Quotes for Entrepreneurs Collected in September 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 to have new blog posts sent to you.


Quotes for Entrepreneurs Collected in September 2017

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“People who know become less brave.”
Daniel Desbiens

True courage is proceeding with a real understanding of the risks. I covered the realities of experience in “The Twice Shy Entrepreneur One Year Later” which noted that in 2007 the cautious were criticized for not being aggressive enough in an up market but in 2008 the bold were urged to be cautious in a recession. True courage is feeling the fear and proceeding anyway.

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“A great man is he who sees fast, far and true.”
Montesquieu in “My Thoughts

The flash of intuition that decodes the long term implications an event or new development rapidly and accurately is a rate and wonderful thing. Next best is the slow dawning realization of the long term impact. It’s often enough to see the next move clearly, live driving all night using your headlights. False intuition is common and worse than useless if it leads you to make things worse. Fast is also relative to competition and the evolution of commonly accepted wisdom.

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“We need to cauterize the narrative in technology that there is an inextricable link between innovation and being an asshole.”
Scott Galloway in Winners and Losers (Jul-20-2017)

It is the case that entrepreneurs and corporate change agents have to be willing to “leave the herd” and break with tradition. But their goal is to improve the businesses or lives of their customers–or in the case of the intrapreneur to improve the robustness and survivability of the firm they work for. There is a significant difference between breaking with tradition in an effort to make improvements and treating people badly. You can have a “full and frank exchange of views” without being untrustworthy or demeaning others. Strong leaders can still be kind and respectful.

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MOTIVATION is what gets you started. HABIT is what keeps you going. --Jim Ryun

“MOTIVATION is what gets you started.
HABIT is what keeps you going.”
Jim Ryun

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“Cheating is in the DNA of any company that makes its living selling consumables or service at extremely high markups. Their products treat customers as enemies, untrusted parties to be tricked or coerced into using only the manufacturer’s chosen consumables.”
Cory Doctorow in “The Demon Haunted World

More context:

“In 2015, HP pushed a fake security update to millions of Officejet owners, which showed up as a routine, ‘‘You must update your soft­ware’’ notification on their printers’ screens. Running that update installed a new, secret feature in your printer, with a long fuse. After six months’ wait, the infected printers all checked to see whether their ink cartridges had been refilled, or manufactured by third parties, and to refuse to print with any ink that HP hadn’t given its corporate blessing to.

HP is an egregious cheater, and this kind of cheating is in the DNA of any company that makes its living selling consumables or service at extremely high markups – they do their business at war with their customers. The better the deal their customers get, the worse the deal is for the manufacturer, and so these products treat customers as enemies, untrusted parties who must be tricked or coerced into installing new versions of the manufacturer’s software (like the iTunes and Kindle ‘‘updates’’ that have removed features the products were sold with) and using only the manufacturer’s chosen consumables.

The mobile phone industry has long been at war with its customers. When phones were controlled primarily by carriers, they were designed to prevent customers from changing networks without buying a new phone, raising the cost on taking your busi­ness elsewhere. Apple wrested control back to itself, producing a phone that was locked primarily to its app store, so that the only way to sell software to an iPhone user was to give up 30% of the lifetime revenue that customer generated through the app. Carriers adapted custom versions of Android to lock customers to their networks with shovelware apps that couldn’t be removed from the home-screen and app store lock-in that forced customers to buy apps through their phone company.”

Cory Doctorow in “The Demon Haunted World

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“Nexialism is the science of joining together in an orderly fashion the knowledge of one field of learning with that of other fields. It provides techniques for speeding up the process of absorbing knowledge and of using effectively what has been learned.”
A. E. Van Vogt in  “The Voyage of the Space Beagle“ [opening quote Chapter 7]

I used this as a section quote for “Jack of All Trades” and collected a variant in Quotes for Entrepreneurs – January 2009

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“More and more, your computer monitor is a kind of one-way mirror, reflecting your own interests while algorithmic observers watch what you click.”
Eli Parisier in “The Filter Bubble: What the Internet is Hiding From You

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“There are two things in this world that take no skill: 1. Spending other people’s money and 2. Dismissing an idea.”
Jason Fried in “Give it Five Minutes

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“Some people are called creatures of habit; I am and I suspect always have been a creature of change. Life is a permanent state of change and I am interested in how we (and our organizations) change ourselves and the world around us, how we can get better at changing, and how we can better choose and control what we’re changing into. I am fortunate to spend my days studying, teaching, coaching, and practicing change and to be able to share what I find along the way.”
Andrew Hargadon in “About Andrew Hargadon

I had the chance to hear Andrew Hargadon speak about a decade ago at a Silicon Valley IP Society lunch. I went in with low expectations and was blown away by his insights and the connections he made in a 45 minute briefing on innovation. One example of the power of “brokerage” or cross-fertilization of techniques developed in one industry applied to another: penicillin was not the breakthrough, it was ancient wisdom that molds could kill bacteria. The breakthrough was industrial scale fermentation developed for wine making applied to the production of penicillin.  His book “How Breakthroughs Happen” offers an excellent overview of his model: innovation succeeds “not by breaking free from constraints of the past but instead by harnessing the past in powerful new ways.”

