Quotes For Entrepreneurs Collected in June 2019

My June 2019 collection of quotes for entrepreneurs has a focus on learning and exploration, triggered by Lord Kelvin’s observation, “When you call a thing mysterious, all that it means is that you don’t understand it.” I think this also applies to things we call chaotic, random, or unpredictable.

Quotes for Entrepreneurs Collected in June 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.

This month’s focus is on learning and exploration.

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“Writer’s block is a temporary paralysis caused by the conviction, on an unconscious level, that what the writer is attempting is in some way fraudulent, or mistaken, or self-destructive.”
Joyce Carol Oates

h/t Encyclopedia Neurotica by Jon Winokur

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“The great obstacle to discovering the shape of the earth, the continents, and the oceans was not ignorance, but the illusion of knowledge.”
Daniel Boorstin in “The Discoverers: A History of Man’s Search to Know His World and Himself

Mistaken information and poor problem framing are also barriers to discovery of new market opportunities.

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“When you call a thing mysterious, all that it means is that you don’t understand it.”
Lord Kelvin

I think this also applies to things we call chaotic, random, or unpredictable.

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“In an age of accelerating change, how you learn is more important than what you learn.”
Marty Neumeier

This one of “Seven Quotes on Learning and Measurement From Marty Neumeier” I first blogged about in December 2010. If you accept the premise that we are living in an age of accelerating change, which I do for the many areas now affected by Moore’s Law, then I think you have to accept a couple of corollaries:

  • The half-life of facts and knowledge is shrinking, so if all you are good at is memorizing facts you are already running the Red Queen’s Race (“faster and faster just to stay in one place”).
  • You have to get better not just at memorizing facts but at “learning how to learn” and more importantly “learning how you learn most effectively.”

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“It is not paradox to say that in our most theoretical moods we may be nearest to our most practical applications.”
Alfred North Whitehead

Abstraction allows much better pattern matching of prior experience to current situation.

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“Knowledge is proud he has learned so much;
Wisdom is humble that he knows no more.”
William Cowper

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Three observations by Helmuth von Moltke (The Elder) relevant to bootstrapping.

  • “In the long run, luck is given only to the efficient.”
  • “Strategy grows silent in the face of the need for a tactical victory.”
  • “Strategic advance is entirely based on tactical successes.”

h/t “Moltke on the Art of War — Selected Writings” by Daniel Hughes

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“Accurate and minute measurement seems to the non-scientific imagination a less lofty and dignified work than looking for something new. Yet nearly all of the grandest discoveries of science have been but the rewards of accurate measurement and patient, long-continued labor in the minute sifting of numerical results.”
Lord Kelvin

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“Qualitative research methods remove one critical, but all-too-common, aspect of the decision-making process for those who bring products and services to market—presumption. They stop the disconnected from making decisions about how people will interact with the world based on misguided intuition, guesswork, or simply because they can.”
Martin Pacino in “Where Big Data Can’t Go: The Indispensability of Qualitative Research in the Evolving Landscape of Measuring Behavior

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“Entrepreneurs are willing to work 80 hours a week to avoid working 40 hours a week.”
Lori Greiner (@LoriGreiner)

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“Necessity, they say, is the mother of invention, but fear too, is not barren of ingenious suggestions.”
Joseph Conrad “The Secret Sharer

Deadlines also help to overcome procrastination and perfectionism. Know when further delay will have made a default decision.

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“Necessity is not the mother of invention. Knowledge and experiment are its parents. It sometimes happens that successful search is made for unknown materials to fill well-recognized and predetermined requirements. It more often happens that the acquirement of knowledge of the previously unknown properties of a material suggests its trial
for some new use. These facts strongly indicate the value of knowledge of properties of materials and indicate a way for research.”

Willis R. Whitney quoted in
Guy Suits, ‘Willis Rodney Whitney‘, National Academy of Sciences, Biographical Memoirs (1960), 355.

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“This car is as practical as a Roth IRA. It’s as middle-of-the-road as your grandpa during his last Silver Alert. It’s as utilitarian as a member of a church whose scripture is based entirely on water bills.”
Jason Hlavenka in a 2018 Craigslist ad for his 1999 Toyota Corola

h/t Jalopnik; An interesting use of humor to sell a commodity product by highlighting key features in a way likely to attract interested buyers.

