Quotes for Entrepreneurs–May 2017

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Quotes

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–May 2017

“My rule always was to do the business of the day in the day.”
Duke of Wellington

h/t Ryan Holiday (@RyanHoliday)

+ + +

“Doubt can only be removed by action.”
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

+ + +

“We should be careful to get out of an experience only the wisdom that is in it—and stop there; lest we be like the cat that sits down on a hot stove-lid. She will never sit down on a hot stove-lid again—and that is well; but also she will never sit down on a cold one any more.
Mark Twain in Chap XI of “Following the Equator

+ + +

“When Life looks like Easy Street,
There is danger at your door.”
Robert Hunter (Grateful Dead) in “Uncle John’s Band

+ + +

“Human beings augmented by other human beings is more important than human beings augmented by technology.”
Esko Kilpi (@EskoKilpi)

Software is a just a vehicle for humans to augment other humans.

+ + +

“Testers don’t break your code,
they break your illusions about the code.”
James Bach

h/t Maaret Pyhäjärvi An MVP can break your illusions about the market.

+ + +

“In everything, work leads to experience and experience leads to excellence.”
Daniel Desbiens

This is true only if you bring a “growth mindset” or a commitment to learning and self-improvement.

+ + +

“You can’t control your level, only your rate of improvement. Don’t try to be good, try to be getting better.”
Michael Mayer (@mmay3r)

+ + +

“If you don’t know what you’re doing, don’t do it on a large scale”
Tom Gilb

A reminder about Gall’s Law: “Successful complex systems evolve from successful simple systems.”

+ + +

“Integrity is not a conditional word. It doesn’t blow in the wind or change with the weather. It is your inner image of yourself, and if you look in there and see a man who won’t cheat, then you know he never will.”
John D. MacDonald in  The Turquoise Lament

h/t Boat Against the Current. I find integrity to be a trait essential to the long term success of any entrepreneur. It’s much more important than know-how (provided there is a deep commitment to learning and self-improvement) or access to capital (which saves time but cannot rescue bad ideas or bad actors for long).

+ + +

The world is what you make it

Don’t start to hit me with your “no can do”
Bluesing, losing, working up an attitude
Clean up them windows let the sun shine through

There ain’t no happy time without no pain
heartbreak, new date, move on up the alleyway
Pick up them pieces hit the road again

Paul Brady “The World is What You Make It”

+ + +

“15 – If innovation is so important, why do the Big Three in EDA create market conditions that make it almost impossible for small startups to flourish?”
Peggy Ayecinena in “ESDA’s Big Four Panel: 20 Questions That Won’t Be Asked

This is a very good question. One answer may be Cardwell’s Law: every society, when left on its own, will be technologically creative for only short periods. See “Creative Forces” (1993 Reason Magazine article) for Joel Mocker’s elaboration; I blogged about it in Joel Mokyr on Creative Forces and Cardwell’s Law. It became clear to us around 2007 we had to move away from serving EDA startups because the market conditions were making it impossible for most to gain a foothold.

+ + +

“I’ve come to appreciate reliability, integrity, grit, and hard work as the necessary ingredients of long-term success. Everything worth doing is going to be brutally hard and take far longer than could be expected. Only those who treat people well, do what they say they will, go to work even when they’re temporarily dispassionate, and grind, grind, grind have a chance at success. These people aren’t flashy, or impressive, but their results are what everyone wants.”
Brent Beshore in Morgan Housel’s “Six Questions for Brent Beshore”

+ + +

“If you don’t do it excellently, don’t do it at all. Because if it’s not excellent it won’t be profitable or fun, and if you are not in business for fun or profit, what the hell are you doing here.”
Robert Townsend in “Up the Organization

I used this in “Combine Clear Goals with Delegation Based on Expertise for High Impact

+ + +

“Men are quite extraordinary: they like their opinions more than the realities.”
Montesquieu in “My Thoughts

+ + +

“If you need permission, its an indication that your experiment is too big or too broad.”
Esther Derby

Good advice for change agents.

+ + +

“This year will be harder than last year. On the other hand, it will be easier than next year.”
Enver Hoxha

h/t My Small Boat; this reminds me of a Russian proverb: “today is an average day, better than tomorrow but worse than yesterday.”

+ + +

“Politics is not an end, but a means. It is not a product, but a process. It is the art of government. Like other values it has its counterfeits. So much emphasis has been placed upon the false that the significance of the true has been obscured and politics has come to convey the meaning of crafty and cunning selfishness, instead of candid and sincere service.”
Calvin Coolidge in “Have Faith in Massachusetts

+ + +

“The biggest hurdle to innovation is a corporate longing for certainty.”
Marty Neumeier

I think founding teams that start with a focus on convincing investors instead of customers suffer from this same longing for certainty, thinking “if we can convince professional investors then our plan must be good.” This quote was originally collected in “Ten Design Thinking Quotes From Marty Neumeier.”

+ + +

“The lure of the distant and the difficult is deceptive. The great opportunity is where you are.”
John Burroughs”

h/t Caterina Fake

+ + +

“It is so simple to be wise. Think of something stupid to say, and don’t say it.”
Sam Levenson

h/t  Devora Zack used this in “Networking For People Who Hate Networking” as the opening quote in chapter 9 “the job search.” It’s a great book.

