Quotes for Entrepreneurs Collected in April 2019

My April 2019 collection of quotes for entrepreneurs focus on perseverance, endurance, and tenacity. Successful entrepreneurs persist through setbacks and defend important business relationships when competitors seek to displace them.

Quotes For Entrepreneurs Collected in April 2019

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.

My April 2019 collection of quotes for entrepreneurs focus on perseverance, endurance, and tenacity. Successful entrepreneurs persist through setbacks and defend important business relationships when competitors seek to displace them.

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“The anvil is not afraid of the hammer.”
Charles H. Spurgeon

Aim to be persevering; take the hit and continue. Success balances defending worthwhile customer relationships and markets with seeking new ones. When customers are responding to competitors it’s a signal to improve and defend.

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To see things in the seed, that is genius. Lao Tsu

“To see things in the seed, that is genius.”
Lao Tsu

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“In passing from the past to the future, we pass from memory and reflection to observation and current practice and thence to anticipation and prediction. As usually conceived, this is a movement from the known to the unknown, from the probable to the possible, from the domain of necessity to the open realm of choice.

But in fact these aspects of time and experience cannot be so neatly separated. Some part of the past is always becoming present in the future; and some part of the future is always present in the past.

Instead of thinking of these three segments of time in serial order, we would do well to take the view of a mathematician like A. N. Whitehead and narrow the time band to a tenth of a second before and a tenth of a second after any present event. When one does this, one understands that the past, the present, and the future are in that living moment almost one; and, if our minds were only capable of holding these three elements together in consciousness over a wider span of time, we should deal with our problems in a more organic fashion, doing justice not merely to the succession of events but to their virtual coexistence through anticipation and memory.”

Lewis Mumford “Prospect” chapter in  “Man’s Role in Changing the Face of the Earth” (1956)
Available from Archive.org starts at page 1141 in text, 1179 in on-line version

h/t Harold T. P. Hayes  in “Three Levels of Time” Mumford also has another essay in “Man’s Role in Changing the Face of the Earth” entitled “Natural History of Urbanization” (starts at 382 in text, 420 on-line) that makes for interesting reading.

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“There is no better test of a man’s ultimate chivalry and integrity than how he behaves when he is wrong.”
G. K. Chesterton

Self-checking and self-debugging habits and practices that enable error detection and correction are essential to success in business and in life. Key parts of defending any business relationship from competitive action are designing them with balanced and reinforcing incentive mechanisms and detecting and correcting problems before competitors can.

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“As a startup, figure out the problem you are addressing, and the users. Fall in love with the problem not the solution, and if you are consistent at solving the problem, you will become successful.”
Uri Levine in 2014 talk at TechCrunch Disrupt London.

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“I’m not saying that Mark Zuckerberg is Sauron, just that the business model of Mordor isn’t entirely unknown in Silicon Valley.”
Peter Franklin (@peterfranklin_) in “What Tolkien Teaches Us About Power”

First half is an interesting meditation on the nature of power using allegory from LOTR.  More context:

“In the back story to the Lord of the Rings, Tolkien tells us that, in addition to the One Ring, 19 subsidiary ‘Rings of Power’ were created and distributed among the movers-and-shakers of Middle Earth. The recipients thought they were getting a free gift; in reality they were plugging themselves into a network under the ultimate control of the One Ring, which Sauron retained for himself.

Now can you think of anything like that in our own world? A networked service whose benefits are given away for nothing and yet which amply repays the ‘generosity’ of those who control it? Doesn’t that sound like certain big tech companies one could mention? I’m not saying that Mark Zuckerberg is Sauron, just that the business model of Mordor isn’t entirely unknown in Silicon Valley.”

Peter Franklin (@peterfranklin_) in “What Tolkien Teaches Us About Power”

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haec quae nocent docent
Latin proverb: Those things which hurt also teach.

It’s hard to thread the needle: you often need to iterate to tinker with and refine your approach so even if an approach does not work the first time it’s worth trying a few variations before abandoning it. On the other hand you don’t want to keep making the same mistake over and over. Persistence pays off but you have to vary your approach: most problems are combination locks so that even if you are two thirds correct you may make no progress.

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“The art of the indirect approach can only be mastered, and its full scope appreciated, by study of and reflection upon the whole history of war. But we can at least crystallize the lessons into two simple maxims–one negative, the other positive.

