Quotes for Entrepreneurs Curated in September 2022

Quotes for entrepreneurs curated in Sep-2022 around the theme of gaining insight from experience–especially mistakes.

Quotes for Entrepreneurs Curated in September 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: Gaining insight from experience–especially mistakes.

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Most of us spend too much time on what is urgent and not enough time on what is important. Covey

Most of us spend too much time on what is urgent and not enough time on what is important.
Stephen Covey

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“I have two basic rules about winning in trading as well as in life:
(1) If you don’t bet, you can’t win.
(2) If you lose all your chips, you can’t bet.”
Larry Hite

From an interview with Jack D. Schwager in Market Wizards: Interview with Top Traders (1989). Survival is a necessary precondition for being able to apply what you learned from an experience. You can also learn from others who don’t survive.

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“One of the original sins of social media in its current form is that we all tend to hear only the noisiest of people who post all day long and dominate the majority of feeds. On Twitter, I’ve optimized my reading list to avoid this and it’s still a problem – people who post twenty times a day are long since pruned, but even those who post twice a day drown out those that only post once a month. There’s plenty of people I’d love to hear from who I probably miss even in the rare instances they post something because they’re lost in a sea of noise.”

Brandur Leach in  Spring ’83

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The history of my stupidity would fill many volumes.

Some would be devoted to acting against consciousness,
Like the flight of a moth which, had it known,
Would have tended nevertheless toward the candle’s flame.

Others would deal with ways to silence anxiety,
The little whisper which, though it is a warning, is ignored.

I would deal separately with satisfaction and pride,
The time when I was among their adherents
Who strut victoriously, unsuspecting.

Czeslaw Milosz in an excerpt from “Account

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“When someone says there are no rules what they actually mean is the rules have changed.”
Brian Norgard (@BrianNorgard)

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“Even though I know I am holding myself back, I cannot prevent myself from going too far.”
Drew Byrne

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“There’s a tradeoff between working to avoid errors and working to achieve excellence.”
Lorin Hochstein (@norootcause)

Working to avoid errors is “exploit mode” that uses existing knowledge to achieve predicted results. Working to achieve excellence is “explore mode” that creates new knowledge and novel results. Both have value. See “Where Is Your Team On the Explore-Exploit Continuum” for a short briefing.

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“There is no end of history. Instead, civilization is a constant fight to embrace what has worked for the common good through the ages—and to reject what in the past has failed abysmally. Bad and bankrupt ideas, protocols, and ideologies—like McCarthyism, communism, various cults, or fascism—resurface not because of their intrinsic or lasting value or record of success, but because civilizations become less vigilant and allow human vanities, ignorance, arrogance, and evil to reassert themselves.”
Victor Davis Hanson in “How Bad Ideas Become Wonderful”

I would not have agree with this 20 years ago, but now it seems all too true. Twenty years ago I would have been optimistic about the “end of history” with the collapse of the Soviet Union and China joining the WTO and seeming to embrace democracy. Now this quote by Robert Heinlein seems more accurate

“Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded –here and there, now and then–are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty.

This is known as “bad luck.”

Robert Heinlein in “Time Enough for Love

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“A process cannot be understood by stopping it. Understanding must move with the flow of the process, must join it and flow with it.”
Frank Herbert in “Dune”

True for any dynamic system including living systems. As Alistair Mant observed, you can disassemble a bicycle and put it back together have the same functionality. You cannot do that with a frog.

