Quotes for Entrepreneurs Curated in November 2021

Quotes for Entrepreneurs Curated in November 2021, theme this month is gratitude and counting your blessings.

Quotes for Entrepreneurs Curated in November 2021

I curate 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 gratitude and counting your blessings. I picked this theme without reference to Thanksgiving but given Thanksgiving occurs in November I think it’s a doubly appropriate choice for this month.

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“Think where man’s glory most begins and ends,
and say my glory was I had such friends.”
William Butler Yeats in “The Municipal Gallery Revisited

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“When eating a fruit, think of the person who planted the tree. ”
Vietnamese saying

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“This a wonderful day. I’ve never seen this one before.”
Maya Angelou

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Rules Streets Vuong

“The rules, like streets, can only take you to known places.” Ocean Vuong

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“From equanimity there is choice; from choice there is free will.”
Drew Byrne

I think he is riffing on this quote by Rollo May:

“Freedom is thus not the opposite to determinism. Freedom is the individual’s capacity to know that he is the determined one, to pause between stimulus and response and thus to throw his weight, however slight it may be, on the side of one particular response among several possible ones.”
Rollo May “Freedom and Responsibility Re-Examined

I blogged about this in “Conversations with Prospects: Review, Share Notes, Ask for Feedback.” Note that this quote is often incorrectly attributed to Viktor Frankl (See Citation by Garson O’Toole in “Between Stimulus and Response There Is a Space. In That Space Is Our Power To Choose Our Response” for a deep dive into attribution).

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“My dog is sitting outside with a morose expression, as if some insight just struck him with inarguable force.
Update: dog bounded up the back steps and banged on the door and wanted his late-night snack. Now happy. Relieved; hate those late-night emergency vet bills for acute weltschmerz.”
James Lileks (@Lileks)

I have experienced the sensation of an insight striking with “inarguable force.” Most of the time it’s the end of an illusion that’s been holding me back or allowing me to postpone necessary action. Sometimes it’s seeing a new shorter faster path through a maze of constraints to a solution–a just seeing that a path exists, no matter how circuitous. The challenge is to translate your welschmerz, your dissatisfaction/sadness/weariness with the insufficiency of the world into a plan for improving at least a small corner of the world.

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“Start at the beginning. Move one step in the direction of your goal. Remember that you can change direction to maneuver around obstacles. You don’t need a plan, you need a vector.”
Cory Doctorow “Homeland

This reminds me of Paul Saffo’s “Ready, Fire, Steer” A modicum of planning followed by action and adjustments to plan based on unfolding events. Somewhat related is this detail from an image tweeted by Ben Ford (@CommandoDev)

Quotes for Entrepreneurs -- Command and Control

On Command and Control.

Generally people in tech say those words with a sense of distaste. But Command and Control don’t go away when you simply empower people to make decisions.

Direction and Constraints are ever present, and always shifting.

Command – Direction: The actions we take in business have a reason. A purpose. We mostly undertake those actions as part of a plan. A plan that people agree to and sign up to. Regardless of where plans come from, they dictate our actions and how we use our resources. They set the direction that people agree to.

Control – Constraints: The plans we enact in order to realize some benefit are always subject to constraints. Constraints can be imposed by the environment, for example the time or resources we have available. They can also be informed by experience and learning: we’ve learned that doing this thing a certain way is better than another way.

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“All of us encounter, at least once in our life, some individual who utters words that make us think forever. There are men whose phrases are oracles; who condense in a sentence the secrets of a life; who blurt out an aphorism that forms a character, or illustrates an existence.”
Benjamin Disraeli

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“To be a pioneer is to stand on a shore and look out to a land no one can see, know there are dangers we cannot imagine…and set forth anyway.”
Simon Sinek (@simonsinek)

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“We memorized phone numbers. We memorized driving directions. No one knew what we looked like. No one could reach us. We were gods.”
Omri Elisha (@AnthroOmri) in a tweet with many excellent follow on observations

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“Grandad was superstitious about books. He thought that if you had enough of them around, education leaked out, like radioactivity.”
Terry Pratchett in “Johnny and the Dead”

This reminds me of a quote I posted in August 2009:

“Buying books would be a good thing if one could also buy the time to read them in: but as a rule the purchase of books is mistaken for the appropriation of their contents.”
Arthur Schopenhauer in Parerga and Paralipomena

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“Nothing will stop some people but a small admission fee.”
Kin Hubbard in “Abe Martin’s Almanack (1909)

It’s funny how some books that are a century old could have been written last year. Jerome K. Jerome‘s “3 Men in a Boat” and “3 Men on the Bummel” also pass this test.

