Quotes for Entrepreneurs Collected in October 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 Collected in October 2018

“Knowledge is anything that increases your ability to predict the outcome.”
Daryl Morey

Quoted in “The Undoing Project” by Michael Lewis

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Creativity starts in the imagination. It ends in sweat. K. Bradford Brown

“Creativity starts in the imagination. It ends in sweat.”
K. Bradford Brown

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“If an online space makes more money the more time you spend on it, use sparingly.
Create the kind of communities and ideas you want people to talk about.
Sometimes people have differing opinions because they considered something you didn’t.
There’s always more to the story. You probably don’t know the full context of whatever you’re reading or watching.”
Four from Sean Blanda’s “Rules for Staying Sane Online

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“None of us are ever frightened. Now and then, we’d just like more time to plan our responses.”
Laurent Michaelmas in Algis Budrys’ “Michaelmas

The sense of being overtaken by events or facing an adversary who has mapped out an attack that you are still trying to understand is revisited in this quote:

“I can tell you what happened, not why, or how, but what. You ran into trouble that set upon you as fast as you can think. A condition common among humans. Even more common is having it advance faster than that.”
Laurent Michaelmas in Algis Budrys’ “Michaelmas

Michaelmas is a fantastic science fiction novel written by Budrys in 1977 but set in 2000 captures our current media and communication intensive existence. Highly recommended.

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“Trust everyone, but cut the cards.”
Finley Peter Dunne

Any deal should include a plain English understanding of everyone’s goals, their commitments, and how all parties will keep score.

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“A person is always startled when he hears himself seriously called an old man for the first time.”
Oliver Wendell Holmes

I think this is why most companies in Silicon Valley are called startups: no founder wants to be running a mature company.

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“Engineering design is an iterative decision-making activity to produce the plans by which resources are converted into systems or devices to meet human needs.”
Thomas T. Woodson “Introduction to Engineering Design” (1966)

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“What the world needs is more geniuses with humility, there are so few of us left.”
Oscar Levant

It’s a difficult narrows to thread, most days I miss the genius side, and on those I don’t I will then often fail the humility test.

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“Twitter is basically like putting a free pinball machine in an office. Everybody spends the whole day arguing over whose turn it is, and high scores, and who tilted it, and meanwhile no real work actually gets accomplished.”
David Burge (@iowahawkblog)

Previously true for Usenet and before that the telephone where employees were not engaged by their work. However some applications are designed to be addictive, see “Superstimulus: Refining Online Interactions into Digital Heroin” for more on this.

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“Software is robust offering component/process handling at a mechanistic level for scenarios that are anticipated. People are resilient, providing a sustained adaptive capacity for handling unforeseen/unanticipated scenarios at a systemic level.”
John Allspaw (@allspaw)

This is a good demark for what problems to assign to automation vs. people and to keep people in the escalation and exception handling path for most workflows.

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“There’s no retirement for an artist, it’s your way of living so there’s no end to it.”
Henry Moore

h/t Lani Picard; this also applies to entrepreneurs.

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“We would be the change we wanted to see happen rather than trying to get others to change.”
Arleen LorranceThe Love Project” p13 1972 edition

This is powerful model for change agents. More context from page 2 and 13 of “The Love Project.” (bold added)

My entire life was a protest and a complaint against something or other. And, of course, the problem was always others. If only they could change what were they doing or thinking, everything could be super beautiful. Guess what? They never changed. So, I left the first half of my life behind and moved from complaining, to trying to change others. […]

We would have a Love Project at Jefferson: a series of giving and sharing experiences seeking nothing in return. It would be a doing alternative to negativism and hostility. We would call ourselves Seekers and we would live by a few simple principles. We would proceed on the premise that all people everywhere are basically beautiful and want to give to and share with others; the only problem is that not enough of us provide others with the opportunity to give and share.

The solution was easy; Seekers could provide those opportunities.

We would accept all people exactly where they are and view where they are as beautiful, thus allowing everyone the right to get in touch with his own center of beauty rather than having to conform to someone else’s standards which may be absolutely wrong for him. We would be the change we wanted to see happen rather than trying to get others to change. We would have no expectations, for expectations are indeed limitations in that we set ourselves up for disappointments and we deny ourselves and the other person the joy of allowing his unique expression–which may far surpass our expectations–to manifest.”
Arleen LorranceThe Love Project” pages 2 and 13 (1972 edition)

The overlaps nicely with an appreciative inquiry model that focuses on uncovering and building on what has made the prospect successful.

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“Instead of adopting the strategy that wins most often on average against all other strategies, adopt the strategy that results in the most favorable equilibrium with the strategies that best counter it.”
Curl Of Gradient (@CurlOfGradient)

This is often call maximin or minimax: maximize the minimum outcome (worst case) against all strategies. In a market share situation this represents a likely equilibrium for the existing mix of competitors.

