Quotes For Entrepreneurs Curated in July 2021

Quotes for entrepreneurs curated in July of 2021, theme this month is developing and refining ideas

Quotes For Entrepreneurs Curated in July 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 developing and refining ideas

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“There was no United States of America before July 4th, 1776. There was not yet, formally speaking, an American people. There were, instead, living in the thirteen British colonies in North America some two-and-a-half million subjects of a distant king. Those subjects became a people by declaring themselves such and then by winning the independence they had asserted as their right.”

From the Final Report of the President’s Advisory 1776 Commission  (January 2021)

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“Outstanding people have one thing in common: an absolute sense of mission. A man or woman is seldom happy unless he or she is sustaining him or herself and making a contribution to others.”
Zig Ziglar

Alignment with a higher purpose enables you to persevere, explore variations on earlier efforts, and take risks with affordable losses. When you play a long game, you do more than remove defects in your current approach, you have to explo re new methods, or at some point, you will cease to improve.

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“We crave simplicity in our history when there is only complexity.”
Peter Van Buren in “We Have to Face History No Matter How Hard We Try to Erase It.

When my boys were young and we were watching a movie they would always ask, “Who is the good guy? Is that guy the bad guy?” As they got older they learned that it’s more complicated than that.

“Out of the crooked timber of humanity, no straight thing was ever made.”
Immanuel Kant

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“Everything is going to be crazier than we can imagine. Things seem wild right now, but if history is any indication, this period is going to look quaint in a decade and antique in a century. We need to be prepared.”

Packy McCormick (@PAckyM) in “Scale: Rational in the Fullness of Time

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“Continuous improvement isn’t nearly as important as discontinuous improvement. Creativity is a discontinuity. A creative act breaks with the chain that has come before it.

Russell Ackoff

h/t Howard Silverman’s “Russ Ackoff: What’s a System?” Oren Harari riffed on this with,“The electric light was not the result of the continuous improvement of the candle.” I used this latter quote in “Why I Enjoy Working with Teams of Bootstrapping Entrepreneurs.

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“When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. ”
Martin Luther King, Jr.

h/t Final Report of the President’s Advisory 1776 Commission  (January 2021)

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“A month in the laboratory can often save an hour in the library.”
Frank H. Westheimer

I used this in “The Phoenix Checklist for Framing a Problem and Its Solution” and “Use the Cult of Done Manifesto to Avoid Procrastination and Perfectionism

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Beware of Facebook Bearing Gifts

“The nice shiny rings from Sauron were also ‘free.’ ”
Substack spokeswoman Lulu Cheng Meservey quoted in Washington Post: “A classic Silicon Valley tactic — losing money to crush rivals — comes in for scrutiny”

Virgil said it first: “Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes.” “I fear the Greeks, even when they bear gifts.” (Beware of Facebook bearing gifts)

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“Even in physics, there is no infallible procedure for generating reliable knowledge. The calm order and perfection of well-established theories, accredited by innumerable items of evidence from a thousand different hands, eyes and brains, is not characteristic of the front-line of research, where controversy, conjecture, contradiction and confusion are rife. The physics of undergraduate text-books is 90% true; the contents of the primary research journals of physics is 90% false. The scientific system is as much involved in distilling the former out of the latter as it is in creating and transferring more and more bits of data and items of ‘information’.”
John Ziman in “Reliable Knowledge: an Exploration of the Grounds for Belief in Science” (1978) [Archive.org]

h/t Susan Stepney quote collection

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“I’m the guy who does his job. You must be the other guy.”

Sergeant Dignam at a particularly tense point in “The Departed”

A funny line and and one that many of us tempted to use at various times in our career. Probably one difference between a good career and great career is to consider but then avoid this approach. More context, it’s from a scene where the police are trying to capture video evidence of the exchange of microprocessors for money between the Costello gane and Chinese triad members; the cameras are placed such that they don’t capture the key aspects of the exchange.

Dignam : [observing an ] This is unbelievable. Who the heck put the  cameras in this place?

Police Camera Tech : Who the heck are you?

Dignam : I’m the guy who does his job. You must be the other guy.

h/t IMDB The Departed: Sergeant Dignam. Note: In some versions of the movie talk track–pretty much all now that I think about it–the word “heck” is substituted with a word that won’t allow me to send this blog post reliably to most of my subscribers.

