Entrepreneurial Lessons from the Constitutional Convention

Today, we honor our Presidents, and maybe more importantly, the office of the President. It was built into the U.S. Constitution, as one of the three branches of governance. But consider this: the Constitution was NOT the first attempt at government here in the colonies. In fact, in reflecting on the creation and ratification of this amazing document, I see at least four parallels to the ideas of entrepreneurship and living lives of purpose that we share and champion.

  1. Just start. There was no Constitution in place to greet the pilgrims when they landed here in the New Land. There was no guarantee of success (i.e. survival). They just knew they couldn’t stay where they were, enduring lives of quiet desperation. And so they stepped out in faith that a new start, a new plan, a new idea could give them a new life. And they were willing to bet on themselves. What do you need to “just start”?
  2. Adjust as you go. As the colonies’ populations grew, the need for organized government grew. The Mayflower Compact, the Massachusetts Bay Charter, and even the Articles of Confederation were all attempts at uniting the colonies under a cohesive government structure. And none of those are around today. But the experience and wisdom gained from those experiments resulted in one of the greatest self-governing documents ever written. What do you need to adjust?
  3. Compromise on ideas, not values. At the Constitutional Convention, the delegates were passionate about their beliefs and values. They knew the Articles of Confederation were too weak, yet they also knew that the British system they had just defeated, the one with the king, was also not what they wanted. How could they find and create the balance between a strong national government to protect the Country and their interests, while also protecting and nurturing their values of individual freedom, liberty and responsibility? The Convention almost disintegrated over the heated debates and arguments around these concepts. The biggest obstacle early on was around State representation in the Congress. The large colonies (i.e. states) felt representation should be based on population (valid point). The small states, fearing this would diminish their influence (and rightly so), felt every state should have an equal vote (another valid point). Until this was resolved, the delegates saw no need to go any further with the Convention. The stalemate was finally broken with The Great Compromise, which created the innovative idea of the two-house Congress. The House of Representatives would have an allocated number of delegates from each state based on its population. The Senate would have equal representation from every State with two senators each. After that one compromise, the rest of the Convention sailed along. The whole thing took less than 5 months. Where is a compromise in idea(s) necessary to break your stalemate?
  4. Unanimous is not required. It’s surprising to learn that the Constitution was NOT an immediate hit. Ratification was not a slam-dunk. In fact, there were a couple of delegates to the Convention that wouldn’t even sign the final draft, so opposed were they. Additionally, even though the Framers allowed for resistance by only requiring 9 of the 13 states to ratify it, it took two and a half years to get those 9 states, and even then, a few of those votes only passed by the slimmest of margins. The point is that even though the Framers believed in what they had created, they had to sell it to the people. They had to argue for its merits and endure the haters. They knew they weren’t going to get 100% buy-in across the land, but they also knew they didn’t need it. They only needed enough. Are you waiting for unanimous?

Regardless of your political views, we can all celebrate the office of the President and how its role came into existence through the toil and dedication of the delegates at the Constitutional Convention. And we can celebrate the lessons they modeled for us in incorporating our values and beliefs into our businesses, our communities, and our lives.

 

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