If you think about it, America’s first startup was, well, the United States of America. So it’s not surprising that the country’s first President, George Washington, knew a thing or two about how to make outlandish visions a reality — seeing as he was the founder of perhaps the most impressive “startup” in modern history. What could be more daunting than turning the then-conventional idea of top-down government on its head and suggesting that it be run bottom-up, for and by the people?
I’ve collected some of Washington’s most insightful quotes that every entrepreneur and aspiring-entrepreneur can learn from about what it took to get his little endeavor off the ground.
1. “If freedom of speech is taken away, then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.”
Takeaway: Don’t dismiss your critics. Listen and respond to what they have to say with respect. You can gain helpful insights on how to improve your business from their feedback.
2. “Be courteous to all, but intimate with few, and let those few be well tried before you give them your confidence. True friendship is a plant of slow growth, and must undergo and withstand the shocks of adversity before it is entitled to appellation.”
Takeaway: Networking for the sake of networking will get you nowhere. Take the time to build real connections and cultivate relationships that are mutually beneficial for all involved.
3. “99% of failures come from people who make excuses.”
Takeaway: Don’t procrastinate. The only person who cares about your startup as much as you do is you. So you are the only one responsible for moving it forward. Ultimately, your success will be defined by how much of your time and energy you, and only you, are willing to commit to making your vision a reality.
4. “Few men have virtue to withstand the highest bidder.”
Takeaway: Always think in terms of what’s best for your business’s future, not for your immediate gain. Big sums of money have the distracting power of shiny objects, but always remember to remove yourself, step back and reflect calmly on what will be the right decision for your vision in the long-run.
5. “Associate yourself with men of good quality, if you esteem your own reputation; for ‘tis better to be alone than in bad company.”
Takeaway: Your team is your biggest asset. If you surround yourself with motivated team-players, you’ll benefit from their positive energy just as much as your company will from their high standards and good quality of work.
6. “We should not look back unless it is to derive useful lessons from past errors, and for the purpose of profiting by dearly bought experience. ”
Takeaway: Don’t dwell on small failures. As you start a company, it’s inevitable that you will make mistakes and encounter setbacks. Recognize that, but let those pitfalls propel you forward rather than allowing yourself to become discouraged. You’ll be a better entrepreneur if you can reflect intelligently on your negative experiences and use them to inform future decisions.
So what do you think? Was the United States a startup? I’d argue that founding a nation based only on the theoretical ideas of political philosophers is still about the craziest startup idea to hit the U.S. yet. Isn’t that precisely what being an entrepreneur is all about: seeing the possibility no one else does, and then believing strongly enough in that vision to make it a reality? I certainly think so, but I’d love to hear from others.
Fernando Cuscuela is an experienced entrepreneur who likes nothing better than to start new businesses and make them profitable. He recently started Everypost, where he now focuses most of his attention.