Quotes for Entrepreneurs Collected in April 2018

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 -- Tracing the Real SourcesGetting to the source: I find that nailing the true author and source of a good quote allows me to see it in the original context and to find other less famous quotes or insights by the same person. Both are helpful and why I appreciate the sites like:

Quotes For Entrepreneurs Collected in April 2018

“Meet people, help them connect, and explore possibilities. Knit your network now before you need it.”
Sean Murphy in “Start Where You Are

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“Men’s watches agree better together than their perceptions. Looking to our several watches we have an index as nearly uniform as possible, and so we are always of one mind about the number of the pulse and its rhythm. Consulting our several perceptions we use a variable index; and no wonder that about the qualities of the pulse we are apt to differ. Yet, after all, practical men are found to agree pretty well about the quality of the pulse in particular instances.”
Peter Mere Latham “Aphorisms from Latham

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“At the risk of oversimplification, we will define science as the accumulation of knowledge about the physical world, both through gathering and classification of factual data and the formulation of basic laws and principles, and engineering as the application of this knowledge to purposes deemed useful to man. In other words, the scientist wants to know chiefly for the sake of knowing; the engineer wants to know for the sake of using.”

John B. Rae “Science and Engineering in the History of Aviation” (1961) [registration required]

There is a similar relationship between entrepreneurs and researchers, as between engineers and scientists, especially in the early market where prototyping, experimentation, and discovery driven sales models are required to determine both the technical feasibility of a product and the minimum feature set needed for a viable level of desirability. Two more excerpts highlight how practice sometimes precedes the formation of theory and is sometimes informed by it:

“The rocket is a form of jet propulsion, and rockets have been used for military and other uses since the thirteenth century. The basic law of jet propulsion is simply Newton’s third law of motion, that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. [..] Rockets were in practical use for 400 years before anyone explained why they worked; and the fundamental principle underlying jet propulsion was understood for another 250 years before it became possible to master the technical details to convert Newton’s law into a functioning jet engine. […]

At some times aeronautical science has opened the way for further engineering achievements; at others technological advance has made it possible to go beyond the existing limits of scientific knowledge. […] Man has the privilege of thinking about what he is doing. Still, we would never have got off the ground if some of our number had not been willing to try something without having to know the answers in advance.”

John B. Rae “Science and Engineering in the History of Aviation” (1961) [registration required]

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Key to eliminating most personal problems:

  • Work hard in a job you enjoy.
  • Live below your means.
  • Invest the difference with a long-term mindset.
  • Be nice to people.
  • Exercise and eat right.
  • Sleep 8+ hours.

Collaborative Fund (@collabfund)

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“…no one believes an hypothesis except its originator but everyone believes an experiment except the experimenter.”
William I. B. Beveridge in “The Art of Scientific Investigation

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“The best, most thoughtful tech creators engage deeply and sincerely with the communities that they want to help, to ensure they address actual needs rather than indiscriminately “disrupting” the way established systems work. But sometimes, new technologies run roughshod over these communities, and the people making those technologies have enough financial and social resources that the shortcomings of their approaches don’t keep them from disrupting the balance of an ecosystem. Often times, tech creators have enough money funding them that they don’t even notice the negative effects of the flaws in their designs, especially if they’re isolated from the people affected by those flaws.”
Anil Dash “12 Things Everyone Should Understand About Tech

h/t Dorai Thodla (@dorait).

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“Well you only need the light when it’s burning low
Only miss the sun when it starts to snow

Only know you’ve been high when you’re feeling low
Only hate the road when you’re missing home

Staring at the bottom of your glass
Hoping one day you’ll make a dream last
But dreams come slow and they go so fast”

Michael David Rosenberg“Let Her Go”

Entrepreneurs need to appreciate and nurture trust and team morale for the journey, if either is lost so is the team. They are like water, almost invisible when present but painful in their absence.

“When the Well’s dry, we know the Worth of Water.”
Benjamin Franklin in “Poor Richard’s Almanack (1746)

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“After years of collecting way too much data, Facebook has finally been caught in the facilitation of one privacy debacle too many. […]

Every business has its founding DNA. Real corporate change is rare, especially when the same leaders remain in charge. In Facebook’s case, we are not speaking of a few missteps here and there, the misbehavior of a few aberrant employees. The problems are central and structural, the predicted consequences of its business model. From the day it first sought revenue, Facebook prioritized growth over any other possible goal, maximizing the harvest of data and human attention. Its promises to investors have demanded an ever-improving ability to spy on and manipulate large populations of people. Facebook, at its core, is a surveillance machine, and to expect that to change is misplaced optimism. […]

If we have learned anything over the last decade, it is that advertising and data-collection models are incompatible with a trustworthy social media network. The conflicts are too formidable, the pressure to amass data and promise everything to advertisers is too strong for even the well-intentioned to resist.”
Tim Wu in “Don’t Fix Facebook. Replace it.

