Quotes for Entrepreneurs Curated in October 2022

Quotes for entrepreneurs on constructive confrontation and integrating needs: avoiding negotiating purely based on positions.

Quotes for Entrepreneurs Curated in October 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.

Themes for this month: constructive confrontation and integrating needs: avoiding negotiating purely based on positions.

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Dorothea Lange

To know ahead of time what you’re looking for means you’re only photographing your own preconceptions, which is very limiting, and often false.
Dorothea Lange

It’s hard to escape the prison of our perceptions and inspect a situation from alternate perspectives.

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A friend asked me, “Larry, how can you trade the way you do; isn’t it boring?”
I told him, “I don’t trade for excitement; I trade to win.” It may be very dull, but it is also very lucrative.

Larry Hite in an interview with Jack D. Schwager in Market Wizards: Interview with Top Traders (1989)

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“It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!”
Upton Sinclair in “I, Candidate for Governor, and How I Got Licked” (Dec-11-1934)

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“Simple Mindset Shifts:

  • I’m not hurt, I’m healing.
  • I’m not losing, I’m learning.
  • I was not rejected, I was redirected.

Negative things happen. Negative mindsets make them harder.”
James Clear (@JamesClear)  in “Simple Mindset Shifts

I think you have to follow through:

  • Take the steps that help you heal and recover from an injury.
  • Make sure you learn from losses–and it can be very hard to learn the right lessons, so compare notes and get multiple perspectives.
  • Vary your approach. Don’t be redirected too easily, but don’t get stuck in “try try again” mode.

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“Your prospects want to understand how your product will help them outperform their competition.  This requires more than explaining to them how it works.  If you wait for customers to tell you what to implement you will lose to other firms that ask questions that enable them to appreciate not only current weaknesses but also the strengths that they can build on.”

Sean Murphy in Appreciative Inquiry Mindset Essential to Customer Discovery

I used a variation on this in Malcolm Gladwell Suggests Appreciative Inquiry Into Inner-City Schools

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“This is not my expertise” is not an admission of incompetence. It’s an expression of self-awareness.
The antidote to arrogance is not lowering your confidence. It’s raising your humility.
You don’t have to deny your strengths. You just have to recognize your weaknesses.
Adam Grant

This reminds me of Buffet’s “Circle of Competence” model:

“What an investor needs is the ability to correctly evaluate selected businesses. Note that word ‘selected’: You don’t have to be an expert on every company, or even many. You only have to be able to evaluate companies within your circle of competence. The size of that circle is not very important; knowing its boundaries, however, is vital.”
Warren Buffet in a 1996 letter to Berkshire Hathaway Shareholders

Stephen Covey in “The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People” distinguishes between your “circle of concern” or the things that you are aware of, and your circle of influence. Within the circle of influence are things under your direct control: your choices, your mindset, your behavior, your habits, etc..

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“People do not always argue because they misunderstand one another; they argue because they hold different goals. These will always be a matter of debate, and attempts to evade it through “nonpartisan” communication or “education” programs simply beg the question.”
William H. Whyte Jr. in “Groupthink,” Fortune (Mar 1952)

h/t WIST (David C. Hill’s “Wish I’d Said That”). More context with core point bolded for emphasis:

“[Groupthink] is impervious [to reason] because the ideal of unity it holds out obscures for us some disagreeable facts of life — and the necessity for facing them on moral grounds. “Communication” is a term in point. As used in its cult sense, it implies the facile premise that the conflicts that plague us are due simply to “blocks” in the communication flow, and that if we get the technical hang of it, all will be well. Up to a point this is true. But people do not always argue because they misunderstand one another; they argue because they hold different goals. These will always be a matter of debate, and attempts to evade. it through “nonpartisan” communication or “education” programs simply beg the question.”
William H. Whyte Jr. in “Groupthink,” Fortune (Mar 1952)

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“The ignoring of data is, in fact, the easiest and most popular mode of obtaining unity in one’s thought.”
William James in “The sentiment of rationality

There are two versions of “Sentiment of Rationality,” this quote appears in the original article in Mind but not in a revised version James published in his life.

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“Whenever two good people argue over principles, they are both right.”
Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach

This is a useful definition of  a dilemma. Key words are “good people” and a key assumption is that they agree on the facts.