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“I grow little of the food I eat, and of the little I do grow I did not breed or perfect the seeds.
I do not make any of my own clothing.
I speak a language I did not invent or refine.
I did not discover the mathematics I use.
I am protected by freedoms and laws I did not conceive of or legislate, and do not enforce or adjudicate.
I am moved by music I did not create myself.
When I needed medical attention, I was helpless to help myself survive.
I did not invent the transistor, the microprocessor, object oriented programming, or most of the technology I work with.
I love and admire my species, living and dead, and am totally dependent on them for my life and well being.”
Steve Jobs in an Email himself on  Thursday, September 2, 2010 at 11:08PM

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“Unintended consequences are inevitable.”
Beston Jack Abrams

After five decades in business, Beston Jack Abrams self-published 7 books of aphorisms. His focus is discerning the truth and taking moral action.I have used Abrams’ aphorisms a the basis for several blog posts:

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“Rebellion against your handicaps gets you nowhere. Self-pity gets you nowhere. One must have the adventurous daring to accept oneself as a bundle of possibilities and undertake the most interesting game in the world — making the most of one’s best.”

Harry Emerson Fosdick

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“Sober captains of industry are rarely responsible for building new industries.”
Ben Landau-Taylor in “New Industries Come From Crazy People” (Feb-2-2021)

I think there are two reasons for this. First, their risk tolerance does not allow them to wager the level of failure needed for a breakthrough. Second, they have other career paths available that don’t require taking significant risks and appearing wrong or foolish for an extended period.

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“In poverty and other misfortunes of life, true friends are a sure refuge. The young they keep out of mischief; to the old they are a comfort and aid in their weakness, and those in the prime of life they incite to noble deeds.”

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“So hard to think my way back into the self that didn’t know all the things it knows now—outcomes, personal and public; innovations; changes in the cultural atmosphere.”

Sven Birkerts (@svenbirkerts)

This is what makes understanding history so hard.  This reminds me of a quote I curated in April of 2022:

“History is lived forward but it is written in retrospect. We know the end before we consider the beginning and we can never recapture what it was to know the beginning only.”
C. V. Wedgwood in “William the Silent: William of Nassau, Prince of Orange 1533-1584” [Archive]

A somewhat similar insight to Soren Kierkegaard’s lament that, “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” Wedgwood’s observation offers some useful guidance for learning for history: don’t work backward from what we know the result to be but comprehend the range of possibilities that were present.

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“By and large, I seem to have made more mistakes than any others of whom I know, but have learned thereby to make ever swifter acknowledgment of the errors and thereafter immediately set about to deal more effectively with the truths disclosed by the acknowledgment of erroneous assumptions.”

Buckminster Fuller in Critical Path

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“Anxiety is thought without control.
Flow is control without thought.”
James Clear (@JamesClear)

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“I am not pleading with you to make changes. I am telling you that you have got to make them-not because I say so, but because old Father Time will take care of you if you don’t change. Advancing waves of other people’s progress sweep over the unchanging man and wash him out. Consequently, you need to organize a department of systematic change-making.”

Charles Kettering in a speech to US Chamber of Commerce, 1929

Quoted by Robert Buderi in “Other People’s Progress” in MIT Technology Review, Dec03/Jan04; it’s also quoted in his book “Engines of Tomorrow.”

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“It is not always by plugging away at a difficulty and sticking at it that one overcomes it; but, rather, often by working on the one next to it. Certain people and certain things require to be approached on an angle.”

Andre Gide (1869-1951) Journal (26 Oct 1924) [tr. O’Brien (1951)]

h/t Dave Hill’s WIST “Wist I had said that”  quote collection.

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“Experience achieves more with less energy and time.”
Bernard  Baruch

Knowledge and expertise are factors of production. This reminds me of a quote I curated in November 2018.

“Five British military aphorisms I have relied on all of my life:

  1. No good plan without good information.
  2. Sweat saves blood, brains saves sweat and blood.
  3. Time spent in reconnaissance is seldom wasted.
  4. Never underestimate the enemy
  5. Order, counter-order, disorder.”

Fr. Timothy Horner, OSB in “Learning all the time

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“Politeness is not the same as kindness. Being polite is saying what makes people feel good today. Being kind is doing what helps people get better tomorrow. In polite cultures, people withhold disagreement and criticism. In kind cultures, people speak their minds respectfully.”
Adam Grant

While I am not always polite, I always strive to be kind.

