Quotes for Entrepreneurs Collected in March 2018

By | 2018-06-29T22:12:01+00:00 March 31st, 2018|Quotes|0 Comments

I collect these 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 March 2018

Kate Rutter - Quotes for Entrepreneurs

“Winter never dies. Not as people die. It hangs on in late frost and the smell of autumn in a summer evening, and in the heat it flees to the mountains.

Summer never dies. It sinks into the ground; in the depths, winter buds form in sheltered places and white shoots creep under dead leaves. Some of it flees into the deepest, hottest deserts, where there is a summer that never ends.”
Terry Prachett in “Wintersmith

Economic activity follows a similar pattern: no boom is so pervasive it prevents a future slowdown, recession, or depression. And no downturn persists. This too, shall pass.

+ + +

“My whole system of life is keeping at it. The task of life is not to see clearly in the distance but to do the task at hand.”
Charlie Munger

h/t David Perell (@david_perell) who observes: “most success comes from repetition, not new things.” I think Munger may be paraphrasing Thomas Carlyle:

“The main business is not to see what lies dimly at a distance, but to do what lies clearly at hand.”
Thomas Carlyle in “Signs of the Times” (1829)

+ + +

“The principle of self-interest rightly understood produces no great acts of self-sacrifice, but it suggests daily small acts of self-denial. By itself it cannot suffice to make a man virtuous; but it disciplines a number of persons in habits of regularity, temperance, moderation, foresight, self-command; and if it does not lead men straight to virtue by the will, it gradually draws them in that direction by their habits. If the principle of interest rightly understood were to sway the whole moral world, extraordinary virtues would doubtless be more rare; but I think that gross depravity would then also be less common. The principle of interest rightly understood perhaps prevents men from rising far above the level of mankind, but a great number of other men, who were falling far below it, are caught and restrained by it. Observe some few individuals, they are lowered by it; survey mankind, they are raised.”
Alexis De Tocqueville in “How the Americans Combat Individualism by the Principle of Self-Interest Rightly Understood.

I used this passage in “De Tocqueville on ‘Self-Interest Rightly Understood’

+ + +

“Distraction is the enemy of reflection.”
Jim McGee (@jmcgee) in “Learning to Think for Innovation

McGee opens his blog post with a great quote from Peter Drucker:

“Innovation and change make inordinate time demands on the executive. All one can think and do in a short time is to think what one already knows and to do as one has always done.”
Peter Drucker in “The Effective Executive

+ + +

What Evidence Would You Need to Change Your Mind About This? Seth Godin

+ + +

“Among a great many other things that chess teaches you is to control the initial excitement you feel when you see something that looks good. It trains you to think before grabbing, and to think just as objectively when you’re in trouble.”
Stanley Kubrick quoted in Kubrick by Michael Ciment

I used this in “Chess Quotes for Entrepreneurs” a longer version of the quote appears in the post.

+ + +

“CCCXCVIII. NO two things differ more than hurry and dispatch. Hurry is the mark of a weak mind, dispatch of a strong one. A weak man in office, like a squirrel in a cage, is laboring eternally, but to no purpose, and in constant motion without getting on a jot ; like a turnstile, he is in every body’s way, but stops nobody; he talks a great deal, but says very little; looks into every thing, but sees into nothing ; and has a hundred irons in the fire, but very few of them are hot, and with those few that are, he only burns his fingers.”

Charles Caleb Colton in Lacon or many things in few words.

+ + +

“Life in most business organizations is like life in a submarine.
For those of you who find yourselves in an office environment, understand that it is, by definition, a closed environment. Take note of how you conduct yourself. Do you talk too loudly? Are you argumentative to a fault? Do you wear well as an office companion? Do you think of the needs of others”
Asa Barber in “Going Pro”

Quoted in “Going Pro” where I observed: “startups are like mini-subs, very intense pressure cookers that require a high tolerance for stress induced behavior–and hopefully the ability to minimize the impact of stress on your own actions.”

