Opinion: business lessons learned from the American Revolution

“History doesn’t repeat itself, but It often rhymes.” – Mark Twain. Although Twain was not a forefather, he knew a thing or two. Our country recently celebrated 247 years since we declared our independence from England by blasting off fireworks, chugging beer and grilling American hamburgers and hot dogs. I’d like to take a moment to analyze what business and sales professionals can learn from this historic time period. 

In school, we learned that our Nation was founded in 1776 when a group of men (aka a Congress) who drafted, voted on and signed the Declaration of Independence. We were even taught that it was Thomas Jefferson, our third president, who penned those famous words. 

What you might not have comprehended is that this did not happen overnight. Like many great businesses, it took our forefathers much time, many compromises, multiple decisions made that did not go as planned and unwavering grit to build what they built.

We learn from our forefathers that success is a process. Follow along and let me explain:

Our fight to become our own nation started way before 1776. The Boston Tea Party, widely regarded as the colonies’ biggest official revolt against England’s ruling was in 1773. 

The lesson learned here is that when pain becomes great enough, change is desired. Take action. Even if that action is just the beginning to something unknown.

The first time the colonies came together to discuss their shared concerns of how they were being ruled by King George III was in 1774. We know of this as the First Continental Congress. What you might not remember is that not all 13 colonies were represented. Georgia could not be bothered. The delegates, most strangers who did not have much in common, met for six weeks. They shared their concerns, negotiated and compromised a solution, and then collectively notified the King of their displeasure. Their plea failed. 

The takeaways from this experience for business professionals are many. Understand that not all team members will be on board at first. That is okay. Give them time. Not all ideas succeed. This is normal. Don’t give up. And finally, allow enough time for collaborate meetings. Greatness is not knocked out in an hour or two. 

With the results of the decisions made at the First Continental Congress backfiring (literally), a Second Continental Congress convened back in 1775 reminding us today that if at first you don’t succeed, try and try again. It took until June 1776 before a resolution for independence was suggested. On July 2 (yes, the second and not the fourth) the Second Continental Congress voted to adopt the resolution. However, not all members could agree on the actual wording of the document. It took two extra days to make everyone happy. This is why we celebrate July 4 and not July 2. On July 4, 1776 the Declaration of Independence is signed. 

By example, our forefathers teach us the power of persistence and the art of compromise.

As they say, “the rest is history”. We go to war with England. The newly formed United States were not favored to win. The war lasts seven long years. Without the help from the French (as well as a couple other nations who don’t get mentioned enough in textbooks), the chance of gaining independence is non-existent. The Constitution is draft. The Bill of Rights are adopted. George Washington is named President. Yet…what about the timeline?

The war ended in 1783. The Constitution was not ratified until 1788. George Washington was elected President in 1789. The Bill of Rights (you know the words that give us things like “freedom of speech” and “right to bear arms”) were ratified in 1791. And lastly, it was not until 1797 that President Washington did what was at the time unthinkable; he peacefully transferred power to another leader without war and without the successor being family. More impressive is when in 1801 John Adams transfers this power to Thomas Jefferson as where Washington and Adams were friends, Adams and Jefferson were not.

What makes our great country what it is today is that it is forever growing and evolving. The same applies to business success. Remember you won’t have all the answers. Not every decision works out as intended. It is a process. Things take time. You will not be able to do it alone. The minute you think you have it all figured out, you’ll realize you still have much left to accomplish.  

Afterall, our forefather’s started down their path for success in 1773 by recognizing a desire for change. It was not until 1801 that the majority of the pieces to their masterpiece were in place. It still takes this young nation six decades before slavery is abolished (Amendment 13) and over a century before women can legally vote (Amendment 19). 

Be the American Dream. Live the American Dream. Promote the American Dream. Just make sure you understand what that means if you care to learn from those who laid the foundation for our great nation. 

Dustin Owen, CMB, is vice president – Eastern Division Sales for Waterstone Mortgage in Florida.

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