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“Sometimes recognizing that someone is an early adopter feels like a conversation with a time traveler from the future who is trying to create what they remember.”
Sean Murphy (from a recent email to a client).

Of course when you are “too early” in a market you feels like your are the time traveler the present is not ready to accept. In those cases finding an early adopter feels like an episode of Travelers where someone new joins the team.

Related quotes:

  • “The future is already here it’s just unevenly distributed.” William Gibson
  • “The future is an illusion, all change is happening now” Marcelo Rinesi

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“Serendipity is the art of profiting from unexpected occurrences.”
Irving Langmuir

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“The first step in solving any problem is to dramatically underestimate its difficulty.”
Sebastian Good (@SebastianGood)

This reminds me of an insight by Albert Hirschman I blogged about in “If You Knew How Hard a Startup Would Be”

“Creativity always comes as a surprise to us; therefore, we can never count on it as we dare not believe in it until it has happened. In other words, we could not consciously engage upon tasks whose success clearly requires that creativity be forthcoming. Hence, the only way in which we can bring our creative resources fully into play is by misjudging the nature of the task, by presenting it to ourselves as more routine, simple, undemanding of genuine creativity than it will turn out to be.”
Albert Hirschman in “Development Projects Observed


“Optimists win in the long-run because their miscalculation of how long it will take or how likely it is to succeed motivates them to give it a try. If you knew how hard it would be and how long it would take in the beginning then you might not try in the first place.”
James Clear (@James Clear)

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“There are two economies […] the first is, the stopping off decisively our miscellaneous activity, and concentrating our force on one or a few points; as the gardener, by severe pruning, forces the sap of the tree into one or two vigorous limbs, instead of suffering it to spindle into a sheaf of twigs.

In our flowing affairs a decision must be made, — the best, if you can; but any is better than none. There are twenty ways of going to a point, and one is the shortest; but set out at once on one. A man who has that presence of mind which can bring to him on the instant all he knows, is worth for action a dozen men who know as much, but can only bring it to light slowly.

The second substitute for temperament is drill, the power of use and routine.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson in Power

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“In making these recommendations, the Society has four main concerns:

    1. there must be good evidence that each test or procedure recommended is medically effective in reducing morbidity or mortality;
    2. the medical benefits must outweigh the risks;
    3. the cost of each test or procedure must be reasonable compared to its expected benefits;
    4. the recommended actions must be practical and feasible.

Dr. David Eddy “American Cancer Society recommendations for the cancer-related checkup” (1980) in CA Cancer J Clin. 1980 Jul-Aug;30(4):193-240.

h/t “The Origins of Evidence-Based Medicine: A Personal Perspective” by David M. Eddy, MD, PhD [other versions behind various paywalls] See also his Keynote at GAPPS 2012 (Video)

I am trying to map this Evidence based guideline model onto an “evidence based new product development and introduction” model. I welcome any suggestions or feedback from Customer Development, Discovery Driven Sales, or related practitioners who are product managers or entrepreneurs

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“But pleasures are like poppies spread:
You seize the flower, its bloom is shed;
Or like the snow fall on the river,
A moment white – then melts forever.”

Robert Burns in “Tam O’Shanter”

Burns was prescient on the evanescence of social media inspired righteous indignation.

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“Most landmark breakthroughs in any field are not the product of consensus, but the unanticipated work of lone wolves, who were once derided as feral outliers barking at the moon. Had majority arguments for “settled science” silenced Nicolaus Copernicus, Galileo Galilei, Sir Isaac Newton, and Charles Darwin, we might believe that the earth was created 5,000 years ago, gravity did not exist, and the planets revolved around the earth.

In my own field, perhaps the three greatest revisions in our knowledge about the ancient Greek world were made by eccentrics and amateurs often derided by academic classicists. No one at first swallowed architect Michael Ventris’s hypothesis that the Mycenaean Linear B script was actually an early form of Greek—given it was settled science that the Greek written language appeared only hundreds of years later in the early Eighth Century B. C. through adaptation of the Phoenician alphabet. Flamboyant German banker Heinrich Schliemann’s notion that there were physical places known as Troy and Mycenae, and that buried palaces beneath these cites roughly corresponded to elements in the Homeric epics, was at first dismissed as the fringe treasure hunting of a hopeless romantic and chronic liar. And few serious Homeric scholars of the 1930s classics establishment believed thirty-something Milman Parry when he theorized that it was likely that Homer’s sophisticated epic poems The Odyssey and The Iliad were composed orally by an illiterate poet (who may or may not have been “Homer”) through mastery of formulae.”

