful now than in 2009. Libya is exhibit A of Obama’s efforts at a low-cost, light-footprint intervention.”

Paul Miller in “Reassessing Obama’s Legacy of Restraint

+ + +

“But today, computers trick people all the time. Not by successfully posing as humans, but by convincing them that they are sufficient alternatives to other tools of human effort. Twitter and Facebook and Google aren’t “better” town halls, neighborhood centers, libraries, or newspapers—they are different ones, run by computers, for better and for worse. The implications of these and other services must be addressed by understanding them as particular implementations of software in corporations, not as totems of otherworldly AI.”
Ian Bogost in What is Artificial Intelligence

h/t Chris DiFonzo for  a comment left on Philly Startup Leaders email reflector. As entrepreneurs we spend a lot of time obsoleting the status quo, but it’s always a good idea to pay careful attention to all of the affordances and context that a current solution provides. This is an especially complex calculation–and balancing act–for collaborative, social, or civic applications.

+ + +

Charles Isbell suggests two features necessary before a system deserves the name AI: it must learn over time in response to changes in its environment and what it learns to do should be interesting enough that it takes humans some effort to learn. For Isbell, “true” AI requires that the computer program or machine exhibit self-governance, surprise, and novelty.”
Ian Bogost in What is Artificial Intelligence

+ + +

“Mental effort dwarfs all other costs.”
Aaron Haspel  in “Everything

+ + +

“You are most likely to slip and fall when things get too smooth.”
Leonid S. Sukhorukov

+ + +

“The Big Bang is not the beginning of the universe it’s the end of what we can see.”
Amused Chimp (@AmuseChimp)

True for many origin stories.

+ + +

“Entrepreneurs should not let their natural optimism discourage contingency planning: putting your pessimism to good use is key to success.”
Sean Murphy

My twitter length summary of “Constructive Pessimism.”

+ + +

“Four conditions characterize wise crowds:

  1. Diversity of opinion. “Each person should have private information, even if it’s just an eccentric interpretation of the known facts.”
  2. Independence. “People’s opinions are not determined by the opinions of those around them.”
  3. Decentralization. “People are able to specialize and draw on local knowledge.”
  4. Aggregation. “Some mechanism exists for turning private judgments into a collective decision.”

James Surowiecki in “The Wisdom of Crowds

h/t Nate Silver; this is a good test for diversity and decentralization of your own network. The challenge is executing an effective “scatter gather” supported by conditions three and four. You don’t want to make to many requests and you don’t want to consume a lot of their time with the overhead of getting feedback. This argues for assuming more of the overhead costs of coordination but many entrepreneurs resist that because it feels less efficient–for them. But this burns social capital instead of renewing and extending it.

+ + +

“The hardest part of the software task is arriving at a complete and consistent specification, and much of the essence of building a program is in fact the debugging of the specification.”
Fred Brooks in “No Silver Bullet

This is the beginning of a longer excerpt I quoted from in Fred Brooks’ “No Silver Bullet” Revisited

+ + +

“Our love of solutions forces us to keep company with problems.”
Brian Jay Stanley

Successful entrepreneurs collect and curate interesting problems in advance of finding applicable solutions.

+ + +

“Nothing is so common-place as to wish to be remarkable. Fame usually comes to those who are thinking about something else, – very rarely to those who say to themselves, “Go to, now, let us be a celebrated individual!”
Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. in “The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table

+ + +

“In a world of assumption everything is possible.”
Gijsbert van Eijsden

This is what Albert Savoia calls “Thoughtland” in his Pretotyping model. It’s why you need to get out of your BatCave and interact with prospects. This reminds me of this quote for entrepreneurs I collected in November 2015

“Thoughts are but dreams till their effects be tried.”
Shakespeare

+ + +

“Time itself is indivisible, every act is a blending of past experience, present situation and future expectancy.”
Sydney J. Harris

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

+ + +

“If you want success, figure out the price, then pay it. […] When you decide to be successful in a big way, it means you acknowledge the price and you’re willing to pay it.”
Scott Adams in “How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big

h/t Sumit Garg; I would reframe this as “determine the price of the success you seek and decide whether you are willing to pay it.”

+ + +

Ed Weissman (@edw519): “Imagine how much better things would be if we peer reviewed management decisions as rigorously as we peer reviewed code.”
Sean Murphy (@skmurphy): “Good managers do, they don’t make decisions or propose a course of action in a vacuum.”

Twitter exchange.