+ + +

“Those who oppose our purposes are not always to be regarded as our enemies. We usually think and act from our immediate surroundings. The better rule is to judge our adversaries from their standpoint, not from ours.”
Robert E. Lee in “Memoirs of Robert E. Lee” by A. L. Long (1886)

Always worth bearing in mind in a sales situation: there may be opposition to your offering from key players based on the impact on their situation. It’s better to see if you can adjust the offer to make it more acceptable (or less unacceptable) than simply viewing them as enemies.

+ + +

“Our software evolves by layering new systems on old, and that means we have constructed entire cities upon crumbling swamps.
Zeynep Tufekci in The World Is Getting Hacked. Why Don’t We Do More to Stop It?

+ + +

My mom recently told me on a road trip, “the seed doesn’t see the petal.” There’s so much work we’ll do now that will live on way beyond us.
Arlan Hamilton (@arlanwashere)

This reminds me of three quotes I used in “Entrepreneurs Plant Enduring Companies For Posterity

“A young farmer was urged to set out some apple-trees. – No, said he, they are too long growing, and I don’t want to plant for other people.  The young farmer’s father was spoken to about it, but he, with better reason, alleged that apple-trees were slow and life was fleeting.  At last some one mentioned it to the old grandfather of the young farmer.  He had nothing else to do, – so he stuck in some trees.  He lived long enough to drink barrels of cider made from the apples that grew on those trees.”
Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. from “The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table

“And if you ask a farmer, however old, for whom he is planting, he will unhesitatingly reply, “For the immortal gods, who have willed not only that I should receive these blessings from my ancestors, but also that I should hand them on to posterity.”
Cicero “Cato the Elder on Old Age

There are at least two kinds of games. One could be called finite, the other infinite. A finite game is played for the purpose of winning, an infinite game for the purpose of continuing the play.
James Carse in “Finite and Infinite Games

+ + +

“The most powerful technique for innovation is conversation”
Michael Harlick (@MikeHarklick)

Especially when you listen and observe carefully.

+ + +

“Don’t ask customers what they think of your idea.
Measure what they do.”
Ash Maurya in BootStart Manifesto

I think it helps to have a conversation and pay attention to customer intuition and perceptions. But I agree that you must measure–what the customer agrees are important outcomes or results. Jakob Nielsen said something very similar 15 years earlier but it’s incomplete advice:

“Pay attention to what users do, not what they say. Self-reported claims are unreliable, as are user speculations about future behavior. Users do not know what they want.”
Jakob Nielsen “First Law of Usability: Don’t Listen to Users” (Aug-5-2001)

For complex tasks (for prepared vs. casual use) the customer’s cognitive model of the problem is important and cannot always be inferred from behavior or artifacts. You have to have conversations. I think the key mistakes are trying to substitute surveys for conversation and asking users to predict future needs instead of asking them to explain current practice and their perception of the problem.

+ + +

It’s not fail fast:

  1. Break your big ideas or strategies into small, fast, additive experiments.
  2. Use staged rollouts to implement your ideas from small to large scale.
  3. Double-down on good ideas, and silently discard your bad ideas.

Ash Maurya in BootStart Manifesto

This is a good list, if I had to add one item I would suggest that you prioritize the experiments to address key risk items related to feasibility or desirability.

+ + +

“There might be someone so successful, you wouldn’t know it.”
William Stafford

Humility and a view of leadership as service can dramatically improve your effectiveness but may lead to a lower profile. Robert Woodruff observed that you can accomplish almost anything if you don’t have to get the credit.

+ + +

“Self-respect is robust…some wealthy people are robust–but you just don’t hear about them because they are not socialites, live next door, and drink Arak baladi not Veuve Cliquot.”
Nassim Nicholas Taleb in “Commencement Address, American University in Beirut, 2016

(also archived at http://archive.is/fLqeK h/t http://www.contravex.com/2017/01/05/a-quick-trick-to-save-medium-articles-before-they-go-bye-bye/). The “live next door” seems to be an echo of “The Millionaire Next Door” by Thomas J. Stanley.

+ + +

“If one has not read the newspapers for some months and then reads them all together, one sees, as one never saw before, how much time is wasted with this kind of literature.”
Goethe in Maxims and Reflections

+ + +

“Customer interviews are about exploring what you don’t know you don’t know.”
Ash Maurya (@ashmaurya)

Only if you are alert to your ignorance: surprise is a marker for learning but entrepreneurs can reject as noise. I have blogged about the importance of recognize and acting on your surprise a couple of times:

+ + +

“Working on an easy task when you are capable of a hard one is a particularly insidious form of procrastination.”
Aaron Haspel  in “Everything

+ + +

“Learning is about being a practitioner, not just knowing about practice.”
Mel Chua in “Being As Well as Knowing

Just as the ability to quote scripture does not make you a Christian,  there is a big difference between memorizing models of entrepreneurship and acting like an entrepreneur. This is why I believe entrepreneurs don’t need a movement but a community of practice.

+ + +

“All the business of war, and indeed all the business of life, is to endeavor to find out what you don’t know by what you do; that’s what I called ‘guessing what was at the other side of the hill.'”
Duke of Wellington in a conversation with John Croker (4 September 1852; recounted in “Croker Papers”)

+ + +

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