+ + +

“Even if you like your job, you should interview at least once a year to baseline yourself to the reality of the market. Strong performers tend to have an unemployable quality. They get employed by learning to hide it.”
Angela Jiang (@angjiang)

And when they cannot hide it–or the benefits are less than the rewards–they become entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs still have to serve customers but it’s a different relationship from reporting to a manager, especially in a large firm. Related:

“We’re under new micromanagement.”
Management Speak (@@managerspeak)

+ + +

“A man begins cutting his wisdom teeth the first time he bites off more than he can chew.”
Herb Caen

h/t Glenn Alleman (@GAlleman) at “Herding Cats Quote of the Day

+ + +

“God, grant me
the serenity to accept the many tabs I need to keep open,
the courage to close the tabs I can, and
the wisdom to know the difference.”
Eileen Ridge (@NotBangalore)

+ + +

“Learning happens when our expectations about the world collide with our experience and we adjust our expectations to be better aligned with reality.”
Jim McGee (@JMcGee) in “Learning is Harder in the Digital World

Learning flows from observation, interaction and reflection. McGee references the concept of “legitimate peripheral participation” which is a learning theory hypothesis that people can learn by observing a more skilled person operate in a situation or environment. His argument in the blog post is that the digital world offers fewer chances but I think it may actually offer more, especially if we redesign work flows to make them more observable.

+ + +

“For there are essentially two ways in which such education can operate, and they may be distinguished without difficulty.

At one extreme we have a kind of teaching that relies on the novice’s very gradual exposure to the craft in question, on his ability to imitate by practice, on his response to sanctions, penalties, and reinforcing smiles and frowns. The great example of this kind of learning is the child’s learning of elementary skills, like bicycle riding. He topples almost randomly at first, but each time he does something wrong, it fails; when he happens to do it right, its success and the fact that his success is recognized make him more likely to repeat it right. Extended learning of this kind gives him a “total” feeling for the thing learned–whether it is how to ride a bicycle, or a skill like swimming, or the craft of housebuilding or weaving. The most important feature of this kind of learning is that the rules are not made explicit, but are, as it were, revealed through the correction of mistakes.

The second kind of teaching tries, in some degree, to make the rules explicit. Here the novice learns much more rapidly, on the basis of general “principles.” The education becomes a formal one; it relies on instruction and on teachers who train their pupils, not just by pointing out mistakes, but by incul­cating positive explicit rules. A good example is lifesaving, where people rarely have the chance to learn by trial and error. In the informal situation there are no “teachers,” for the novice’s mistakes will be corrected by anybody who knows more than he. But in the formal situation, where learning is a specialized activity and no longer happens automatically, there are distinct “teachers” from whom the craft is learned.

These teachers, or instructors, have to condense the knowledge which was once laboriously acquired in experience, for without such condensation the teaching problem would be unwieldy and unmanageable. The teacher cannot refer ex­plicitly to each single mistake which can be made, for even if there were time to do so, such a list could not be learned. A list needs a structure for mnemonic purposes. So the teacher invents teachable rules within which he accommodates as much of his unconscious training as he can–a set of shorthand principles.”

Christopher Alexander in “Notes on the Synthesis of Form

It’s interesting that bootstrapping a series of businesses corresponds to the first pattern of learning-by-doing, while getting an MBA would correspond to the second pattern of formal instruction. While formal instruction can save a lot of time, it’s brittle and needs to be supplemented by learning-by-doing. A “community of practice” approach would blend both models for learning. See “Entrepreneurs Need a Community of Practice Not a Movement” for more on the value of a community of practice.

+ + +

“Scientists discover the world that exists; engineers create the world that never was.”
Theodore Von Karman

+ + +

“Do the things that you can see; they will show you those that you cannot see. By doing what you can you will gradually get to know what it is that you want to do and cannot do, and so to be able to do it.”
Samuel Butler in The Note-Books of Samuel Butler

More context:

“Agonising

Never consciously agonise; the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong. Moments of extreme issue are unconscious and must be left to take care of themselves. During conscious moments take reasonable pains but no more and, above all, work so slowly as never to get out of breath. Take it easy, in fact, until forced not to do so.

There is no mystery about art. Do the things that you can see; they will show you those that you cannot see. By doing what you can you will gradually get to know what it is that you want to do and cannot do, and so to be able to do it.”