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“Without tact you can learn nothing. Tact teaches you when to be silent. Inquirers who are always questioning never learn anything.”
Benjamin Disraeli in “Endymion” [Gutenberg]

A reminder that you sell with your ears.

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“While there was lots of ignorance, the bliss was of poor quality.”
Kin Hubbard in “Abe Martin’s Primer (1914)”

A riff on

“Where ignorance is bliss, ’tis folly to be wise.”
by Thomas Gray Ode in “On a Distant Prospect of Eton College

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“Between what you can do and what you do lies a sea, and it its depths lies buried the wrecked will.”
Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach

In a letter to Herr Paul Heyse, in 1884, she says she failed in her ambition to reform the theatre due to a lack of talent.

“To this day I can recall the hour when my ambition became a consecrated resolve. The spot was the fir heath described in Lotti the Watchmaker. My age was thirteen years. Since then over thirty years have gone by, and I have striven through most of them to fulfill the dream of my childhood. My industry has been sufficient; it is in talents that I am wanting.”

Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach n a letter to Herr Paul Heyse, in 1884.

Heyse won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1910.

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Core of B2B strategy:

  1. For whom?
  2. For what problem?
  3. How severe?
  4. Why now?
  5. Why us?
  6. What business value?
  7. How to differentiate & distribute?
  8. What is not our focus?
  9. What major steps to get there?
  10. How will we evaluate progress?

Make it direct and cohesive.”

Shreyas Doshi (@shreyas)

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“There’s a truism that the road to Hell is often paved with good intentions. The corollary is that evil is best known not by its motives but by its methods.”
Eric S. Raymond

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“It is never about what the numbers are – but rather how they change, when, in what way, and why. This is the difference between statistics and systems theory.”
Ethical Skeptic (@EthicalSkeptic)

I think he is highlighting the differences between Stocks and Flows. A “stock” is the current level or amount, the flow is how it’s changing.

(in increasing order of effectiveness)
12. Constants, parameters, numbers (such as subsidies, taxes, standards).
11. The sizes of buffers and other stabilizing stocks, relative to their flows.
10. The structure of material stocks and flows (such as transport networks, population age structures).
9. The lengths of delays, relative to the rate of system change.
8. The strength of negative feedback loops, relative to the impacts they are trying to correct against.
7. The gain around driving positive feedback loops.
6. The structure of information flows (who does and does not have access to information).
5. The rules of the system (such as incentives, punishments, constraints).
4. The power to add, change, evolve, or self-organize system structure.
3. The goals of the system.
2. The mindset or paradigm out of which the system — its goals, structure, rules, delays, parameters — arises.
1. The power to transcend paradigms.”
Donella Meadows in “12 Places to intervene in system

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 “Judge each day not by the harvest you reap but by the seeds you plant.”
William A. Ward

Reminds me of a quote I used in “Plus Minus People”

“Negative Productivity is a principle that I claim is worthy of a Nobel Prize. Normal principles of productivity assume that workers create positive output. Brooks refined the concept of software productivity to express it in terms of the “mythical man month,” and in software engineering, it is understood that different programmers vary in their productivity by several orders of magnitude. According to the principal of negative productivity, it is possible for an individual to produce bad results that others must then redo; hence, someone who is very negatively productive can keep a whole team busy with damage control, preventing the team from producing any output whatsoever.”
Gordon Bell in High Tech Ventures (From the footnote 3 on page 133 )

I think many new employees start negative or weakly positive. You need to make a substitution if training does not help.

“Removing someone with negative productivity from a team without replacement is the same as adding a new team member.”
Gordon Bell in High Tech Ventures

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“A great inequality is observable in the vigor of the mind at different periods of the day. It’s powers at these periods should therefore be attended to in marshalling the business of the day.”

Thomas Jefferson in a letter to John Minor, 30 August 1814, including Thomas Jefferson to Bernard Moore,

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