Quotes For Entrepreneurs Collected in November 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 November 2017

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“You are not your idea, and if you identify too closely with your ideas, you will take offense when they are challenged.”
Ed Catmull

Very important to remember during customer discovery when you present a potential solution to a confirmed problem and the customer starts to help you to improve it by criticizing it. While an eager embrace is the best outcome, it’s rare in the early going. Strong criticism means that the customer thinks you may be on the right track and with some improvement your solution is worth serious consideration. Far worse is the lukewarm reaction. I blogged about this in “Appreciate Why Prospects Say: Your Baby is Ugly.”

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“Success is not just hitting objectives. Success is hitting objectives while also improving the capabilities and morale of the team.”
Rich Rogers (@RichRogersIoT)

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“Unless one can see and plan for a year or two ahead, one’s business will not grow evenly and naturally. It will pass through a series of emergencies, and one of those emergencies will wreck it. Emergencies will come about in any business, but they will be few and not hard to meet if the future has been mapped. This is so self-evident that I wonder why it is so much neglected. The only danger in mapping the future lies in making the plans inflexible.”
Harvey Firestone

Some entrepreneurs don’t appreciate that managing an emergency or crisis effectively requires preparing in advance. Foresight and anticipation provide scaffolding and a framework for improvisation and adaption to the particulars of a challenge.

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“The task of leadership is not to put greatness into humanity, but to elicit it, for the greatness is already there.”
John Buchan

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“Coaching is unlocking a person’s potential to maximize their own performance. It is helping them to learn rather than teaching them.”
Tim Gallwey

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“You don’t see something until you have the right metaphor to let you perceive it.”
Thomas Kuhn

Your paradigms filter your observations, they are the foundation for orienting and sensemaking to frame your decision options.

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“When you step outside your level of specialty, sometimes that’s like stepping off a cliff.”
Thomas Sowell (@Thomas Sowell Quotes)

Understanding the limits of your knowledge and expertise is essential to managing and improving either. Unfortunately neither is clearly bounded due to both blindspots that can be sprinkled throughout as well as the half-life of knowledge, which obsoletes sometimes slowly and sometimes suddenly.

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“Warning: intelligence is illuminating, stupidity is blinding.”
Fulvio Fiori

Related:

  • Elbert Hubbard: “Genius may have its limitations, but stupidity is not thus handicapped.”  (see also Quote Investigator on “Genius”)
  • Hanlon’s Razor: “Don’t assume malice when stupidity is sufficient.”

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“To die for an idea may be a noble deed. Yet people generally don’t die for an idea but for a hallucination.”
Sandro Montalto

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“Inside a business there are no profit centers, just cost centers. Profit comes only from the outside. When a customer returns with a repeat order and his check does not bounce you have a profit center. Until then you only have cost centers.”
Peter Drucker

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“The future is a foreign country that travels to us.
The past is a hometown that moves away from you.”
Gordon Mohr (@gojomo) and HN: gojomo

See also Timo Hannay’s “The Future is a Foreign Country” (and related deck “The Future Is A Foreign Country: threats and opportunities in a networked world” [PDF]

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“The art of life is to know how to enjoy a little and to endure much.”
William Hazlitt

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“To steer is to execute risk-managed and planned turning maneuvers based on foresight, predictions, and map-like mental models of evolving action in a complex environment.”
Venkatesh Rao in “CEO’s Don’t Steer

Rao always strives to be provocative and this post is no exception, here he is talking about the CEO’s of large companies. In my experience startup CEO’s that succeed have to be very good at navigation.

“CEOs are orientation locks. The opposite of steering is orientation locking. To enforce Newton’s first law, the inertia one, on dancing human systems inclined to violate it. Contrary to popular belief, it isn’t inertia that’s the problem for most companies, it is lack of sufficient inertia in the right direction. Enough to punch through any resistance that might be encountered. And the reason they lack the inertia is that CEOs aren’t steady enough in their jobs as orientation locks, providing a steady True North signal to everybody else doing more local kinds of steering work.