Victor Davis Hanson The Myth of Progress

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“You’re always a little disappointing in person because you can’t be the edited essence of yourself.”
Mel Brooks

h/t Dr. Mardy Groth (@drmardy) My edited transcripts and multi-take videos are always clearer but not as effective as one on one conversation because there is not the same level of engagement and direct response.

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“Engineering theory has always recognized that you can optimize one element of a system in ways that leave the whole system less optimized. Some are beginning to grapple with this–not least because of examples like Facebook that optimized click-throughs in ways that left a neighboring system, democracy, badly damaged.”
Geoff Mulligan “Intelligence Is an Outcome Not an Input

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They all had dignity, a certain serenity and pride that was theirs completely. They might be poor, they might be eking out at the last a precarious living, but they had dignity.

They knew where they had been and what they had seen and done, and were content. Something was theirs, something within themselves, that neither time passing nor man nor hard times could take from them.

I have worked beside them, eaten at their tables, sat beside them in sunlight and moonlight and firelight. I never knew one of the old breed who did not have it.”
Louis L’Amour “Education of a Wandering Man”

He is recounting his experiences meeting pioneers of the Old West during his travels in the 1930. One hopes that today’s generation of Silicon Valley pioneers age as well. I used this in “Education of a Wandering Man by Louis L’Amour

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“Much is not dared because it seems hard;
much seems hard only because it is not dared.”
Wenzel Anton, Prince of Kaunitz-Rietberg

This seems related to Virgil’s “They can because they think they can.”

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“An idea upon which attention is peculiarly concentrated is an idea which tends to realize itself.”
Charles Baudouin in “Suggestion and Auto Suggestion” (1921)

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“Thoughts are like flowers; those gathered in the morning keep fresh the longest.”
Andre Gide in “Isabelle” (1911)

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“Talent is a long patience, and originality an effort of will and intense observation.”
Gustave Flaubert

Patience and intense observation are two skills often underrated by entrepreneurs.

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“Perhaps wars weren’t won anymore. Maybe they went on forever.”
Ernest Hemingway “A Farewell to Arms

h/t Peter Roberts in introduction to  “The Future Conflict Operating Environment Out to 2030” The quote is in reference to the early months of WW1, More context:

“It looked as though the war were going on for a long time. We were in the war now but I thought it would take a year to get any great amount of troops over and train them for combat. Next year would be a bad year, or a good year maybe. The Italians were using up an awful amount of men. I did not see how
it could go on. Even if they took all the Bainsizza and Monte San Gabriele there were plenty of mountains beyond for the Austrians. I had seen them. All the
highest mountains were beyond. On the Carso they were going forward but there were marshes and swamps down by the sea. Napoleon would have whipped the Austrians on the plains. He never would have fought them in the mountains. He would have let them come down and whipped them around Verona. Still nobody was whipping any one on the Western front. Perhaps wars weren’t won any more. Maybe they went on forever. Maybe it was another Hundred Years’ War.”
Ernest Hemingway “A Farewell to Arms” [Internet Archive]

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“You don’t need creeds when you have incentives. Therefore, religions are a catalog of behaviors that have been under-incentivized.”
Michael Mayer (@mmay3r)

You need a creed to explain what is in your long term self-interest (what De Tocqueville called “Self-Interest Rightly Understood”). Religions catalog behaviors that have long term benefits: they offer a rule set for playing a long term game.  Two related responses:

“IMHO: Single-player/short-term vs multi-player/long-term incentives”
Andreas Klinger (@andreasklinger)

“Humans are wired to pursue short term incentives.
Religions are catalogs of behaviors that prioritize longer term incentives over shorter term incentives.
Hence the internal conflict and necessity for creeds.”
Ascendant Power (@AscendantPower)

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