As GDPR privacy protections start to enjoy the force of law many businesses are going to view “Big Data” on their customers as a “big liability.” The knee jerk reaction to gathering more data where possible will give way to a balancing of risk vs. benefit. This is already true for SaaS players that are HIPAA compliant, their insurance premiums are a function of the number of medical records, including medical old records, they retain.

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“Facts themselves are meaningless. It’s only the interpretation we give those facts which counts.”
Earl Stanley Gardner in “The Case of the Perjured Parrot

More context:

“The prosecuting attorney has at his command all the facilities of organized investigation. He uncovers facts. He selects only those which, in his opinion, are significant. Once he’s come to the conclusion the defendant is guilty, the only facts he considers significant are those which point to the guilt of the defendant. That’s why circumstantial evidence is such a liar. Facts themselves are meaningless. It’s only the interpretation we give those facts which counts.”
Earl Stanley Gardner in “The Case of the Perjured Parrot

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“Success is the good fortune that comes from aspiration, desperation, perspiration, and inspiration.”
Evan Esar

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“The great thing, if one can, is to stop regarding all the unpleasant things as interruptions of one’s “own,” or “real” life. The truth is of course what one calls the interruptions are precisely one’s real life–the life God is sending one day by day: what one calls one’s “real-life” is a phantom of one’s own imagination. This at least is what I see at moments of insight: but it’s hard to remember it all the time.”
C. S. Lewis in a letter to Arthur Greeves December 20, 1943

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“Never be left without alternatives. Don’t pick a strategy that is “deal or no company.” There are always alternatives, don’t foreclose them until the deal is done because until the deal is done, there is no deal.”
Mike Krupit (@mkrupit) summary of a longer observation on Sam Jadallah’s “So Close

In “So Close” Sam Jadallah defines startups as “companies that don’t have control of their own destiny because they rely on investor cash infusions to operate.” I think this mindset was a key mistake. A bootstrapping approach, or at least one grew more slowly and preserved options by exploring multiple revenue and investment streams in parallel (E.g licensing the design in one or more exclusive fields of use). Mike is a experienced entrepreneur who moderates the Philly and NYC Bootstrapper Breakfasts, Jadallah’s “we had no alternative” remark sparked him to clearly outline a key bootstrapping principle.

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“Technological Stockholm Syndrome: Becoming attached to a bad technology because you worked so hard to learn it.”
John D. Cook (@JohnDCook)

The loss of expertise, having to learn a new skill or master a new tool is painful and creates a level of inertia that can be hard to overcome. Applies more generally to methods and practices and is one source of “corporate immune system to new ideas.”

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“Habit is habit, and not to be flung out of the window by any man, but coaxed down-stairs a step at a time.”
Mark Twain “The Tragedy of Pudd’nhead Wilson

True also for upgrading processes and methods inside of firms large and small. There are very few places a “flash cut” or “flag day” approach works.

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  1. What Does Success Look Like To You?
  2. What Is The Outcome You Want?
  3. What Do You Want To Be Different In Three To Five Years?
  4. What Are The Obstacles You’re Facing?
  5. What Can You Control?
  6. What Are The Options You’ve Come Up With?
  7. Tell Me More
  8. What Are You Reading?

Gwen Moran in “Best Mentors Ask These 8 Questions

Moran combines insights from:

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“Hack events rush to solution doing/making. I’m still trying to frame the problem. When people are saying both the solution is an app and a printed paper is the solution then the problem probably hasn’t been identified yet”
Alastair Somerville (@Acuity_Design)

h/t Harold Jarche. Great insight, it makes a big difference if you are iterating on a sequence of solutions to better frame/understand a problem/need or trying to solve it in the first go. See also Ash Maurya’s “Love the Problem. Not Your Solution

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“Before you switch a developer from one task to another, pretend that it’s a 2-hour drive to the other task, plus 2-hours back.”
Sean Coates (@coates)

This is a nice way to visualize context switching costs for complex tasks. See also Paul Graham’s “Maker’s Schedule, Manager’s Schedule.

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“When you worst enemy is circumstance, your best friend is chance.”
George Murray

Entrepreneurs are always fighting the status quo and using techniques like amplify positive deviance to do so.

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“Reason is an island in a sea full of hungry carpe diems.”
Drew Byrne

Don’t let urgent problems crowd out the important opportunities.

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“Success repeats itself until it is failure.”
James Richardson

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“Every one is bound to bear patiently the results of his own example.”
Gaius Julius Phaedrus in “Fables: The Fox and the Stork

Also known as “you reap what you sow” and “turnabout is fair play” (and perhaps even “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.”) Here is the full fable from “The Fables of Phaedrus” as translated into prose by Henry Thomas Riley in 1887.


Harm should be done to no man; but if any one do an injury, this Fable shows that he may be visited with a like return.