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“We reject: kings, presidents and voting
We believe in: rough consensus and running code.”
Dave Clark in “A Cloudy Crystal Ball: Visions of the Future” (see IETF Proceedings July 1992)

I referenced this in a discussion on the value of “social process” in startups in “Fostering Technology Adoption: Early Customers and Early Revenue.

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“The art of true living in this world is more like a wrestler’s, than a dancer’s practice. For in this they both agree, to teach a man whatsoever falls upon him, that he may be ready for it, and that nothing may cast him down.”
Marcus Aurelius in Meditations 7:61 translated by Meric Casaubon, 1634:

h/t William Denton

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“The best plans start simple. A quick glance and common sense should tell you if the numbers will work. You don’t know what people really want until you start doing it.”
Derek Sivers in “Anything You Want

I included this in “Anything You Want By Derek Sivers.” A simple model with a few key parameters is easy to judge. You will learn more once you are in contact with the market–which is a fancy way of saying you are having conversations with and listening to prospects (and customers)–but if you don’t have a simple model you have not way to integrate what you are learning. It’s also useful to vary a couple of the parameters across what you believe their range is and see where it breaks your model.

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“People generally have good intentions, but we all have biases which are invisible to us. Thankfully, open and honest discussion with those who disagree can highlight our blind spots and help us grow, which is why I wrote this document.”
James Damore in “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber.”

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“The most difficult subjects can be explained to the most slow-witted man if he has not formed any idea of them already; but the simplest thing cannot be made clear to the most intelligent man if he is firmly persuaded that he knows already, without a shadow of doubt, what is laid before him.”

Leo Tolstoy, The Kingdom of God Is Within You

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If I were dying my last words would be: Have faith and pursue the unknown end.”
Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. in Letter to John Ching Hsiung Wu (1924)

We are all dying, just at different rates: so good advice at any time.

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“I can walk through the front door of any factory and out the back and tell you if it’s making money or not. I can just tell by the way it’s being run and by the spirit of the workers.”
Harvey Firestone

I have the same sense when visiting an engineering organization: creativity and teamwork foster a certain ambience.

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“Don’t complain. Just work harder.”
Randy Pausch “The Last Lecture [transcript]

It’s a very positive talk, someone trying to offer practical advice on living with his own death clearly in view.

He had told an earlier anecdote that sheds some light how his parents formed his approach to life.

“When I was here studying to get my Ph.D. and I was taking something called the theory qualifier, which I can definitively say is the second worst thing in my life after chemotherapy. And I was complaining to my mother about how hard this test was and how awful it was, and she just leaned over and she patted me on the arm and she said, we know how you feel honey, and remember when your father was your age he was fighting the Germans.”
Randy Pausch in “The Last Lecture [transcript]

Pausch’s father served as a medic in World War Two, awarded a Bronze Star for Valor for his service in the Battle of the Bulge.

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“Don’t find fault, find a remedy.”
Henry Ford

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“Imagine if cities put as much thought, effort, and incentives behind home-growing 1000 new companies w/ 50 employees as they have Amazon RFP.”
Nick Bowden (@njbowden)

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“I attribute much of my advancement and progress to the fact that I lacked capital. Because of this I had to watch every expenditure. If I had not known or experienced the situation of needing money–where I really had to do some close figuring–to start my business, it would never have grown to the proportions you see here today, because I would not have had to study its every detail.”
Harvey Firestone

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“History gives us a kind of chart, and we dare not surrender even a small rushlight in the darkness. The hasty reformer who does not remember the past will find himself condemned to repeat it.”
John Buchan (1875–1940)

This quote is similar to Santayana’s “those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Bartelby credits it to Buchan”in general introduction to The Nations of Today, a series of popular histories published in 1923–1924 under Buchan’s editorship. Each work contained Buchan’s introduction.—Great Britain, vol. 1, p. 12 (1923).” A rushlight is a type of candle or miniature torch formed by soaking the dried pith of the rush plant in fat or grease. For several centuries rushlights were a common source of artificial light for poor people throughout the British Isles.

