These quotes for entrepreneurs were curated in February 2021. The theme this month is the value of a clear purpose and goals to support it.

Quotes for Entrepreneurs Collected in February 2021

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.


Theme for this month is the value of a clear purpose and goals to support it.

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Listen to users to find out what they want BEFORE you build it. This suggestion flies in the face of the Lean Startup model. Lean says to build it first (as per the wishes of investors, who prefer to play roulette by launching a million things at once) and then use the launch itself as the first opportunity for real customer input. I sincerely hope that we are passing that phase, now, as the pandemic forces teams, organizations, really everyone to use their dwindling resources more wisely.”
Mark Hurst in “A Simple Tech Ethic

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“Look at a day when you are supremely satisfied at the end. It’s not a day when you lounge around doing nothing; it’s when you’ve had everything to do, and you’ve done it.”
Lord Acton

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“Spend less time worrying about the AI going out of control and more time worrying about the people controlling the AI.”
James Cham (@jamescham)

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“People see God every day; they just don’t recognize him.”
Pearl Bailey

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“You can’t have a successful democracy if people feel that their lives and careers are in danger when they lose an election. That’s what destroyed the Roman Republic.”
Glen Reynolds in “Bringing Back Normalcy

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“If you were going to die soon and had only one phone call you could make, whom would you call and what would you say? And why are you waiting?”
Stephen Levine

I added this as the closing quote for “Uncle’s Day: Don’t Wait to Reconnect With Folks Who Made a Difference In Your Life

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“Fragility increases rapidly as you squeeze out the last bit of efficiency.”
John D. Cook (@JohnDCook

Leaving a prudent reserve for contingencies looks like waste until the unexpected happens. It’s hard to leave the rainy day money untouched.

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quotes for entrepreneurs

“Goals transform a random walk into a chase. You need clear goals that fit into a hierarchy, with little goals that build toward more meaningful, higher-level goals.”
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in “Go With a Flow” an interview with John Geirland in Wired Magazine (1996)

I think when folks “gamify their [life | job | startup]” what they are really doing is establishing a hierarchy of objectives.

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“Many are stubborn in pursuit of the path they have chosen, few in pursuit of the goal.”
Friedrich Nietzsche

I think too many entrepreneurs and product managers use a roadmap to commit to means when they should use it to explore for a path their end goal. It is more useful as a map of your current ignorance (unknowns) of the means to achieve your ends: these points of ignorance (unknowns) then become targets for experiments and learning.

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The following work is devoted to an account of the characteristics of crowds. […]

The complexity of social facts is such, that it is impossible to grasp them as a whole and to foresee the effects of their reciprocal influence. It seems, too, that behind the visible facts are hidden at times thousands of invisible causes. Visible social phenomena appear to be the result of an immense, unconscious working, that as a rule is beyond the reach of our analysis. Perceptible phenomena may be compared to the waves, which are the expression on the surface of the ocean of deep-lying disturbances of which we know nothing. […]

If we wish, then, to remain within the narrow but safe limits within which science can attain to knowledge, and not to wander in the domain of vague conjecture and vain hypothesis, all we must do is simply to take note of such phenomena as are accessible to us, and confine ourselves to their consideration. Every conclusion drawn from our observation is, as a rule, premature, for behind the phenomena which we see clearly are other phenomena that we see indistinctly, and perhaps behind these latter, yet others which we do not see at all.

The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind by Gustave Le Bon (1895)

h/t Don Boudreaux “Cafe Hayek Quote of the Day for Feb-13-2021

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“Simple, clear purpose and principles give rise to complex, intelligent behavior. Complex rules and regulations give rise to simple, stupid behavior.”
Dee Hock in “Birth of the Chaordic Century” (1996 speech)

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“Remember there’s no such thing as a small act of kindness. Every act creates a ripple with no logical end.”
Scott Adams

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“The aim of the laborer should be, not to get his living, to get “a good job,” but to perform well a certain work; and, even in a pecuniary sense, it would be economy for a town to pay its laborers so well that they would not feel that they were working for low ends, as for a livelihood merely, but for scientific, or even moral ends. Do not hire a man who does your work for money, but him who does it for love of it.