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“The third time is the charm.
The fourth is persistence.”
Lawrence Musgrove

Reminds me of the Japanese proverb: “Fall down seven times get up eight.” See also “Things I Have Learned From My Children.

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“I found in the clutter at the workbench my cup,
the coffee just cool enough to drink.”
William Stafford

In my case I left my coffee cup in the microwave two hours ago when I nuked it and then got distracted before the minute timer went off. Sometimes I reach for my coffee on my desk to refill it and realized that I forgot i did that 10 minutes ago.

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Leaders within the Australian healthcare system have identified “what matters” in digital transformation. The factors are similar for any large scale change initiative. It’s HOW we go about the change & WHO we engage as much as WHAT we do: (from What Matters in Digital Health Now”)

  • Share What Works
  • Understand Goals
  • Consider the Customer
  • One Size Does Not Fit All
  • Manage Hygiene Factors
  • Set Priorities

Helen Bevan (@HelenBevanTweet)  Chief Transformation Office, NHS Horizons

The first sentence of “What Matters in Digital Health Now” is ‘Australia’s Healthcare industry players are not wasting a crisis in the goal of achieving much needed digital transformation.” I have two observations:

  1. Those who don’t “let a crisis go to waste” tend to be more interested in dictating outcomes than listening and negotiating shared value.
  2. Digital is like electricity, a pervasive platform. The real question is,”What is the value you are providing?” Not, “Is it digital?”

I agree with her observation that  “digital” is like any large scale transformation, and at this point is probably a pleonasm (think “horseless”) when attached to a change effort.

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“No one is more surprised by real change than those who sought to control it.”
Richard Fernandez

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“Making love with a woman and sleeping with a woman are two separate passions, not merely different but opposite. Love does not make itself felt in the desire for copulation (a desire that extends to an infinite number of women) but in the desire for shared sleep (a desire limited to one woman).”
Milan Kundera in “The Unbearable Lightness of Being”

A visceral distinction between transactions and relationships. Reminds me of this observation by Warren Buffet:

“I learned to go into business only with people whom I like, trust, and admire. As I noted before, this policy of itself will not ensure success: A second-class textile or department-store company won’t prosper simply because its managers are men that you would be pleased to see your daughter marry. However, an owner–or investor–can accomplish wonders if he manages to associate himself with such people in businesses that possess decent economic characteristics. Conversely, we do not wish to join with managers who lack admirable qualities, no matter how attractive the prospects of their business. We’ve never succeeded in making a good deal with a bad person.”
Warren Buffet in a section entitled “Mistakes of the First Twenty-five Years (A Condensed Version)” from his  1989 letter to shareholders of Berkshire Hathaway

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“The unspoken contract of a workshop is this: the audience grants you temporary control of their attention (and actions) in the belief that you will transmute it into something new and valuable.”

The Workshop Survival Guide by Rob Fitzpatrick, Devin Hunt, and Adam Rosen

Good advice for demos, sales pitches, support calls–any time you are asking someone for their time and attention in life actually. Repay attention with relevant insights, suggestions, and kindness.  I profiled Rob Fitzpatrick recently in “Rob Fitzpatrick: Five Mistakes Bootstrappers Should Avoid in 2021” Don’t worry if you missed them this year they will still be waiting for you in 2022–or whatever year you happen to find yourself in when you are reading this.

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“The battlefield is a scene of constant chaos. The winner will be the one who controls that chaos, both his own and the enemies.”

Managing the internal chaos of your emotional flux–doubts, fears, excess confidence, fixations that lead to inattention to detail–is as important for entrepreneurs as making sense of the ambiguity of many conversation and events. It’s probably more important to remove any ambiguity or uncertainty about your intentions in the minds of your customers, prospects, and partners than conceal your strategic intentions from competitors.

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“Clear thinking requires courage rather than intelligence. ”
Thomas Szasz

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Baker opens this section with a reference to a term coined by Robertson Davies, “Fifth Business.” Here is definition from the preface:

 “Those roles which, being neither those of Hero nor Heroine, Confidante nor Villain, but which were nonetheless essential to bring about the Recognition or the denouement, were called the Fifth Business in drama and opera companies organized according to the old style; the player who acted these parts was often referred to as Fifth Business.”

Robertson Davies in “Fifth Business

He then elaborates on what this involves in a business context.

“There are individuals in various enterprises who play this role. They are almost invisible, but they can be recognized when people say, “I don’t know what she does, but when she’s around, everything seems to go better.” That person is the Fifth Business. She helps people more fully express their individual talents and connect with each other so that the performance can come to life. Such a person does not seek credit: it is not in their nature. Seeking credit is incompatible with the role; the person must stay in the background to be effective. The role is similar to that of ‘servant leader.’

