Quotes for Entrepreneurs Collected in February 2022

Quotes for Entrepreneurs Curated in February 2022, theme this month is detecting and managing anomalies and outliers.

Quotes for Entrepreneurs Curated in February 2022

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 detecting and managing anomalies and outliers.

SKM_Creativity Master Unknown

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“We ought not to look back unless it is to derive useful lessons from past errors, and for the purpose of profiting by dear-bought experience.”
George Washington in a letter to John Armstrong, 26 March 1781

More context:

We ought not to look back, unless it is to derive useful lessons from past errors, and for the purpose of profiting by dear bought experience. To inveigh against things, that are past and irremediable, is unpleasing; but to steer clear of the shelves and rocks we have struck upon is the part of wisdom, equally as incumbent on political as other men, who have their own little bark, or that of others, to navigate through the intricate paths of life, or the trackless ocean, to the haven of security and rest.
George Washington in a letter to John Armstrong, 26 March 1781


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MVP: The Earliest Usable Version Of A Product

“The term “minimum viable product” (MVP) was coined by Frank Robinson in 2001 to describe a process that reverses the usual order of “design, build, sell.” By putting the earliest usable version of a product into the hands of a relatively small group of early adopters, the company can see what features are truly desired by its customers before it has invested heavily in features that its customers don’t actually want.”

David Weinberger “MVP Then and Now” (2014)

When this “earliest usable version” framing is lost by Lean Startup entrepreneurs they focus on their own “discovery needs” at the expense of providing value to customers. This does not lay the groundwork for a mutually satisfactory–and therefore long term–business relationship. It fosters a view of prospects as lab rats, a consumable expense in a research project, and fails to comprehend how word of mouth, reputation, and references work in most markets.  Effectuation models for entrepreneurship view relationships as integral to success and offer a superior mindset for the entrepreneur.

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“When you’re a builder, the job is to find the right solution.
When you’re a leader, the job is to find the right problem.”
Siqi Chen (@blader)

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“You can’t brake when your car is in the air. Once you place your bets and they spin the wheel you have to wait to see results.”
Sean Murphy

This applies when you:

  • leave a voicemail
  • send an e-mail
  • write an article
  • post an announcement in a forum
  • send a proposal
  • launch your product
  • find yourself talking in run on sentences in a conversation; you have to start listening.

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“A harmless man is not a good man. A good man is a very very dangerous man who has that under voluntary control. I also think that’s part of what makes a world peaceful: if you are around people who are dangerous but disciplined then everyone watches their step.”
Jordan Peterson

No one is harmless and anyone can be good–or aspire to be good.  The second half of this quote reminds me of

“An armed society is a polite society. Manners are good when one may have to back up his acts with his life.”
Robert Heinlein in “Beyond This Horizon

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“Experience should teach us to be most on our guard to protect liberty when the Government’s purposes are beneficent. Men born to freedom are naturally alert to repel invasion of their liberty by evil-minded rulers. The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding.”
Justice Louis D. Brandeis (1856-1941) US Supreme Court Justice dissenting in “Olmstead v. United States” 277 US 479 (1928)

This reminds me of

“Of all tyrannies a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. They may be more likely to go to Heaven yet at the same time likelier to make a Hell of earth. This very kindness stings with intolerable insult. To be “cured” against one’s will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on a level of those who have not yet reached the age of reason or those who never will; to be classed with infants, imbeciles, and domestic animals.”
C. S. Lewis in “The Humanitarian Theory of Punishment” (1949)

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“Line up three bowls in front of you. Put ice water in the one on the left, hot water in the one on the right, and lukewarm water in the middle one. Soak your left hand in the ice water and right hand in the hot water for about a minute, then plunge both hands into the bowl of lukewarm water. Your left hand will tell you the water of the middle bowl is warm, your right hand will report cold. A small experiment in relativity.”
Frank Herbert in “Listening to the Left Hand” (Harper’s 1973)

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“When you see a man on top of a mountain, just remember he didn’t fall there. Success and greatness are processes of climbing, and climb you must.”
Paul H. Dunn in Discovering the Quality of Success (1973)

h/t Barry Popik (@BarryPopik) “the man on top of the mountain didn’t fall there.”

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“A warhol is equal to 15 minutes of fame.”
John Cook tweeting tongue-in-cheek as @UnitFact

Context: “In the future everyone will be famous for 15 minutesAndy Warhol. I used this in “Sean Murphy — I don’t read him regularly but I hear that I should.”

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“Instead of resisting tiredness, I’ve found it useful to consider the goal of each day to reach an optimal level of tiredness. Promotes good sleep and sense of accomplishment.”
Michael Mayer (@mmay3r)

Jake Kozloski (@jakozloski) asked “What do you do when you wake up tired?”