It is remarkable that there are few men so well employed, so much to their minds, but that a little money or fame would commonly buy them off from their present pursuit. […]

The community has no bribe that will tempt a wise man. You may raise money enough to tunnel a mountain, but you cannot raise money enough to hire a man who is minding his own business. An efficient and valuable man does what he can, whether the community pay him for it or not.”
Henry David Thoreau “Life Without Principle” (1863)

The link is to the WikiSource version, which has this preface: “This essay was derived from the lecture “What Shall It Profit?”, which Thoreau first delivered on 6 December 1854, at Railroad Hall in Providence Rhode Island. He delivered it several times over the next two years, and edited it for publication before he died in 1862. It was first published posthumously in the October 1863 issue of The Atlantic Monthly ( Volume 12, Issue 71, pp. 484—495.) where it was given its modern title.”

I think I like Thoreau’s title better with its direct allusion to losing one’s soul. I think “Do not hire a man who does your work for money, but him who does it for love of it.” is good advice for entrepreneurs: hire those who have found a calling, or at least a craft or a career, over those are only motivated by money.

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Order of Operations

  • Plan before Acting
  • Show before Telling
  • Work before Playing
  • Earn before Spending
  • Vet before Committing
  • Think before Speaking
  • Exercise before Relaxing
  • Reflect before Repeating
  • Create before Consuming
  • Accomplish before Teaching

Ascendant Power (@AscendantPower)

I found this a useful set of guidelines.

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“One of the telltale signs that a market is ripe for reinvention is traditional advertising. If you see a lot of advertising in a market category, that’s a good signpost that there’s significant product atrophy. Usually, advertising signals that existing players are competing for significant revenue, but they can’t rely on product differentiation and therefore they compete on ad spend.”
Pete Flint (@PeteFlint) in “Frameworks for New Market Creation”

Flint offers five models for new market creation;

  1. Organize informal behavior: take friction out of existing practices that people are already engaged in.
  2. Amplify Positive Deviance (Follow Early Adopters): help firms already meeting a challenge or change in the environment (technology, regulation, consumer taste).
  3. Anticipate where exponential growth will impact (e.g. technology, demographics).
  4. Feature abstraction into a platform: unbundling and remixing features already adopted and in use into a new platform.
  5. Resource sharing where need is variable or intermittent.

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“The range of fiction extends all the way from complete hallucination to the scientists’ perfectly self-conscious use of a schematic model, or his decision that for his particular problem accuracy beyond a certain number of decimal places is not important. A work of fiction may have almost any degree of fidelity, and so long as the degree of fidelity can be taken into account, fiction is not misleading. […] The alternative to the use of fictions is direct exposure to the ebb and flow of sensation. That is not a real alternative, for however refreshing it is to see at times with a perfectly innocent eye, innocence itself is not wisdom, though a source and corrective of wisdom. For the real environment is altogether too big, too complex, and too fleeting for direct acquaintance.  The real environment is altogether too big, too complex, and too fleeting for direct acquaintance. We are not equipped to deal with so much subtlety, so much variety, so many permutations and combinations. And although we have to act in that environment, we have to reconstruct it on a simpler model before we can manage it. To traverse the world men must have maps of the world. ”

Walter Lippmann in “Public Opinion” (1922) [Gutenberg]

h/t T. Greer in “The Framers and the Framed: Notes On the Slate Star Codex Controversy

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“A boy doesn’t have to go to war to be a hero; he can say he doesn’t like pie when he sees there isn’t enough to go around.”
Edgar Watson Howe

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Image Credit: “Go Game” copyright Peerayot To-im  (RFID Image ID : 26778614)