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“It is immensely moving when a mature man–no matter whether old or young in years–is aware of a responsibility for the consequences of his conduct and really feels such responsibility with heart and soul. He then acts by following an ethic of responsibility and somewhere he reaches the point where he says: ‘Here I stand; I can do no other.’ That is something genuinely human and moving. And every one of us who is not spiritually dead must realize the possibility of finding himself at some time in that position. In so far as this is true, an ethic of ultimate ends and an ethic of responsibility are not absolute contrasts but rather supplements, which only in unison constitute a genuine man.”
Max Weber in “Politics as a Vocation

‘Politik als Beruf,’ Gesammelte Politische Schriften (Muenchen, 1921), pp. 396-450. Originally a speech at Munich University , 1918, published in 1919 by Duncker & Humblodt, Munich. From H.H. Gerth and C. Wright Mills (Translated and edited), From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology, pp. 77-128, New York : Oxford University Press, 1946.

More context

Surely, politics is made with the head, but it is certainly not made with the head alone. In this the proponents of an ethic of ultimate ends are right. One cannot prescribe to anyone whether he should follow an ethic of absolute ends or an ethic of responsibility, or when the one and when the other. One can say only this much: If in these times, which, in your opinion, are not times of ‘sterile’ excitation–excitation is not, after all, genuine passion–if now suddenly the Weltanschauungs-politicians crop up en masse and pass the watchword, ‘The world is stupid and base, not I,’ ‘The responsibility for the consequences does not fall upon me but upon the others whom I serve and whose stupidity or baseness I shall eradicate,’ then I declare frankly that I would first inquire into the degree of inner poise backing this ethic of ultimate ends. I am under the impression that in nine out of ten cases I deal with windbags who do not fully realize what they take upon themselves but who intoxicate themselves with romantic sensations. From a human point of view this is not very interesting to me, nor does it move me profoundly. However, it is immensely moving when a mature man–no matter whether old or young in years–is aware of a responsibility for the consequences of his conduct and really feels such responsibility with heart and soul. He then acts by following an ethic of responsibility and somewhere he reaches the point where he says: ‘Here I stand; I can do no other.’ That is something genuinely human and moving. And every one of us who is not spiritually dead must realize the possibility of finding himself at some time in that position. In so far as this is true, an ethic of ultimate ends and an ethic of responsibility are not absolute contrasts but rather supplements, which only in unison constitute a genuine man–a man who can have the ‘calling for politics.’
Max Weber in “Politics as a Vocation.

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“Relentlessly prune bullshit, don’t wait to do things that matter, and savor the time you have.”
Paul Graham in “Life is Short

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“People want to select a solution not test possible answers. This leads many organizations to follow what others do.”
Michael Mainelli and Ian Harris in “The Price of Fish”

Referenced in “Morgan Housel: What I Believe Most.”

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 “You just have to be prepared to be wrong and understand that your ego had better not depend on being proven right. Being wrong is part of the process.  Survival is the only road to riches.”
Peter Bernstein

Referenced in “Morgan Housel: What I Believe Most.”

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“Twit­ter is not ac­tu­al­ly a com­pa­ny, it’s a dys­func­tion­al non-profit that ac­ci­den­tal­ly pro­vides a valu­able service.”
Tim Bray in “You Might Be Evil

Bray’s article is a round up on a change in the zeitgeist with regards to Silicon Valley and includes references to these articles:

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“Deals are my art form. Other people paint beautifully on canvas or write wonderful poetry.  I like making deals, preferably big deals.”
Donald Trump in “The Art of The Deal.”

I share the perspective that deal making is an art form. Morgan Housel’s perspective on what constitutes a good deal is a good complement to this quote:

The best results happen when your interests align with others’. This sounds obvious but few business models truly scratch every stakeholder’s itch. Once you view businesses as a collection of people trying to solve each other’s problems, with some groups that can be taken advantage of for a period of time but never all of the time, you see investments mostly through the lens of aligning interests of everyone involved.
Morgan Housel “What I Believe Most”

I used Housel’s quote as a section heading in “Morgan Housel: What I Believe Most.”

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“We do not need, and indeed never will have, all the answers before we act…It is often through taking action that we can discover some of them.”
Charlotte Bunch

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“The pressure of economic distress will teach men, if anything will, that realities are less dangerous than fancies, that fact-finding is more effective than fault-finding.”
Carl Becker in “Progress and Power” [Internet Archive]

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“A man always has two reasons for what he does–a good one and the real one.”
J. P. Morgan

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“Project management is the furnace in which successful careers are made.”
Thomas Davenport in “Intellectual Capital”

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