+ + +

“If you discover only one pearl, do not change it for a box of marbles.”
Daniel Desbiens

+ + +

“I am enough of an artist to draw freely upon my imagination. Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.”
Albert Einstein in “What Life Means  to Einstein” an interview with George Sylvester Viereck,” for the October 26, 1929 issue of The Saturday Evening Post.

h/t David Gurteen; more context

“I believe in intuition and inspirations. I sometimes feel that I am right. I do not know that I am. When two expeditions of scientists, financed by the Royal Academy, went forth to test my theory of relativity, I was convinced that their conclusions would tally with my hypothesis. I was not surprised when the eclipse of May 29, 1919, confirmed my intuitions. I would have been surprised if I had been wrong.”

“Then you trust more to your imagination than to your knowledge?”

“I am enough of an artist to draw freely upon my imagination. Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.”

Albert Einstein in “What Life Means  to Einstein” an interview with George Sylvester Viereck,” for the October 26, 1929 issue of The Saturday Evening Post.

+ + +

“It is easier to stay out than get out.”
Mark Twain in Chapter XVIII of “Following the Equator

+ + +

“It is the lone worker who makes the first advance in a subject: the details may be worked out by a team, but the prime idea is due to the enterprise, thought, and perception of an individual.”
Alexander Fleming

+ + +

“I would rather have questions that can’t be answered, than answers that can’t be questioned” Richard Feynman

This is the problem with opaque or illegible machine learning models, people would rather live with problems they understand but cannot solve than solutions they don’t understand and cannot trust.

+ + +

“The original purpose of a hierarchy is always to help its originating subsystems do their jobs better.”
Donella Meadows

h/t Esther Derby (@EstherDerby) who observed: “hierarchy doesn’t have to be about privilege. Reduce decision overhead and cognitive load.”

+ + +

“The dogs bark but the caravan moves on”
Arab proverb

Look below the surface for real drivers of change. There is a lot of brownian motion that can obscure deep trends and therefore real insight.

+ + +

“The one you crush today will hardly be able to help you up tomorrow.”
Daniel Desbiens

It’s tempting to win the argument but driving your points home too hard can leave you with just one less friend but an enemy committed to repaying every (lack of) kindness you have shown them. Think about how you would like to be treated when you are wrong

+ + +

“The ear is a better communicator than the tongue.”
Beston Jack Abrams

h/t James Geary “Even More Abramisms” You also sell with your ears: you must diagnose before you prescribe, and diagnosis requires that you listen and observe carefully.

+ + +

Thankless Work behind the scenes left undone yields disaster and headlines, completed yield smooth functioning

“Thankless work done behind the scenes yields smooth but unremarkable functionality, left undone it yields disaster and headlines.”
Jessica Hagy in “No News is Better News

Prudent hardworking carpenters who get the scenery built before the play starts may seem to make less of a contribution that someone rushing around as the curtain starts to go up but be careful what you reward or you will get more of it. Some fraction of good firefighters can turn to arson if there are no fires to fight.

+ + +

“An innovator creates and brings into use profitable new products, processes, services, and ways of doing business.”
Gifford Pinchot

+ + +

“It is a miserable thing to live in suspense; it is the life of a spider.”
Jonathan Swift in “Thoughts on Various Subjects

Or a child, or an entrepreneur, or a human. I think the suspense and ambiguity of the sales process is the hardest thing about entrepreneurship. This reminds me of two quotes by Mignon McLaughlin.

“Even cowards can endure hardship, only the brave can endure suspense.”
Mignon McLaughlin

I really like this quote, I have used four times:

“Try as we will, we cannot honestly recall our youth, for we have lost its main ingredient: suspense.
Mignon McLaughlin

I used this in “Picked Up And Moved Heavy Objects Without Getting Hurt

+ + +

“A manager is responsible for the application and performance of knowledge.”
Peter F. Drucker in “Post Capitalist Society

In contrast to pure financial performance. A startup’s intellectual property (unique know-how) and social capital are significantly more valuable than any financial investment.

+ + +

“Type I error: False positive
Type II error: False negative
Type III error: Answering the wrong question”
John Cook (@DataSciFact)

These errors also occur during early market exploration, customer discovery, and customer validation.

+ + +

“There are three things that return not: the spoken word, the spent arrow, and the lost opportunity!”
Arab proverb

An email I regret often combines some of the worst features of the spoken word and an arrow–and often leads to a lost opportunity!

+ + +

“Wisdom consists of the anticipation of consequences.”
Norman Cousins

+ + +

“Valuation:
Consider the past for trajectory.
Examine the present for stability.
Explore the future for price.”
Brent Beshore (@BrentBeshore)

+ + +

Trackback from your site.

Leave a comment

Quick Links

Bootstrappers Breakfast Link Startup Stages Clients In the News Upcoming Events Office Hours Button Newsletter SignUp