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“In chess, you start with everything you have on the board. In Go, you start from nothing and build.”
Tim Klinger, quoted in “To Test a Powerful Computer, Play an Ancient Game” (New York Times, July 29, 1997)

I think Go is better training for entrepreneurs but Chess is not without merit in sharpening your thinking. I like this quote by Stanley Kubrick

“Among a great many other things that chess teaches you is to control the initial excitement you feel when you see something that looks good. It trains you to think before grabbing, and to think just as objectively when you’re in trouble.”
Stanley Kubrick quoted in Kubrick by Michael Ciment

I used this in “Chess Quotes for Entrepreneurs” a longer version of the quote appears in the post.

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“I am still looking for the modern equivalent of those Quakers who ran successful businesses, made money because they offered honest products and treated their people decently, worked hard, spent honestly, saved honestly, gave honest value for money, put back more than they took out, and told no lies. This business creed, sadly, seems long forgotten.”
Anita Roddick in “Body and Soul”

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Janis Ozolins: Making Time (Quotes for Entrepreneurs)
Image Credit Janis Ozolins “Making Time”

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Offices aren’t over. They are just part of the mix. Co-working isn’t the future. It is part of the mix.

Much of our work and many of our employees need an office. We can’t expect every home is suitable for the work.

Work is not remote. It is where it needs to be. Work is not hybrid. It gets done how it needs to be done. Work is irrevocably flexible.

Simon Terry in “It’s not where you work

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“It is true that widely accepted ideas are never the personal property of their so-called author; on the contrary, he is the bond servant of his ideas. Impressive ideas which are hailed as truths have something peculiar about themselves. Although they come into being at definite time, they are and have always been timeless; they arise from that realm of procreative, psychic life out of which the ephemeral mind of the single human being grows like a plant that blossoms, bears fruit and seed, then withers and dies. Ideas spring from a source that is not contained within one man’s personal life. We do not create them; they create us.”

Carl Jung

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“Beware of business plans. Have a look at some business plans that are 3-5 years old of both successful and unsuccessful companies. You’ll have a good laugh at both. The main difference between the successful companies and the dead/dying ones is how they reacted when their assumptions blew up.”
Steve DiBartolomeo in “Founder Story: Steve DiBartolomeo of Artwork Conversion Software

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“We live long and prosper today largely because we inherit virtually free-of-charge the wisdom of preceding generations. It took many generations of humans to produce this knowledge, which represents millions of human hours of insight and experimentation.”
Steven Lewis in “Time-Binding Ethics” (1996)

More context:

“We live long and prosper today largely because we inherit virtually free-of-charge the wisdom of preceding generations. When my students complain about the cost of their textbooks I ask them to place a value on their lives. Then I asked them to consider how long it would take them, working alone or as a class, to rediscover all the knowledge summarized for them in their textbooks. Of course, they could not hope in a lifetime to rediscover all this knowledge as a class or as individuals. It took many generations of humans to produce this knowledge, which represents millions of human hours of insight and experimentation.
Steven Lewis in “Time-Binding Ethics” (1996)

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“Principles tell us where to look, not what to see.
Even a small plan needs at least two moves.”
Bruce Pandolfini

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“The only way to be completely in control of your own destiny is to remove the need for incremental capital raises altogether. Achieving profitability is the most liberating action a startup can accomplish. Now you make your own decisions. It will also minimize future dilution.”
Bill Gurley (@BGurley) in “On The Road to Recap” (2016)

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Andrew Verboncouer (@averbs): What’s it called when you have to-dos to make more to-dos?

It can be many things.

  1. Planning.
  2. Project management.
  3. Delegation.
  4. A phased implementation.
  5. Meaning Before Detail.
  6. Delayed binding of decisions.
  7. Defining triggers to wait for better information but not so long that you are overtaken by events.

On #7: It’s rare for a startup to have enough information to be able to use classroom or MBA tools to solve a problem, but there is value in determining when inaction will make the decision for you and gathering more information until that point. Sometimes you are in a “sudden death overtime” situation where it’s hard to predict, for example the timing of a new competitor’s response. Then you have to decide if you want to be first with your current best response or just prepare it, updating it incrementally until it’s either “good enough” or you have to respond immediately with it because the competitor has made their move.

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“The ability to create complex stories makes it easy to fool people, including yourself.
What’s boring is often important and the smartest people are the least interested in what’s boring.
Intelligence can make it difficult to communicate with ordinary people, who may have the missing insight you’re looking for.”