Samuel Butler The Note-Books of Samuel Butler

+ + +

“The way to do research is to attack the facts at the point of greatest astonishment.”
Celia Green “The Decline and Fall of Science”

Also a good approach for an entrepreneur refining a business model: surprise is strong evidence for the possibility of learning, frustration for need to unlearn.

+ + +

“I have this theory that there are five kinds of truth.
There is the truth you tell to casual strangers and acquaintances.
There is the truth you tell to your general circle of friends and family members.
There is the truth you tell to only one or two people in your entire life.
There is the truth you tell to yourself.
And finally, there is the truth that you do not admit even to yourself.”
J. Michael Straczynski quoted in “JMS’s Answers & Info about Babylon 5” (09/25/94)

+ + +

“The single biggest realization I’ve had in my career working with software companies: rarely do we have any economic understanding of the trade off decisions we make.”
Zach Bonaker (@ZachBonaker)

“OTOH, if you make safe-to-fail decisions you don’t need to be right about your hypothetical understanding of the economical trade off.”
Vasco Duarte (@duarte_vasco)

“Fair point and I agree with the principle you’re highlighting. On the other other hand, how do we know if a decision is safe-to-fail without a (economic) hypothesis to begin with? IMO these principles seem to go hand-in-hand.”
Zach Bonaker (@ZachBonaker)

This is a fantastic insight: safe-to-fail requires a model that relies on a set of hypotheses that estimate economic impact of a set of plausible or foreseeable outcomes.

+ + +

“Bear in mind, then, that abstractions are not facts; and next bear in mind that opinions are not facts. To record that a patient is better to-day and worse to-morrow; that he is at one time doing well and at another doing ill; is to give a summary opinion upon the facts, not the facts themselves. Beware of rejecting facts of which you do not, perhaps, comprehend the import, and because you do not comprehend it; but rather reject those you do comprehend, and know them to be trivial. Be careful especially of not allowing their due weight to facts which appear contradictory to each other; rather examine them more scrupulously because they are so.”

Peter Mere Latham in “Aphorisms from Latham

+ + +

“Everyone is kneaded out of the same dough, but not baked in the same oven.”
Yiddish Proverb

+ + +

“Never complain about your troubles; they are responsible for more than half of your income.”
Robert R. Updegraff

Updegraff is also the author of “Obvious Adams” [Full Text in Google Books]

+ + +

“While it takes more effort to be not only direct but compassionate it saves time in the long run because you avoid triggering people’s ‘fight or flight’ responses to what they might otherwise perceive as a threat.”
April Wensel (@AprilWensel)

Good insight, I blogged about this in “Think Twice Before Saying

Any time you preface some “advice” you are about to give someone with

  • “Don’t take this the wrong way but …”
  • “Let me be frank…”
  • “Honestly, …”

Keep your advice to yourself until you can find a way to phrase it that indicates your genuine empathy with the other party. I used to say “don’t take this the wrong way” this quite a bit until I realized I was trying to give myself an excuse for a lack of empathy.

+ + +

“First fatal accident involving a self-driving car marks beginning of the descent from the peak of inflated expectations. This technology transition is a phase change that will take several decades to manage. Need to look for more bounded deployment models like self-driving tractors on private property first.”
Sean Murphy (tweeted in response to first self-driving car fatality).

+ + +

“He’s got to make his own mistakes
And learn to mend the mess he makes
He’s old enough to know what’s right
And young enough not to choose it
He’s noble enough to win the world
But weak enough to lose it

He’s a new-world man
He’s not concerned with yesterday
He knows constant change is here today
He’s noble enough to know what’s right
But weak enough not to choose it
He’s wise enough to win the world
But fool enough to lose it”
Rush “New World Man

Portrait of the Entrepreneur as a Young Man.