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“If you don’t want to have a boss, you better be capable in the wild.”
Angela Jiang (@angjiang)

This reminds me of a quote I used in “Life is Too Short.

“Life is too short to work at a job you hate, but everyone has to do something someone else is willing to pay them for.”
Sid Emmert

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“Not by age but by capacity is wisdom acquired.”
Titus Maccius Plautus (254 BC – 184 BC) in Trinummus

Longevity normally implies skill but assessing a competitor’s actual capabilities can be challenging if they have adopted new methods that change the axis of competition. Examples: software replacing hardware, mechanical replaced by electromechanical, pulsed laser signals in fiber optics cables replacing electrical signals on metal wires.

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“No one ever sees successful camouflage.”
Donald Rumsfeld in “Rumsfeld’s Rules

Startups who want to be effective “stealth mode” don’t announce they are in “stealth mode.” They come up with a plausible story of the problem they are working to address. Sometimes the founders focus on one area and then discover better or more valuable uses in other markets–stealth by serendipity.

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“Whenever you hesitate as to whom you ought to serve, abandon the exterior, the material appearance for the invisible principle: for the invisible principle is everything.”
Alexander Dumas “Twenty Years After”  [Gutenberg]

To see beyond the surface of a person or situation and grasp the essential nature is the foundation of good judgement.  An interesting counterpoint to Rumsfeld’s observation about successful camouflage in the last quote.

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“Listening has taught me more than planning or doing, more than thinking or acting.”
Thomas Chalmers

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“Learning in the school of experience isn’t like learning in regular school. In the school of experience, you take the test first and then you review what you’ve learned. Your past can be a great teacher, if you are prepared to pay the tuition. But sometimes you think you’re paid up only to learn that you’ve got to pay and pay. In this regard, the school of experience is a lot like regular school: if you don’t get the lesson, you repeat the experience again and again.”
Wally Amos in “Watermelon Magic

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“Above all, do not appear to others what you are not. If you have any fault to find with anyone, tell him, not others, of what you complain; there is no more dangerous experiment than that of undertaking to be one thing before a man’s face and another behind his back.”
forgery attributed to Robert E. Lee (published as “letter to his son April-5-1852“)

Good advice even if the letter is apparently a forgery.

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“It is said that the first movie audiences ran in terror from the image of an approaching train, believing it to be real.  Similarly, the first people and institutions, exposed to social media mobs groveled at the sight of what appeared to be an overwhelming consensus. Moviegoers are now habituated to the fictional character of what goes onscreen. Social media users will someday learn to treat the vehement expression of false consensus with the shrugging indifference it deserves.”
Wesley Yang (@wesyang)

The inadvertent perceptual illusions and social affordances of new media and technology mediated human interaction take a while to equilibrate. The Amish model of thoughtful adoption of new technologies looks wiser the older I get.

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“Nothing succeeds like failure overcome.”
Robert Eddison

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“Innovation is an intellectual migration: you leave your comfort zone for uncharted territory where you don’t know the language or the rules.”
Noubar Afeyan of Flagship Pioneering in “Innovation is an Intellectual Migration

Condensation of:

“I kind of think about innovation in general as intellectual immigration. In other words, you leave your comfort zone, you go into an uncharted territory with none of the safety that you feel in your home country. You don’t know the language, you don’t know the rules, you don’t know anything. And as an immigrant, you persist and survive and you eventually technically change the place because you have to put up a struggle.

Well to me, innovation is that in whatever field you’re innovating in. And pioneering innovation is like extreme immigration where you go into a place where there are barely any inhabitants. ”

Noubar Afeyan of Flagship Pioneering in “Innovation is an Intellectual Migration

I think the analogy between innovation (technology adoption) and immigration is a useful one.

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“A regrettable paradox of human aspiration is that, because we desire and strive for excellence, we have no time to relish it. Broken things rather than working things demand our attention. Nothing is more pleasant in writing than an inspired sentence that drops full-formed onto the page, but such sentences, by their very effortlessness, only provide a moment’s pleasure. A writer’s hours are spent bending and hammering the tough, unmalleable sentences that will not take shape. A jeweler delights in a polished stone, but the instant he has chiseled it, he sets it aside and picks up another rough rock. Work is not accidentally unpleasant but essentially so, for we work on what we wish to change, that is, on what we do not like. A company calls long meetings not to discuss strategies that are succeeding but that are failing. Our love of solutions forces us to keep company with problems.
Brian Jay Stanley in “The Worker’s Paradox

Drucker argues this is a mistake, that we should spend much less time on problems and patching yesterday’s solution and much more time on pursuing opportunities that will lead to tomorrow’s solution. See “Discovery Invention Growth, and Renewal” and 2018 Renunciations for more on this.

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“Effective exploration requires effective record keeping.”
Buckminster Fuller in “Critical Path” [Archive.org]

I used this to “When Exploring Keep a Log.