Michael Mayer (@mmay3r): “I tend to wake up tired when I don’t go to sleep tired. It is possible to get so exhausted in a day that it persists the next day, that’s why the tweet says “optimal” not “maximum.”

My suggestions: meditate, treat yourself gently for the first hour after awakening, go for a walk, reconnect with old friends, find ways to recharge other than more sleep.

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“BLOOM: It’s simply a matter of creative accounting. Let us assume, just for the moment, that you are a dishonest man.
BIALYSTOCK: Assume away!
BLOOM: Well, it’s very easy. You simply raise more money than you really need.”
Mel Brooks in “The Producers”

I was reminded about this reading “Can a $310 million startup avoid due diligence?” It helps to explain the latest from CB insights “1,000 Unicorns” (h/t Scott Meyers for dialog)

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He who would do good to another, must do it in Minute Particulars
General Good is the plea of the scoundrel hypocrite & flatterer:
For Art & Science cannot exist but in minutely organized Particulars
And not in generalizing Demonstrations of the Rational Power.
William Blake in “Jerusalem: The Emanation of the Giant Albion” (Plate 55)

More context; “Minute Particulars” is a recurring theme in Blake’s writing.

Let the Indefinite be explored. and let every Man be judged
By his own Works, Let all Indefinites be thrown into Demonstrations
To be pounded to dust & melted in the Furnaces of Affliction:
He who would do good to another, must do it in Minute Particulars
General Good is the plea of the scoundrel hypocrite & flatterer:
For Art & Science cannot exist but in minutely organized Particulars
And not in generalizing Demonstrations of the Rational Power.
The Infinite alone resides in Definite & Determinate Identity
Establishment of Truth depends on destruction of Falsehood continually

William Blake in “Jerusalem: The Emanation of the Giant Albion” (Plate 55)

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“Catastrophe requires multiple failures—single point failures are not enough. The array of defenses works. System operations are generally successful. Overt catastrophic failure occurs when small, apparently innocuous failures join to create opportunity for a systemic accident. Each of these small failures is necessary to cause catastrophe but only the combination is sufficient to permit failure. Put another way, there are many more failure opportunities than overt system accidents. Most initial failure trajectories are blocked by designed system safety components. Trajectories that reach the operational level are mostly blocked, usually by practitioners.”
Richard Cook in “How Complex Systems Fail”

h/t John Allspaw “Root Cause

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“Knowledge is useful in the service of an appropriate model of the universe, and not otherwise. Information decays and the most urgently needed information decays fastest. However, one system’s garbage is another system’s precious raw material. The information you have is not the information you want. The information you want is not the information you need. The information you need is not the information you can obtain.”
John Gall in Systemantics

A fantastic passage from John Gall offers six very practical rules of thumb. I think the key one for entrepreneurs is “However, one system’s garbage is another system’s precious raw material.” Look for information freely available in one context that can be usefully applied elsewhere.

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“About 60 years ago, I said to my father, “Old Mr. Senex is showing his age; he sometimes talks quite stupidly.”
My father replied, “That isn’t age. He’s always been stupid. He is just losing his ability to conceal it.”
Robertson Davies in “You Are Not Getting Older, You Are Getting Nosier” (May 12, 1991 New York Times)

I think you can apply this test to companies as well, what looks like decay may just be a loss of ability to prevent disclosure what have been ongoing poor practice or losing the benefit of the doubt.

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“There is no root cause. The problem with this term isn’t just that it’s singular or that the word root is misleading: there’s more. Trying to find causes at all is problematic…looking for causes to explain an incident limits what you’ll find and learn. And the irony is that root cause analysis is built on this idea that incidents can be fully comprehended. They can’t. We already have a better phrase for this, and it sounds way cooler: it’s called a perfect storm. In this way, separating out causes and breaking down incidents into their multiple contributing factors, we’re able to see that the things that led to an incident are either always or transiently present. An incident is just the first time they combined into a perfect storm of normal things that went wrong at the same time.”
Ryan Kitchens at SRECon Americas in 2019: “How Did Things Go Right? Learning More from Incidents”

h/t John Allspaw “Root Cause” It’s not the cause that is an outlier, it’s the rare but dangerous convergence of multiple reinforcing events. I think there are basic unsafe practices but continuing to look for them after a certain point in the evolution of the organization is probably counter-productive.

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“From an abstract perspective, language that describes causality is, ostensibly, value-neutral. But use of the term ‘root cause’ is almost always used in the context of untoward or negative outcomes, and not in situations where an outcome is deemed a success. Rarely does someone demand a search for the ‘root cause’ of a successful product launch, for example. It seems widely accepted that successful outcomes in complex systems come from many influences that come together in a positive way. Failures aren’t often viewed the same way.”
John Allspaw “Root Cause

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“Genius is the ability to put into effect what is in your mind. There’s no other definition of it.”
F. Scott Fitzgerald  in “The Crack-Up” (1945)  Edmund Wilson (ed.) Chapter ‘Note-Books E: Epigrams, Wisecracks, Jokes.”