  1. In view of the overwhelming evidence of history, no general is justified in launching his troops to a direct attack upon an enemy firmly in position.
  2. Instead of seeking to upset the enemy’s equilibrium by one’s attack, it must be upset before a real attack is, or can be successfully launched.

B.H. Liddell Hart in Strategy

There are a couple of lessons for startups:

  • Enter a market already disrupted by events: e.g. transplanting a proven solution from another market.
  • Don’t go after your larger competitor’s most valuable customers: this is likely to produce a strong competitive response unless the customer is already dissatisfied and looking for alternatives.

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“The best portion of a good man’s life is his little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and of love.”
William Wordsworth

This reminds me of a quote by Thomas Carlyle that I used in “Success for a Bootstrapper” and again in “No Man Is a Failure Who Has Friends.”

“The work of an unknown good man is like a vein of water flowing hidden in the underground, secretly making the ground greener.”
Thomas Carlyle

Kindness and cultivating community are underappreciated ways to defend the business ecosystem you rely on for your startup. We see our own needs clearly: if we are mindful of the needs and goals of others and take the time to help them at least in small ways it will strengthen the web of relationships that sustain our business.

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“One may have a blazing hearth in one’s soul and yet no one ever comes to sit by it. Passersby see only a wisp of smoke from the chimney and continue on the way.” Vincent van Gogh in a letter to his brother Theo Dec-2-1882

The Introvert’s dilemma, I used this as the closing quote for “Increase Your Luck Surface Area To Get More Customers

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“How are you supposed to have a startup in a garage if the garage costs millions of dollars?”
Ajay Royan (quoted in “Silicon Valley is changing, and its lead over other tech hubs narrowing“)

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“Death ends a life, but it does not end a relationship, which struggles on in the survivor’s mind toward some final resolution, some clear meaning, which it perhaps never finds.”
Robert AndersonI Never Sang For My Father

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“The cheerful live longest in years, and afterwards in our regards. Cheerfulness is the off-shoot of goodness.”
Christian Nestell Bovee

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“The courage to imagine the otherwise is our greatest resource, adding color and suspense to all our lives.”
Daniel Boorstin in “The Amateur Spirit” essay collected in Clifton Fadiman’s “Living Philosophies

More context:

In science. I see science, too, as only a search for temporarily answerable questions. Therefore I find the history of science especially chastening and adventurous. No dogmas have been more confidently asserted than those of the scientists – from Aristotle to Ptolemy to Copernicus to Newton. Yet no dogmas are more suddenly or more unexpectedly upset. The courage to imagine the otherwise is our greatest resource, adding color and suspense to all our life. The courage to believe is easy, with lots of respectable company, but I admire more the courage to doubt.


I am a short-term pessimist but a long-term optimist. […] In the short run, institutions and professions and even language keep us in the discouraging ruts. But in the long run the ruts wear away and adventuring amateurs reward us by a wonderful vagrancy into the unexpected.

Daniel Boorstin in “The Amateur Spirit” essay collected in Clifton Fadiman’s “Living Philosophies

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“Pediatrician: Your son will probably skip crawling and go straight to walking.
Me: Why?
Ped: He’s figuring out how to stand. Once he does that, why would he want to crawl?
Me: Because that’s how you move under direct fire.
Pediatrician: …
My wife: …
Me: …
My wife: Thank you, doctor.”

Tim Mathews (@timmathews)

Maintaining a low profile when facing larger better funded competitors can be a sound strategy. Sometimes this means using specialty or narrowcast channels to reach prospects that larger firms pay less attention. Sometimes it’s learning how to “dog whistle” to talk about problems or needs in ways that resonate with a niche market avoiding the common “vendor speak” descriptions. An example for the latter: don’t talk about “polypharmacy” or “prescription compliance” ask if a prospect is worried that an older relative has a “big bag of pills” to take every day and they may be taking too many, or too few, or mixing them up.

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“What deep wounds ever closed without a scar?”
George Gordon, Lord Byron

h/t Dr. Mardy Grothe (@drmardy) who observed, “Whatever doesn’t kill us leaves a scar.” This quote reminded me of a line from Shakespeare:

“He jests at scars that never felt a wound.”
William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet (1597), Act II, scene 2, line 1.

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“All our discontents about what we lack appeared to me to spring from the lack of thankfulness for what we have”
Daniel Defoe

More context, in the original text Defoe uses “want” with an older meaning of “lack.”