The primary CEO function, and the trait the good ones are selected for, is to provide the gyroscopic stability required to keep a company vectored in the chosen direction. They end up in the jobs they do because they counterbalance an organization’s natural tendency towards distraction, ADD and momentum dissipation. A typical company is a wandering, wobbling hive mind, liable to spend all its time chasing distractions if you let it…”
Venkatesh Rao in “CEO’s Don’t Steer

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“There is no ultimate formula for success but you can  increase its probability if you intelligently and relentlessly seek solutions that increase your chances of prevailing in a competitive environment.
Bill Walsh in “Score Takes Care of Itself

Because your competitors, customers, suppliers, and partners are all co-evolving in the same market ecosystem there is not fixed or stable point where you can rest. this quote is the condensed-for-twitter version of:

“There is no guarantee, no ultimate formula for success. However, a resolute and resourceful leader understands that there are a multitude of means to increase the probability of success. Intelligently and relentlessly seek solutions that will increase your chance of prevailing in a competitive environment. When you do that, the score will take care of itself.”
Bill Walsh in “Score Takes Care of Itself

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“White people acting white have embraced the ethic of the white underclass, which is distinct from the white working class, which has the distinguishing feature of regular gainful employment. The manners of the white underclass are Trump’s — vulgar, aggressive, boastful, selfish, promiscuous, consumerist. The white working class has a very different ethic. Its members are, in the main, churchgoing, financially prudent, and married, and their manners are formal to the point of icy politeness. You’ll recognize the style if you’ve ever been around it: It’s “Yes, sir” and “No, ma’am,” but it is the formality of soldiers and police officers — correct and polite, but not in the least bit deferential. It is a formality adopted not to acknowledge the superiority of social betters but to assert the equality of the speaker — equal to any person or situation, perfectly republican manners.

It is the general social respect rooted in genuine self-respect.

Kevin Williamson in “The White Minstrel Show

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“1. Life is hard and unfair.
2. What is not necessarily your fault may yet be your problem.
3. You must act and bear responsibility for your actions.”

Kevin Williamson in “The White Minstrel Show” cited as three eternal truths.

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When faced with uncertainty, we need to start with models, not plans.
Ash Maurya

This is an outstanding insight. Use heuristics for rapid orientation and a probe-sense-model-respond approach. Identify assumptions–and even beliefs–at risk or contradictions between observation and models also helpful.

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“Companies often optimize the legible at the expense of the illegible. Example: constant marketing emails have hidden damage to brand value.”
Michael Mayer (@mmay3r)

Clayton Christensen “where to go with your life” makes similar point about an over focus on short term career wins which can lead to inaction and inattentiveness that damages friendships and family relationships invisibly over time.

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“Have you ever climbed a staircase where one stair was not quite the same height as the others? Did you notice it? Did you trip?

When approaching a staircase, you unconsciously build a mental model of that staircase, then use that model to place your feet while climbing. I recall reading that most people place their foot within 1/16 of an inch of the expected height. This mental model is so strong, and the consequences potentially so expensive, that the International Residential Code (excerpted at stairways.org) specifies no more than 3/8 inch variance between the shortest and tallest stairs in a flight — about the width of your smallest fingernail. When the models are inconsistent, particularly the semantics of the language, it’s like placing your foot a half inch above the stair tread.”

Keith Gregory in “Mental Models

There is the same risk in your website or your application, if there are inconsistencies you create a “customer obstacle course” instead of a stairway.

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“To a father, when his child dies, the future dies;
to a child, when his parents die, the past dies.”
Berthold Auerbach in “On the Heights

Reading my mother’s death certificate brought this home to me for some reason. Related

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“I am not ashamed to confess myself ignorant of what I do not know.”
Cicero

Bounding your ignorance and uncertainty allows you to focus your risk management, exploration, and learning efforts.

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“From my early youth I have had the strongest desire to understand or explain whatever I observed,–that is, to group all facts under some general laws. These causes combined have given me the patience to reflect or ponder for any number of years over any unexplained problem. As far as I can judge, I am not apt to follow blindly the lead of other men. I have steadily endeavored to keep my mind free so as to give up any hypothesis, however much beloved (and I cannot resist forming one on every subject), as soon as facts are shown to be opposed to it. Indeed, I have had no choice but to act in this manner, for with the exception of the Coral Reefs, I cannot remember a single first-formed hypothesis which had not after a time to be given up or greatly modified.”
Charles Darwin in “Life and Letters: Volume 1 Chapter 2 Autobiography”

Forming a mental model furthers your understanding of systems and relationships between different elements and their effects.

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“Gross and vulgar minds will always pay a higher respect to wealth than to talent; for wealth, although it is a far less efficient source of power than talent, happens to be far more intelligible.”
Charles Caleb Colton

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“Integrating two software systems is usually more like performing a heart transplant than snapping together LEGO blocks. It can be done — if there’s a close enough match and the people doing it have enough skill — but the pieces don’t fit together trivially. And failure may not be immediately obvious; it may take a while to see signs of rejection.”
John Cook in “LEGO Blocks and Organ Transplants

Also applies to customers integrating your solution into existing infrastructure.