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“Jackson was just sitting there, looking at his plate with some pieces of bread on it, but not eating. Knowing that my nine year old son was hungry I asked him, ‘Why aren’t you eating?’
‘Dad, you know what they say: Man doesn’t live by bread alone.’
‘Put something else on your plate, make a sandwich.’
‘No, Dad, that’s not what I meant. Man cannot live by bread alone. I’m waiting for you to sit down with me.'”
David Reynolds in “Lead, Learn, Change

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” It is only by being in trouble that people can understand how far from easy it is to be the master of one’s feelings and thoughts. Sofya Petrovna said afterwards that there was a tangle within her which it was as difficult to unravel as to count a flock of sparrows rapidly flying by.”
Anton Chekhov in “A Misfortune” [Gutenberg]

h/t Content Philosopher (@contentphilia). The “flock of sparrows” reminds me of these lines from “Secret Journey”

“I listened to his words
I strained to understand him
I chased his thoughts like birds”
The Police  in “Secret Journey”

Only in this case,  it’s about getting your own thoughts in order.

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“Research has become central; it also becomes more formalized, complex, and costly. A steadily increasing share is conducted for, by, or at the direction of, the Federal government. […] Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity. For every old blackboard there are now hundreds of new electronic computers. The prospect of domination of the nation’s scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present and is gravely to be regarded.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Farewell Address (1961)

I like the fact that he clearly sees a balancing set of risks. We need to fund research but we don’t want to extinguish individual initiative and curiosity; science and technology are an increasingly important component of our lives and competitiveness as a nation, but we cannot defer the analysis of tradeoffs and opportunity cost of investment solely to experts, in particular government funded expertise.

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“If someone refuses to let you see their data, and they say it’s because they’re afraid you’ll misinterpret it, that tells you a LOT about what’s in the data, maybe all you need to know.
John Cook tweeting as “Data Science Fact” (@DataSciFact).

One good way to help a team converge on an approach is for everyone to answer the question, “what information would change your decision or planned action?” Then you are in a joint search for a better model, or you realize that you have a values conflict if no data would change someone’s position. It’s also legitimate for team members to ask each other: “so that I can better understand the reasoning that led to your decision (or planned course of action), can you please share with me what data or experiences you used to inform it?” Asking, “is there any data I can offer that would change your approach?” shifts the focus to seeking common ground. But if your question is viewed as a delaying tactic–essentially a request for “more study”–a fallback with a team member is “what data should we collect as we implement this approach to enable mid-course corrections and adjustments and interim and final assessments? When documenting your own decisions, you should always identify what data to collect during implementation. I have covered different aspects of data driven decision making in

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“Mistakes are at the very base of human thought, embedded there, feeding the structure like root nodules. If we were not provided with the knack of being wrong, we could never get anything useful done. We think our way along by choosing between right and wrong alternatives, and the wrong choices have to be made as frequently as the right ones. We get along in life this way. We are built to make mistakes, coded for error.”

We learn, as we say, by “trial and error.” Why do we always say that? Why not “trial and rightness” or “trial and triumph”? The old phrase puts it that way because that is, in real life, the way it is done.
We are at our human finest, dancing with our minds, when there are more choices than two. Sometimes there are ten, even twenty different ways to go, all but one bound to be wrong, and the richness of selection in such situations can lift us onto totally new ground. This process is called exploration and is based on human fallibility.

Lewis Thomas in “To Err is Human” (New England Journal of Medicine (Jan-8-1976)) collected in “The Medusa the Snail

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“The most sustainable edge you can have is the enjoyment of learning.”
Angela Jiang (@angjiang)

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“We are less concerned with dignity than we used to be. Rarely is ‘That would be undignified’ considered a legitimate objection to anything. It’s vain to be overly concerned about one’s dignity, but few people err on that side these days.”
John D. Cook (@JohnDCook)

It is not just kindness to be concerned with the human dignity of others; it is the core of civil society.

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Fishes leave the water, but not as fishes. They must have the potential to change. You have lost that potential. There is your stop, your limit . . . that word you do not like. As humans, you cannot make the next step, which is co-operative intelligence. [. . .] Like the flying fish, you may glimpse, for a moment, something more, but you will have to fall back, each time.
John T. Phillifent, ‘‘Flying Fish’’ (1964)

1 thought on “Quotes for Entrepreneurs Collected in February 2022”

  1. A very well crafted collection of important quotes for nascent Entrepreneurs. They must remember that kindness is a virtue that they must always cherish and uphold apart from the obvious players of hard work, smart work and persistence that are necessary to achieve success.

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