A Fox is said to have given a Stork the first invitation to a banquet, and to have placed before her some thin broth in a flat dish, of which the hungry Stork could in no way get a taste. Having invited the Fox in return, she set before him a narrow-mouthed jar, full of minced meat: and, thrusting her beak into it, satisfied herself, while she tormented her guest with hunger; who, after having in vain licked the neck of the jar, as we have heard, thus addressed the foreign bird: “Every one is bound to bear patiently the results of his own example.”

Gaius Julius Phaedrus in “Fables: The Fox and the Stork

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“Business is a competitive endeavor, and job security lasts only as long as the customer is satisfied. Nobody owes anybody else a living.”
Sam Walton

h/t Michael Mayer (@mmay3r)

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“Emergencies have always been necessary to men’s evolution. It was darkness that produced the lamp. It was fog that produced the compass. It was winter that clothed us, hunger that drove us to exploration.”

Lloyd C. Douglas in “Green Light” [Gutenberg]

Although a variant of this is commonly attributed to Victor Hugo it’s from the key scene in the novel. The quote reminds me of:

“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”
George Bernard Shaw in “Maxims for Revolutionists

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“The best disguise is the one every one else is wearing.”
James Richardson

“I, too, am a nonconformist.” –every entrepreneur in Silicon Valley (of course I feel this way as well). The challenge is to achieve not just the self-awareness that allows nonconformity, but the self-efficacy, and self-reliance, and self-sufficiency that enable an entrepreneur to disagree with common wisdom long enough to persevere and give birth to innovation. Entrepreneurs don’t have to be disagreeable to succeed, but they cannot compromise too much to be agreeable and accepted if they want to create something novel and useful.

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“There is no such thing as work-life balance. Everything worth fighting for unbalances your life.”
Alain De Botton (@AlainDeBotton)

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“One fall equals a step.
Two falls a start.
Three falls a failure.”
George Murray

I think this is too pessimistic, I am a fan of the Japanese proverb: fall down seven times, get up eight.” (I observed my children following this principle before I learned that the Japanese had a proverb for it.)

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“Winners are sensitive to other’s feelings.
Losers are only sensitive to their own feelings.”
Sydney J. Harris in “Winners and Losers

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

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“Facilitation, as an inquiry, requires the leader to take intentional steps to:

  • Turn judgment into curiosity
  • Turn disagreement into shared exploration
  • Turn defensiveness into self-reflection
  • Turn assumptions into questions

Human Systems Dynamic Institute Facilitation Guidelines

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“Out on the edge you see all kinds of things you can’t see from the center. Big, undreamed-of thing–the people on the edge see them first.”
Kurt Vonnegut in Player Piano

h/t Harold Jarche “Rebels on the Edge

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“Anxiety is the mark of spiritual insecurity. It is the fruit of unanswered questions. But questions cannot go unanswered unless they first be asked.”
Thomas Merton, in No Man is an Island (1955)

h/t Dr. Mardy Grothe in “Dr. Mardy’s Dictionary of Metaphorical Quotations

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“Optimization is about working within an existing framework, while innovation is focused on developing new frames of reference.”
Eric Haller (quoted in Greg Satell’s “We Too Often Ignore the Trade-off Between Innovation and Optimization

Greg Satell observes: “The single-minded pursuit of efficiency can also backfire. If you’re not careful, you’ll end up getting better and better at things that matter less and less. This is especially true with innovation, because anything that’s truly new and different can’t be graded by conventional metrics. We need learn how to manage the trade-off between efficiency and innovation, understanding that innovation needs exploration.”

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“I have dreams where I am typing emails. The I wake up and two hours later. I wake up and I am typing emails and I realize I don’t know if I am awake or not.”
Lewis Black “Chantix” in “Black to the Future”

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“Maximum leverage is the result of commitment, of daily persistence, of gradual and insane and apparently useless effort over time.”
Seth Godin “The moment of maximum leverage

More context:

“It’s the moment before it tips, that split second where a little effort can make a big difference.

We wait for this. For the day when participating will truly pay off, for the mechanical advantage that gives us the most impact for our effort.

It’s a myth.

Maximum leverage is the result of commitment, of daily persistence, of gradual and insane and apparently useless effort over time.

When it works, it merely looks like we had good timing.”

Seth Godin “The moment of maximum leverage

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“There should be two separate words; one for a failure we learn from, and another for a failure we don’t.”
Mardy Grothe

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“New sources of innovation demand new management tools as well as new organization. Marketing research methods traditionally used to seek out and analyze user needs must be modified if they are to be effective for seeking out prototyping products users may have developed.”
Eric von Hipple “The Sources of Innovation”

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“There are two types of people in this world. Those who can extrapolate from incomplete data sets.”
Andy Swan (@AndySwan)

..and those who choose not to?

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