Morgan Housel “Too Smart

related blog post “Morgan Housel: Beware the Intellectual Arrogance of ‘Too Smart’

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“He who would learn to fly one day must first learn to walk and run and climb and dance; one cannot fly into flying.”
Friedrich Nietzsche in “Thus Spoke Zarathustra

For years I have suggested to entrepreneurs that “Before we strap on the jet pack, could we try running real fast?  It’s only last week that we were crawling.”  Nietzsche writes earlier in “Thus Spoke Zarathustra” [Gutenberg] that “Not by wrath, but by laughter, do we slay. Come, let us slay the spirit of gravity!  I learned to walk; since then have I let myself run. I learned to fly; since then I do not need pushing in order to move from a spot. Now am I light, now do I fly.”

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“Naturally there is a sense in which each new invention is technically possible even before its discovery. The laws of physics change not a whit after the eureka moment! However, when we have yet to realize that we can do something, and therefore cannot, should it be labeled otherwise than impossible?

It gets trickier. Even the most minute act of noticing, if deemed significant, necessitates drafting a new map for the territory. Refresh to apply changes!

There are social consequences to iconoclasm, regardless of whether challenging a given sanctified consensus turns out to be “correct” or “on the right side of history” in retrospect.

You must be brave enough, foolhardy and cocky enough, to attempt the impossible–and you must endure the social cost–if you want to accomplish anything new. There’s no other way to find out whether your idea will work, since you’ll always be told that it won’t.”

Sonya Mann in “Impossibility Space

I have blogged about how successful entrepreneurs tend to be “Mavericks, Iconoclasts, Dropouts and Misfits .” In “Howard Marks: ‘Dare To Be Great’” I explored Howard Marks’ 2006 essay, “Dare to be Great,” which explains that the key to a successful investment is to be unconventional but correct, pointing out it was true for startups as well. I think there is one other point to make, the impossible is not only discovered, it’s also designed. The untried combinations in the “adjacent possible”

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“At some point in the future, China will need to choose between governmental strategies and systems. It is safe to assume that relying on top-down decrees from an aging, mentally declining paramount leader who is vulnerable to careerist flattery will not produce good results. The more that China centralizes, the more it will suffer. But if decisions about policies and institutions are based on a rough consensus among keen-eyed observers who are open to emulating the practices and experiments of successful regions, China will thrive.

A China with many distinct systems exploring possible paths to the future might really have a chance of becoming a global leader and proving worthy of the role. A centralized, authoritarian China that demands submission to a single emperor will never have that opportunity.”
Brad DeLong in “Xi’s Quest for Centralization Destined for Failure” (Jun-2-2021)

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Founders need to know how to sell.  Because you need to:

  • Understand customer requirements,
  • See how various people respond to your solution,
  • Hear feedback, questions, objections firsthand,
  • Learn about your market, the trends and challenges,
  • Build relationships with your early adopters.

Brendan McAdams in “Founders and Sales

I agree with Brendan, the founders must sell. For more on this, see an article we collaborated on this month: “Why is an Enterprise Sale So Complex?

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“Our achievements speak for themselves. What we have to keep track of are our failures, discouragements and doubts. We tend to forget the past difficulties, the many false starts, and the painful groping. We see our past achievements as the end result of a clean forward thrust, and our present difficulties as signs of decline and decay.”
Eric Hoffer in “Reflections on the Human Condition”  (1973)

I used this quote to lead off the “Forming an Advisory Board’ chapter in the next volume in my “Working Capital” series, “Working Capital Vol 2: Forming Your Team.” It  will be out later this year.

I think we can remember fear, anger, sadness, joy, and surprise. But I think it’s hard to remember suspense (except perhaps as a mix of frustration and fear) and especially to recapture an earlier sense of ignorance or confusion. Unless you keep a journal or a log. One benefits an advisory board meeting offers is documenting your current state of ignorance, confusion, and feeling stuck.

In his “Meditations”, Marcus Aurelius advises, “Never let the future disturb you. You will meet it, if you have to, with the same weapons of reason which today arm you against the present.” Keeping a log and documenting your confusion and contradictory hypotheses allows you to see what you have learned, mastered, or overcome. I blogged about this in “When Exploring, Keep a Log.”