“I learned to look more upon the bright side of my condition, and less upon the dark side, and to consider what I enjoyed rather than what I wanted; and this gave me sometimes such secret comforts, that I cannot express them; and which I take notice of here, to put those discontented people in mind of it, who cannot enjoy comfortably what God has given them, because they see and covet something that He has not given them. All our discontents about what we want appeared to me to spring from the want of thankfulness for what we have.”
Daniel Defoe in “Robinson Crusoe” Chap 9 “A Boat

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 “Opportunity doesn’t knock. It’s slipped under the door surreptitiously, like a billing statement in a hotel.”
Steven Carter in “Collected Aphorisms 2008-2018

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“Tracing one warm line through a land so wild and savage
And make a Northwest Passage to the sea.”
Stan Rogers “Northwest Passage”

I think “a land so wild and savage” is a better metaphor for the terrain startups have to navigate after launch to achieve traction than “crossing the chasm” or “traversing the traction gap.” “Valley of Death” is a close second but because bootstrappers can live off the land in the same way as Eskimos can live on the frozen tundra I think “Northwest Passage” is a more accurate analogy.

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James Donovan: Aren’t you worried?
Rudolf Abel: Would it help?

Dialog from Bridge of Spies

Unfocused anxieties drain energy, but specific concerns, to the extent they help you identify risk factors or potential failure modes that you may be able to prevent, mitigate, manage, or ameliorate are worth exploring in a premortem.

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“Reputation rests on what others think you will do next.”
Lawrence Musgrove

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“What do you pack when you pursue a dream? And what do you leave behind?”
Sandra Sharp

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“There is a greater darkness than the one we fight. It is the darkness of the soul that has lost its way. The war we fight is not against powers and principalities, it is against chaos and despair. Greater than the death of flesh is the death of hope, the death of dreams. Against this peril we can never surrender. The future is all around us, waiting in moments of transition, to be born in moments of revelation. No one knows the shape of that future, or where it will take us. We know only that it is always born in pain.'”
G’Kar in in “Z’ha’dum” episode of Babylon 5

h/t Pasi “Albert” Ojala’s Babylon 5 Quote Collection

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“A speculator is a man who observes the future, and acts before it occurs.”
Bernard M. Baruch

This reminds me of

“The future is an illusion, all change is happening now.”
Marcelo Rinesi

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“You are never dedicated to something you have complete confidence in. No one is fanatically shouting that the sun is going to rise tomorrow. They know it’s going to rise tomorrow.”
Robert Pirsig in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

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Willem Oltmans: Dr. Margaret Mead has said to me: ‘We need a new vision but I don’t know what vision.’

Arnold Toynbee: I think there is an old vision, though it is not very old compared to the age of the human race. I am thinking of the vision of the founders of the great religions. I am thinking of – putting the names in a chronological order – the Buddha in India, Lao Tse in China, Jesus in Palestine and one Westerner, Saint Francis of Assisi. […]

These religious founders disagreed with each other in their pictures of what is the nature of the universe, the nature of spiritual life, the nature of ultimate spiritual reality. But they all agreed in their ethical precepts. They all agreed that the pursuit of material wealth is a wrong aim. We should aim only at the minimum wealth needed to maintain life; and our main aim should be spiritual. They all said with one voice that if we made material wealth our paramount aim, this would lead to disaster. They all spoke in favor of unselfishness and of love for other people as the key to happiness and to success in human affairs.

Willem Oltmans interviews Arnold Toynbee in “On Growth” (1974) (PDF)

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Collaboration requires:

  • Honesty and bluntness, but not to the point of pain.
  • Mutual respect, but not to the point of formality and stiffness.
  • Shared values, so the group’s mission can carry it over the inevitable bumps.
  • Actual achievement, so the group is supported by an appreciative community.

Twyla Tharp in The Collaborative Habit: Life Lessons for Working Together

h/t Jim McGee

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“Doubt is the vestibule which all must pass,
before they can enter into the temple of wisdom.”
Charles Caleb Colton in Lacon

h/t Dr. Mardy Grothe (@drmardy)

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“Without writing any code, the team learned what they needed. MVPs often don’t need code, but teams forget this. Our organizations are so used to solving every problem with software that we forget that we can learn what we need by faster, more effective means.”
Jared Spool “Avoiding the Wrong MVP Approach

I added this as an end quote to “A Common MVP Evolution: Service to System Integration to Product

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