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“It is wisdom alone that can recognize wisdom.”
Thomas Carlyle

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“The school of experience has no holidays.”
Kin Hubbard in Brown County Folks

Reminds me of Tom Van Vleck’s “You learn something every day, unless you’re careful.” I blogged about Van Vleck in “Tom Van Vleck’s 3 Questions Complement Root Cause Analysis

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“We can assume that behind almost every new technologically-endowed superpower we accept, at least one unpurchaseable skill or attribute is slowly withering, and it isn’t necessarily a quality we no longer need.”
David Cain in “The Danger of Convenience

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“Anything you think there should be more of, do it randomly. Don’t await a reason. It will make itself be more, senselessly.

Scrawl it on the wall: RANDOM KINDNESS AND SENSELESS ACTS OF BEAUTY.”
Anne Herbert

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“Enough is as good as a feast.”
Thomas Malory in Le Morte d’Arthur

Having enough enables peace of mind and contentment. As bootstrappers we know it allows us to continue and improve, as humans it should trigger gratitude.

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“It is very dangerous to go into eternity with possibilities which one has oneself prevented from becoming realities.
A possibility is a hint from God. One must follow it.”
Soren Kierkegaard

Used in “Thanksgiving 2013

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“When we look back on the dangers we have been saved from, and reflect on the success we have been blessed with, it would be sinful either to be idle or to despair.”
Thomas Paine in “The American Crisis:Philadelphia, Sept. 12, 1777

Paine is encouraging the defenders of Philadelphia, more context:

“THOSE who expect to reap the blessings of freedom, must, like men, undergo the fatigues of supporting it. The event of yesterday was one of those kind of alarms which is just sufficient to rouse us to duty, without being of consequence enough to depress our fortitude. It is not a field of a few acres of ground, but a cause, that we are defending, and whether we defeat the enemy in one battle, or by degrees, the consequences will be the same. […]

Our army must undoubtedly feel fatigue, and want a reinforcement of rest though not of valor. Our own interest and happiness call upon us to give them every support in our power, and make the burden of the day, on which the safety of this city depends, as light as possible. Remember, gentlemen, that we have forces both to the northward and southward of Philadelphia, and if the enemy be but stopped till those can arrive, this city will be saved, and the enemy finally routed. You have too much at stake to hesitate. You ought not to think an hour upon the matter, but to spring to action at once. Other states have been invaded, have likewise driven off the invaders. Now our time and turn is come, and perhaps the finishing stroke is reserved for us. When we look back on the dangers we have been saved from, and reflect on the success we have been blessed with, it would be sinful either to be idle or to despair.”
Thomas Paine in “The American Crisis:Philadelphia, Sept. 12, 1777

The “event of yesterday” was George Washington’s defeat by General Howe in the Battle of Brandywine on September 11, 1777 (part of the British Philadelphia campaign). The loss led to the British occupation of Philadelphia 15 days later on  September 26, 1777.

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“You shouldn’t expect to fail, but you should plan for failure. The fastest way to get back on track is to know what to do when you’re off it.”
James Clear (@James_Clear)

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“Winners work through problems.
Losers work around them.”
Sydney J. Harris in “Winners and Losers

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

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“Glass’ law: Requirement deficiencies are the prime source of project failures.”

in  “Software Runaways. Lessons Learned from Massive Software Project Failures” by Robert L. Glass.  Entrepreneurs can use a minimum viable product approach to explore requirements and minimize the risk of mismatch and missed requirements.

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“Believing our way, we find.”
William Stafford

This reminds me of Virgil’s “They can because they think they can.” It’s a model for life or entrepreneurship based on ongoing discover and effectuation (working from means to ends as much as ends to means)

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“Marry a beautiful woman to be envied,
an intelligent woman to be fascinated,
and a thrifty woman to be happy.”
Aaron Haspel in “Everything

I was fortunate to find all three were the same woman but as a bootstrapper I have found thrift to be the most important shared quality.

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“Discovery is the process of collecting information to enable a precise proposal for a solution to a customer problem.”
Peter Cohan

It’s been interesting to collaborate with Peter Cohan informally since 2005 and formally since 2007 and watch him refine his “Great Demo” methodology. He has deepened his emphasis on the need for the discovery both before and as a part of a good software demo, adding tools and techniques to make entrepreneurs more effective at understanding customer needs so that they can better serve them.

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“Approach yourself as a system. Remove before you add.”
Angela Jiang (@angjiang)

Often you have to let go of what’s not working or what you would not be doing–knowing what you now know–if you were not already doing it. Posteriorities trump priorities. Reminds me of this quote by Peter Drucker

“If you want to start something new, you have to stop doing something old.”
Peter Drucker

For more on this see “Discovery, Invention, Growth, and Renewal.

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