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“Uncertainty is the necessary companion of all explorers.”
Marilyn Ferguson

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“One thing a person cannot do, no matter how rigorous his analysis or heroic his imagination, is to draw up a list of things that would never occur to him”
Thomas Schelling

I used this in “This is Your Brain on Music

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“Happiness is the sum total of misfortunes avoided.”
Alphonse Karr

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The posture of a bootstrapper:

  1. Ship real work.
  2. Do it now. Not later.
  3. Serve clients that are eager to pay for what you do.
  4. Resist the urge to do average stuff for average people.
  5. Build and own an asset that’s difficult to reproduce.
  6. Scale is not its own reward.
  7. Charge a lot and be worth more than you charge.
  8. Create boundaries for yourself about what you do (and don’t do).
  9. Become ever more professional.

Three ways to make a living:

  1. The first way is to be an employee.
  2. The second way is to be the well-funded, high-stakes entrepreneur.
  3. The third way is to be the bootstrapper.

Bootstrapping is simple: your funding comes from your customers. That means you are completely aligned with your customers. The people you are serving are also the people who are giving you money for the work you do. And they are giving you money because they are getting something they want in return.

Seth Godin in “Bootstrapper’s Workshop

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“Attention spans aren’t falling. Opportunity costs are just rising.
Big, big difference.
People love long, in-depth content. But it needs to be really, really good.”
David Perell (@david_perell)

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“Research gathers more data to arrive at an understanding; design translates a nebulous need into a specific solution.”
Thomas T. Woodson “Introduction to Engineering Design“(1966)

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“If it’s a good idea, there will be others with shovels digging for treasure right alongside you. You can still win even if someone else gets there first. Dig deeper to find differentiation and capture what they’re leaving on the table.”
Elad Gill in “Here’s How To Spot and Build in Non-Obvious Markets

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“Often the desire to appear competent impedes our ability to become competent, because we more anxious to display our knowledge than to learn what we do not know.”
Madame de Sable Maxim 40

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“Some mornings I wonder if I made the right move abandoning my apprenticeship with a chain saw juggler and embarking on my current path. Although the failure rate was high, the risks were clear and feedback was immediate. But I was attracted to the harder path of entrepreneurship.”
Sean Murphy

Earlier I was employed as a flying monkey for an evil emperor for several years, mastering the arts of “go and see” and low key private conversation to uncover the real problems and constraints on solving them. That experience proved very useful in helping clients uncover and navigate the political forces and unwritten rules that frame the change process in the enterprise. Any time you are introducing a new technology into practical use, making sure that it has a positive impact on the business, and then making sure you get paid, you are working as a change agent. Defenders of the status quo may view you as an agent of chaos–and in this they are partially correct because most significant change is discontinuous and requires your customer to “cross a valley” to take a step back or work at lower effectiveness/productivity before reaching a higher plateau of effectiveness.

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“Don’t get mad, get data!”
Harry P. Selker, MD, MSPH “A Generalist’s Perspective” (2012)

More context from “A Generalist’s Perspective” (2012):

Used by Nicki Lurie in her 1998 SGIM president address but coined by Selker where they were clinical scholars at UCLA as encouragement to “convert righteous indignation about the closing of clinics for the poor in Los Angeles into a data collection effort to study the impact of the clinic closing on health outcomes. This was massively more helpful than just getting mad.”

Convert righteous indignation about a decision into a data collection effort to study the impact if you want to have influence: good rule of thumb for intrapreneurs. Because asking the question “what data would change your decision?” is far more likely to lead to a useful conversation than making a values argument–or worse merely expressing your indignation.

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“When I said that I would take one for the team I was talking about a bonus.”
Management Speak (@Managerspeak)

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“The data may not contain the answer. The combination of some data and an aching desire for an answer does not ensure that a reasonable answer can be extracted from a given body of data.”
John Tukey “Sunset Salvo

Recognizing that you don’t have enough information to settle on a course of action–beyond exploring for more useful information–prevents you from premature conclusions or force fitting your intuitive solution to customer requirements. I used this in Early Markets Offer Fluid Opportunities.

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“That awkward moment when you wonder if everyone forgot about your conference call, until you realize got the time zone wrong. Fortunately I was early.”
John D. Cook (@JohnDCook)

It’s tricky enough getting the time zone difference correct and complicated because daylight savings time changes in different locations at different times.

Another awkward moment on a conference call is when the long silences after a remark you made stretches to the point you realize that it’s not because everyone is in awe of your insight but that your connection has dropped. Older telephone and cellular systems line noise / static fulfilled this function. Today you have no background noise and lose one indicator the line has dropped. Many conference call systems have entrance and exit chimes but you don’t hear your own exit chime when you drop. See Beat the Clock for more.

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“Every time we replace natural, complex systems with simplified mono-cultures we gain in short-term productivity, but at the huge cost of long-term resilience and viability.”
Esko Kilpi (@EskoKilpi)

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