+ + +

“Estimation and order-of-magnitude analysis are the hallmarks of the engineer. Even in complex situations, simple equivalents are found and estimated as preliminary information guides or as checks on other computations.”
Thomas T. Woodson “Introduction to Engineering Design” (1966)

Order-of-magnitude analysis is also referred to as Fermi estimation and is useful for entrepreneurs constructing an initial business model to frame further exploration, using high-medium-low estimates for each factor that span one or two orders of magnitude (e.g. 1-3-10 or 1-10-100) and allow you to generate initial high-medium-low estimates for key parameters (e.g. number of potential customers, price points, cost factors, etc…)

+ + +

“Nothing so needs reforming as other people’s habits.”
Mark Twain in “The Tragedy of Pudd’nhead Wilson

Especially when they match our own annoying habits.

+ + +

“I’m sorry I’m late. I didn’t want to be kept waiting.”
Management Speak (@managerspeak)

+ + +

“Discovery consists precisely in not constructing useless combinations, but in constructing those that are useful, which are an infinitely small minority. Discovery is discernment, selection.”
Henry Poincare in “Science and Method”

+ + +

“There’s plenty opportunity to combine old ideas. We put a man on the moon before anyone thought to put wheels on a suitcase.”
John D. Cook (@JohnDCook)

+ + +

“Having ideas isn’t the most important thing. The most important thing is actually doing them. And the most difficult thing about doing them is letting go of the ideas you had before.”
Brian Eno (@dark_shark)

Unlearning constraints or limitations obsoleted by new technologies, methods, or capabilities is an important part of seeing what’s truly part of the adjacent possible.

+ + +

“If a product is ‘free,’ not only are you the product but you also lack the leverage to influence its future. Paying for service is a healthy dynamic.
Scott Belsky (@scottbelsky)

+ + +

“A dilemma is a pair of contradictory goals, both of which are value to the organization. These goals are in tension—moving one goal ‘up’ tends to move the other goal ‘down.'”
Jerry Talley in “Problem types: Dilemmas

+ + +

“We had to debug the Gerber plotter. So here we were, making a VLSI chip, sitting on the floor with our scope and so forth, with cards on the extender, and the cards have discrete transistors on them. So we were using three-generations-old technology to do next-generation technology. And that’s the lesson you learn all the time, that if you’re doing something new, you’re always doing it with the old tools, or the old thought processes, or the old languages, or whatever. And that persists, no matter what you’re doing.
Carver Mead in remarks after Dave Johannsen’s talk on “VLSI Synthesis: Silicon Compilation” August 8, 2014 (starts at 25:13)

h/t Bret Victor (@worrydream). There is a positive implication: improving your toolkit creates a natural continuing stepwise increase in capability because these new tools will allow you to build even better ones. It’s a series of stepwise improvements through “adjacent possible” or “zone of proximal development.” You cannot make leaps but you can take steps.

+ + +

“Few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example.”
Mark Twain in “The Tragedy of Pudd’nhead Wilson

+ + +

“When doing something we know well, we’re really efficient.
It’s easy to get comfortable and simply do more of what works.
Efficiency is great, but long term exponential growth only happens by moving beyond what we already know, by exploring.
It’s inherently inefficient. Most of the time, we’re simply flailing. And failing.
But once in a while, something works. It joins our comfort zone. And we quickly become efficient.
Stop crawling faster and start trying to walk.”
Tytus Michalski “Efficient Babies”

+ + +

“When wireless is perfectly applied the whole earth will be converted into a huge brain, which in fact it is, all things being particles of a real and rhythmic whole. We shall be able to communicate with one another instantly, irrespective of distance. Not only this, but through television and telephony we shall see and hear one another as perfectly as though we were face to face, despite intervening distances of thousands of miles; and the instruments through which we shall be able to do his will be amazingly simple compared with our present telephone. A man will be able to carry one in his vest pocket.”
Nikola Tesla in “When Woman Is Boss” An interview with Nikola Tesla by John B. Kennedy Colliers, January 30, 1926

+ + +

“Smart partners negotiate fair deals because they know that lopsided deals are fragile and that most value accumulates in long term trust relationships.
You can tell a lot about a potential partner by their opening offer: fair people make fair offers.”
Naval Ravikant (@naval)

+ + +

“Ideally another man’s promises should be negotiable instruments, like his personal check, in compiling estimates.”
J. F. Calvert and W. J. King “On View and Guides for the Electrical Engineering” 1948

+ + +

About the Author:

Leave A Comment