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“I hate the 5 to 10 percent layoffs. You don’t get any material impact to lowering your expenses. Yet you get all the cultural negatives of having done a layoff. You get 100 percent of the pain and very little gain. And then you’re in retweet land—you end up with two or three of them.”
Bill Gurley in “If you’re going to build something from scratch, this might be as good a time as in a decade.

Here is a subsequent exchange from the same interview

Rick Tetzeli: Layoffs, of course, can be particularly tough on a company. Don’t you ever worry that people could cut too aggressively at this point?

Bill Gurley: I’ve never seen that in my history. Everybody says, “We’re getting to the bone.” Everyone says that. And I know it’s a touchy subject because people are losing their jobs. But companies—even small start-ups—are way more resilient than people realize. It’s the norm that you cut 30 percent, and everything keeps going. You don’t lose all your customers. And some people find, “Oh, wait, we’re moving a little faster.” Sometimes things get better. I mean, yes, eventually some companies go bankrupt. But I’ve never seen someone do too much. You can always hire back. I think 95 percent of the time, the failure is the other way, of not doing enough.

From “If you’re going to build something from scratch, this might be as good a time as in a decade.

I am not a fan of layoffs, I prefer reduced work weeks, furloughs, temporary shutdowns, and other pain sharing models. But there are times when they may be necessary to save a company and it’s best if they are done once.

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“The first step in a growth policy is not to decide where and how to grow. It is to decide what to abandon. In order to grow, a business must have a systematic policy to get rid of the outgrown, the obsolete, the unproductive. [..]

It cannot be said often enough that one should not postpone; one abandons. […]

Don’t tell me what you’re doing, tell me what you’ve stopped doing.”

Peter Drucker quoted in  Inside Drucker’s Brain by Jeffrey Krames

h/t John D. Cook in “Peter Drucker on Abandoning Projects

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“There is no reasonable principle behind an employment law or regulation that allows an attorney to sell his labor independently while at the same time it forbids a writer, engineer, or truck driver from doing the same. Yet, that was exactly the intention, purpose, and effect of the AB5 law in California.”
Chris Hansen in an email reply to an AB5-related thread on IEEE-CNSV mailing list (hyperlink added)

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“Why projects fail: The users fail to sufficiently study the intent of the dev team so they can completely adapt their work habits to sufficiently allow for success. Am I right?”
Charles Lambdin

Another way to express the same advice, perhaps a little less ironically:

It was at IBM that I first heard the phrase, “There ain’t no customers in headquarters.” Serving customers requires getting in front of them, talking to them, and learning how to address their issues.
Patricia Hume in “There ain’t no customers in headquarters

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“Ask yourself if it isn’t weird that modern mass culture has been so lousy at producing art and literature, but weirdly terrific at forgetting, burning, destroying, and unperson-ing.”
Matt Taibbi (@MTaibbi) in “On the Loony Van Gogh Protests” [Paywall]

More context, hyperlinks added:

Fahrenheit 451, much like 1984, We, and Brave New World, was a warning about a future in which basic human instincts for love, kindness, and decency are obliterated by utopian politics. Written variously in response to mass movements like Nazism, Stalinism, and the Red Scare, the dystopian novels all contain the same themes, one of which is a future where people aren’t merely indifferent to art but hate and fear it, to the point of taking pride in destroying it (and liquidating its admirers). Another theme is indoctrinating the very young and still another is the ritualized assault on familial or sexual love, with the craving for connection replaced by substitute “families” supplied by the state.”
Matt Taibbi (@MTaibbi) in “On the Loony Van Gogh Protests” [Paywall]

It’s disconcerting to find myself in a situation where insights from dystopian novels resonate with observations of contemporary culture. But if we cannot learn from the historical mistakes of Nazism, Stalinism, and the Red Scare–or their fictional representations–and we fail to react to their harbingers, then we may be doomed to repeat them.

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“When tending a vast and beautiful garden, you have to plant many seeds, never knowing ahead of time which ones will germinate, which will produce the most glorious flowers, which will bear the sweetest fruit. A good gardener plants them all, tends and nurtures them, and wishes them well. Optimism is the best fertilizer.”
Kevin J. Anderson in “Clockwork Angels

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“The App Store model makes it very difficult to use the techniques that worked in the old days of shrink wrap and direct online distribution: trial periods, version upgrades and other concepts that don’t fit into the ‘buy it once and get upgraded for life”
HN user DiskZero in https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=331666

h/t Ivan Kozik(@notegone) https://github.com/ivan

Mechanism design creates incentives–positive and negative–with far reaching effects. Apple may be encouraging lower quality software on their platforms due to their AppStore mechanism design decisions.