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

Servant leadership is a term coined by Robert Greenleaf, “A new moral principle is emerging which holds that the only authority deserving one’s allegiance is that which is freely and knowingly granted by the led to the leader in response to, and in proportion to, the clearly evident servant stature of the leader.”

Servant leadership (or “The Fifth Business”) is an underappreciated but essential aspect of any team’s success. In the best teams, every team member is able to subordinate their individual needs to the goals of the team. Will Wright has a similar perspective, “I consider some team members glue: they motivate and improve the morale, they bring the team together tighter and tighter.”

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“As soon as Jeff Goldblum wakes up he tries to remember his dreams, and ruminates on them for a bit. If the dream seems important or if he’s in the mood, he’ll write it down.”
Lane Florsheim in Monday Morning with Jeff Goldblum (Nov-15-2-21)

He is trying to take advantage of another mode of thinking,  related quote:

“Dreaming is neither consistently wise nor consistently useless. The dream’s power lies in the fact that is it so different a mode of thought–that it supplements and enriches what we’ve already done while awake.”
Deidre Barrett in “The Committee of Sleep

In addition to the dream state there is hypnogagia or the act of falling asleep and hypnopompic state of rational cognition and wakefulness after awakening. All three states can enable insight and creative solutions to problems. I keep a pad of paper by my bed to capture thoughts that occur as I am falling asleep or immediately after I have awakened.  Sometimes I will remember something I should have accomplished–or need to do tomorrow–as I am falling asleep. Writing it down allows me to relax knowing I have captured. Other times I will wake up with an new approach to a problem or situation and write it down so that it survives my morning routine until I am ready to put it into practice.

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Warnock’s Dilemma: silence is hard to interpret. It may mean agreement, an unwillingness to engage, you were not heard, a lack of understanding, or apathy.

The problem with no response is that there are five possible interpretations:

  1. The post is correct, well-written information that needs no follow-up commentary. There’s nothing more to say except “Yeah, what he said.”
  2. The post is complete and utter nonsense, and no one wants to waste the energy or bandwidth to even point this out.
  3. No one read the post, for whatever reason.
  4. No one understood the post, but won’t ask for clarification, for whatever reason.
  5. No one cares about the post, for whatever reason.

The real issue is that the problem may not go away. Most of time, the #2s and #4s of the world don’t realize why they’re not understood.”
Bryan C. Warnock  in a reply on a Perl forum (Aug-7-2000)

There are some other good observations in the thread that silence may in fact be a slow response due to

  • Overwhelmed by other work or volume of messages.
  • Time zone differences between sender and audience member.
  • Listeners / readers are still formulating a thoughtful and detailed response.
  • Language differences can mean that the need to translate slows answers.

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Startups Fail When the Team Loses Morale and Cannot Recover.

  • “I think the #1 reason startups fail is the founders run out of energy.”
    Sahil Lavingia (@shl) in a 2020 tweet
  • “Startups don’t die when they run out of cash, they die when the founders run out of energy.”
    Naval Ravikant (@naval) in 2013 tweet

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“Success can only be achieved through repeated failure and introspection. In fact, success represents the 1% of your work that results from the 99% that is called failure.”
Soichiro Honda

h/t Sim B. Sitkin in “The Stretch Goal Paradox.” Sitkin is famous for ““Learning through failure: The strategy of small losses.” [I have not been able to find an online version that is not protected by a paywall]  Paul J. H. Schoemaker wrote Brilliant Mistakes: Finding Success on the Far Side of Failurea book length exploration of the same insight that Honda and Sitkin outlined above.

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“Don’t ask permission to write the code, ask permission to check it in. While there are times you should “just do it,” it’s not a collaborative or reliable long term strategy. Take the initiative to develop a solution but get buy-in before deploying.”
Ned Utzig in Two Things I Learned When I Crash Landed at a Startup

More context:

Grace Hopper, US Navy Rear Admiral, Computing Pioneer, and (for a brief period) Digital Employee is famous for saying: “It is easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission.”

I have found this to be at least partly true. I think the modified, very software-developer-centric version of this for me became: “Don’t ask permission to write the code, ask permission to check it in.” My version skips the forgiveness part, because although there are indeed times when you should “just do it” and possibly upset people in the process, it’s not really a collaborative or reliable long-term strategy. You still need eventual buy-in with my modified version of avoiding asking permission. But it does allow for taking the initiative to do something nobody asked you to do, which is really a killer skill if you can master it.
Ned Utzig in Two Things I Learned When I Crash Landed at a Startup

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“Often the difference between a successful marriage and a mediocre one
consists of leaving about three or four things a day unsaid.”
Harlan Miller

True as well for successful business partnerships

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“When a council fail to provide protected routes that a 10 year old can use on their own….they rob our children of freedom. We need cities fit for autonomous kids not autonomous cars.”
Chris Kenyon (@BoxbikeLondon) Oct 11, 2018

Part of a thread (reformatted for easier reading with bolding added to key phrase):

“Adding cycling to walking QUADRUPLES the number of people who can get to their local shops and community resources in less than 20 minutes. And critically 15 – 20 minutes is about how far most people will actively travel without getting in a car / bus. When councils don’t enable getting to the local high street by bike they are excluding large groups of people from their daily dose of exercise–particularly the elderly.