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“Those who made the decisions with imperfect knowledge will be judged in hindsight by those with considerably more information at their disposal and time for reflection.”
Don Rumsfeld in “Known and Unknown: A Memoir”

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The business is performing continuously. This makes it impossible before the performance to practice interacting–there is no “before,” there is only “during.” People are continuously rehearsing for future actions, future adjustments. Planning is part of the rehearsal. […]

Planning helps people expand their mental model to encompass more of the ecosystem and thereby learn how to support each other better.

Dr. Edward Martin Baker in “Scoring a Whole in One

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“You can analyze the past, but you need to design the future. That is the difference between suffering the future and enjoying it.”
Edward De Bono

See also “Quotes on Foresight

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“It was so easy to be wise in the explanation of an experience one has not personally witnessed.
Algernon Blackwood in “The Wendigo” (1910) [Gutenberg] (also at “The Wendigo” [WikiSource])

A warning that is still broadly applicable a century later.

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“Simplicity is about subtracting the obvious, and adding the meaningful.”
John Maeda

This is the tenth law of simplicity his “The Laws of Simplicity.” This is a useful rule to remember for talks, emails, and blog posts. I would add that there are things even worse than the obvious: the extraneous, the redundant, and the long-winded.

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“The ability to judge people’s character is probably the most underrated skill in the world these days. Being a good judge of character has saved my ass lots of times, and I’ve seen many many people get burned because they’re only okay at this. And yet I rarely see it mentioned in advice for young people, career retrospectives, or self-help guides.  I continue to focus improving my judgement: whenever it becomes clear that I’ve misjudged someone’s character in any important way, I think about what I missed and what I should’ve paid attention to in order to get it right ahead of time.”
Ben Landau-Taylor (@benlandautaylor)

Ben Landau-Taylor also wrote a detailed and insightful analysis of “The Franklin Effect” and its implications for how to cultivate your social capital. He has clearly given a lot of thought to character, reliability, and building trust. I have one refinement to his improvement process. It is implicit in his “what I missed” but requires active follow-up to determine if you were wrong. The updating process should be applied not only when you have been burned but when someone you had determined was a “risk” does something that should trigger a positive re-evaluation. You should be alert to both “false negative” and “false positive” errors. Especially true when membership in a category contributes to an initial negative evaluation (e.g., don’t trust an Irishman, don’t trust anyone over 30).

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Ellis Rosen (@EllisRosen): 'Walk For Your Lives.'

Marty Ringlein (@martymadrid): What a startup really thinks about the “what if the larger, publicly traded company, were to build a competitive offering”

SKMurphy Take: I think it’s closer to a lava flow, slow moving but destroying anything that you have built in it’s path. I think you have to build in locations that are off track from the natural path of the flow.

Image: Ellis Rosen (@EllisRosen): ‘Walk For Your Lives.’

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“Intelligence is the computational part of the ability to achieve goals in the world”
John McCarthy in “What is AI?

McCarthy’s answer continues: “Varying kinds and degrees of intelligence occur in people, many animals and some machines.”  An enormous opportunity for startups are tools, systems, and methods that can improve team and organizational intelligence to achieve shared goals. Rich Sutton offers an interesting extension:

“Intelligence is the computational part of the ability to achieve goals. A goal achieving system is one that is more usefully understood in terms of outcomes than in terms of mechanisms.”
Rich Sutton in “Definition of Intelligence

By inference we can calculate the intelligence of groups and organizations by their ability to set and hit shared goals. Startups sometimes refer to the ability to set and hit goals as traction. See “Zoom in for Traction, Zoom out for Impact” and “Three Tests for Startup Goals.”

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“We are kept from our goal not by obstacles but by a clear path to a lesser goal.”
Robert Brault

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“The choices we don’t see coming can only be seen going.”
Drew Byrne

A key aspect of refining your idea is to judge how well it’s working. That’s why it’s a good idea to do a retrospective every so often, if you see a mistake in the rear view mirror you have a chance to prevent or avoid it next time.

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“Product rule #1: don’t ever do an underpowered economy version. The lowest version you make should be something you would be happy to use. Same with gifts. If buying for someone (aka your kids), buy the version you’d use (or their actual wish). The inverse of goodwill is not good.

Why do I conflate product making with gifts? Because both involve product + and a layer of empathy that radiates out of it and is felt by the recipient. That goodwill makes your margins + s signals your attitude for that person. Giving/making headaches is the last thing you want.”

Diana Zink (@DianaZink)

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