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I liked Jason Coles “Who cares if it scale” where he points out

The Hardest Problem Fallacy:  by solving the most complex version of a problem you’ve automatically solved all of the simpler versions. In fact, it’s a huge waste of energy. By trying to anticipate and solve for all eventualities, you waste time, money, and effort at all phases of creating a solution:

  • Analysis: you spend time thinking about all of the things that might happen, but lack the data to know the likelihood that they actually will happen, so all needs carry equal weight. In reality, a few needs will cover the majority of the actual activity in your business, with the remainder making up low-probability edge cases.
  • Design: due to the size of the problem space, any solution you create must be complex and robust, even when a far simpler solution might work in the near term. In the absence of real data, you’re forced to guess at the best way to tackle imaginary problems and automate processes.
  • Implementation: building a complex solution, whether software or a business process, takes much longer than building a simple one. In the meantime, you lose valuable opportunities to gather feedback and real-life data, even as your commitment to the solution hardens.
  • Execution: once your solution is built, you’re stuck with it, both because it took so long to build (another fallacy: Sunk Cost) and because complex systems are hard to change. As you learn which of your guesses were correct and which weren’t, you find out which investments were valuable and which were simply bad bets.

Jason Coles in “Who Cares if it Scales?

I worked with someone with an academic background who would always say “if we solve the hardest problem first then everything will be easy.” But an incremental approach allows you to explore key aspects of the problem and make progress on simpler aspects. You have to worry about “painting yourself into a corner” but it’s likely that you don’t have a real grasp of the constraints until you have implement several trial solutions and observed where they break down.

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“Few things hold folks back more than the belief they are “too advanced” to do the humbling, low status work required to create something out of nothing.

From what I have seen, rather than believing you are so experienced you can skip the grind, it’s better to fully embrace it.”

Dalton Caldwell (@daltonc)

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I agree with this, I blogged about “paying your dues” in 2010:

“While ‘you need to pay your dues’ can be code for ‘sit down and shut up’ but it can also mean other things.

Many teams work on complex projects that can take a while to appreciate. Sometimes there are aspects of taking responsibility for a situation or a piece of a project that are not obvious until you have experienced them yourself.

Sometimes it’s a polite way for someone to tell you that you have not demonstrated the necessary competence or results to ask for more responsibility.”

Sean Murphy in “Orienting, Observing, Doing Homework, and Paying Dues

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“There is no future where the United States can both maintain its existential national interests and allow the world’s principal supplier of semiconductors to come under the direct political control of China.

And there is no future where China can both maintain its existential national interests and allow the world’s principal supplier of semiconductors to remain outside its direct political control.”

Ben Hunt in “Taiwan in Now Arrakis” (July 2020)

If we can find a creative solution to this challenge it will prevent a lot of bloodshed. I am not optimistic. On the other hand it’s not clear the path since Tiananmen Square  could avoid additional bloodshed–ask Hong Kong. I found this passage from “The Two Towers” apropos.

‘We can do no more,’ said Gimli sadly. ‘We have been set many riddles since we came to Tol Brandir, but this is the hardest to unravel. I would guess that the burned bones of the hobbits are now mingled with the Orcs’. It will be hard news for Frodo, if he lives to hear it; and hard too for the old hobbit who waits in Rivendell. Elrond was against their coming.’

‘But Gandalf was not,’ said Legolas.

‘But Gandalf chose to come himself, and he was the first to be lost,’ answered Gimli. ‘His foresight failed him.’

‘The counsel of Gandalf was not founded on foreknowledge of safety, for himself or for others,’ said Aragorn. ‘There are some things that it is better to begin than to refuse, even though the end may be dark.”

J. R. R. Tolkien in “The Two Towers

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“No tool is omnicompetent. There is no such thing as a master-key that will unlock all doors.”
Arnold Toynbee in “A Study of History” (Volume 12: Reconsiderations)

More context:

“One significant characteristic of tools is their number and variety. Each of them is designed for doing a particular job. No tool is omnicompetent. There is no such thing as a master-key that will unlock all doors. If we treat an hypothesis as a mental key, we shall discard it if we find that it unlocks no doors at all, and put it down for the moment in order to try another if, after having successfully opened a number of doors with its aid, we eventually come to a door into whose lock it does not fit. But, when we do lay aside a well-tried key, we must not forget that it did unlock the previous doors. While it is true that there is no hypothesis that explains everything, this does not mean that each of our hypotheses is not good as far as it goes.”
Arnold Toynbee in “A Study of History” (Volume 12: Reconsiderations)