  • When a council puts a bike track through an unlit park or canal route, they are excluding many women, the elderly and many young men who feel vulnerable in our cities.
  • When a council send a route round the houses and make it longer, ‘Distance Decay’ evidence is that it is older residents and women who simply abandon using a bike and lose their daily dose of active travel.
  • When a council put anti-moped barriers on pathways and cycle tracks–they are excluding disabled bike users and parents (more often than not women) from their daily dose of Active travel.
  • When a council fail to provide protected routes that a 10 year old can use on their own….they rob our children of freedom. We need cities fit for autonomous kids not autonomous cars.

Our failure to make Active Travel something for the many, not just the brave disproportionately falls on the very groups that most politicians want to enable to live healthier more fulfilling lives. Streets should not be conduits to a Type II Diabetes crisis. It’s time to talk about ‘enabling’ active travel, not just encouraging it. If we want health for everyone we need to enable active travel for the 1-3 km journeys to local shops and schools and realize that low traffic neighborhoods are good for public health.

Healthy streets is about a public health crisis that needs actions across our city. The mayor needs the power to build a high-quality, dense network of contiguous infrastructure. This is not about bikes…it about better streets for everyone.”

Chris Kenyon (@BoxbikeLondon) Oct 11, 2018

h/t Brent Toderian (@BrentToderian): “Not sure who said it first, but it’s right. We need cities designed for autonomous kids, not for autonomous cars.” This tweet encouraged me to find an older source. An earlier phrase might have been “free range children” or “free range childhood.” In “Some Things Change, Others Remain Constant”  I observed, “I used to think nothing of leaving the house as a boy and being out and about in the neighborhood for hours on my bike or at the library or playing ball.”

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“A thankful heart is not only the greatest virtue, but the parent of all other virtues.”
Marcus Tullius Cicero

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“It takes humility to consider information that contradicts your opinions.
You’re willing to concede that you might be wrong.

It takes curiosity to actively seek evidence that challenges your views.
You’re eager to find out if you might be wrong.”
Adam Grant (@AdamMGrant)

Experienced entrepreneurs cultivate these traits to minimize the gap between their hypotheses and reality to minimize their vulnerability to competitors exploiting gaps in their knowledge and offerings based on incorrect assumptions. This is easy to write but hard to do. Some inexperienced entrepreneurs try to win arguments with their customers and prospects to avoid updating their worldview. This is easy to do but hard to recover from.

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“The man who forgets to be thankful has fallen asleep in life.”
Robert Louis Stevenson

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“A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees. The greatest work that kindness does to others is that it makes them kind themselves.”
Frederick William Faber

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“Three resolutions for 2021:

  1. Be useful in a crisis by first of all recognizing that it’s just the end of an illusion, cultivating calmness, and looking for opportunities as well as mitigations.
  2. Make friends easily by letting go of my need to be right, pretending that I heard the apology I needed–when none was forthcoming–to be able to forgive, and keeping in touch and connecting them with others.
  3. Nurture and act on good ideas when I have them by starting with well-framed experiments, tinkering and iterating, and scaling or abandoning based on what I learn.”

Sean Murphy in “Thanksgiving 2021: The Road Goes On

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“Beginning today, treat everyone you meet as if he or she were going to be dead by midnight. Extend to them all the care, kindness, and understanding you can muster, and do so with no thought of any reward. Your life will never be the same again.”
Og Mandino

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“Reject your sense of injury and the injury itself disappears.”
Marcus Aurelius

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“Dedicated to my late wife Janet Murphy Heyer who saw something in me, and my life was never the same thereafter.”
Mike Heyer in his dedication to A U.S. Army Soldier’s Cold War Memoir 1970-1973

Janet Murphy was my cousin, I knew Mike growing up. I think the Army also saw something in him, the Army promoted him to sergeant during his three years of service in Germany.  Their marriage was an inspiration to us all.

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“We must allow men to do themselves great injuries in order to avoid a greater evil–slavery.”
Vauvenargues in Maxims #162

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On the value of “Quotes for Entrepreneurs”

“A turn of phrase, that engenders a change of mind, that allows for a new direction, that changes the world.”
Art Monk

From a recent email entitled “Sean: great quotes AND much appreciated.”

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