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“The safest way to try to get what you want is to try to deserve what you want. It’s such a simple idea. It’s the golden rule. You want to deliver to the world what you would buy if you were on the other end.”
Charles Munger

h/t “Study Munger: Charlie Munger Quotes

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Real innovation is hard, rare, and not always obvious. We don’t get to decide if something is innovative–the market decides. We can schedule and fund discovery: the intentional, organized, thoughtful, step-wise, interview-based search for real insights.

Rich Mironov in “We Can’t Schedule Innovation, But We Can Schedule Discovery

More context:

Real innovation is hard, rare, and not always obvious.

Finding something that customers need and don’t yet know they want and will lead to massive adoption or word of mouth and hasn’t been uncovered by the competition and is technically feasible and fits our funding/economic model will be quite rare. Certainly not solved by writing quarterly goals to be more innovative. We can’t demand or schedule innovation.

We can schedule and fund discovery: the intentional, organized, thoughtful, stepwise, interview-based search for real insights. We can regularly get out of our corporate bubbles and talk with (listen to!) large numbers of actual users/customers/prospects. Because it doesn’t matter what our product managers (or executives or salespeople or investors) think. We don’t get to decide if something is innovative – the market decides.

Rich Mironov in “We Can’t Schedule Innovation, But We Can Schedule Discovery

SKMurphy, Inc. did not make Rich Mironov’s list of discovery experts. We have been at it as long as any he mentioned, but we work with small teams of bootstrapping founders, not product managers at large firms. Here are 40 Tips for B2B Customer Development Interviews

I guess I don’t feel so bad, he also left off Peter Cohan, who developed the Great Demo! methodology. Peter has a fantastic new book on “Doing Discovery.”

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“Being too far ahead of your time is indistinguishable from being wrong.”
Howard Marks in “The Most Important Thing Illuminated

Certainly true if you don’t have the staying power to see your efforts or investment through. Which reminds me of a quote by Montesquieu that I used in “Take Time to Walk Around the Problem

“The success of most things depends upon knowing how long it will take to succeed.”
Charles Louis de Montesquieu (1689-1755) in “Pensees Diverses

I like this quote so much I have curated it–or close variations with by different translators–three times in my “quotes for entrepreneurs” roundups:  January 2011, October 2012, and May 2016. I think there is an argument to be made that you should actually predict a distribution function for early success, expected success, and late success to complement your likelihood estimate for the probability of success.

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“The fact of first-rate importance is the predominant role that custom plays in experience and in belief. No man ever looks at the world with pristine eyes. He sees it edited by a definite set of customs and institutions and ways of thinking. Even in his philosophical probings he cannot go behind these stereotypes; his very concepts of the true and the false will still have reference to the structure of his particular traditional customs.”

Ruth Benedict  in “The Science of Custom”

Ruth Benedict wrote “The Science of Custom” as a stand alone article in 1929 in Century Magazine 117 (pgs 641-649) which was collected in “Every Man His Way ” in 1958 by Alan Dundes. She reworked as the first chapter of “Patterns of Culture” in 1934 this passage was not changed.

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“If you want peace in your life, you have to stop declaring war.”
Shannon Alder

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“Come, be human. Sit down and let’s talk.”
William Stafford

I am surprised by how much I learn from an honest conversation with someone whose perspective and experience differs from mine. When I am willing to engage with an open mind. Some useful questions that begin with “What would have to be true for the other person’s…”

  • …statement to be accurate?
  • …proposed course of action to be viable?
  • …proposed course of action to be optimal?
  • …criticism of me to constructive and not an attack?

h/t Roger Martin “What Would Have to Be True?

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“Pay close attention to what excites you and what drains you.

Pay close attention to when you’re being the real you and when you’re trying to impress an invisible jury.”

Derek Sivers in the “You make your perfect world” chapter of “Anything You Want

Derek Sivers offers a wealth of practical perspectives in “Anything You Want.Highly Recommended. We used four chapters as a basis for a Managing Growth Exercise at the Sep-2019 Bootstrapper Breakfasts.

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Quotes for Entrepreneurs: In my defense the moon was full and I was left unsupervisedHappy


Image Credit: Werewolf Designs, used with attribution

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