The Defeat of George Washington in 1754 and Business Today

George_Washington_dollarMost people have heard of George Washington. His picture is on our one dollar bill, he was the first president of the then new United States of America, and he is credited with wining our independence from Great Britain. 

What most people do not know is that he suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of the British in 1754 that allowed him to actually win the war for independence. The American Revolutionary War lasted from 1775–1783, and it was one of the first civil wars in the new colonies as much as it was for independence. Not everyone was for cutting ties with England, nor was everyone on board with the idea of fighting a war with the then most powerful military in the world. 

Washington had his back against the wall more than once. In his initial military service in 1753 the colonial governor made him a major in the colonial regiment of Virginia. This filled the ambitious Washington with purpose, and he took to the command. Unfortunately, his exuberance for this position was almost his demise.

Washington had been dispatched to deal with the French who insisted that British and colonel “intrusion” into French territory was not acceptable. (This occurred at forks of the Ohio River in what is now Pittsburgh.) After attacking a small party of French soldiers and causing the death of one of them, Washington realized he had blundered into a larger problem than he first realized. He built a small defensive position, which he called Fort Necessity. However, he was soon surrounded by the better equipped and larger French garrison, and forced to surrender. The date was July 4, 1754, a day he would remember. 

What has this to do with business? Everything. I know from my coaching experience that most business owners make rash decisions based on some mistaken ideas, egos, emotions, or worse advice from unqualified people. Washington did this and worse, but he learned. He remembered the embarrassing march from his ill conceived fort, and how the local indignant population of tribes harassed and stole from him and his men during their retreat.

The lessons he learned from his experiences in 1754 were put to the test in his eight years as leader of the Continental Army. He remembered how to maneuver around the enemy, how to quarter troops, and most of all how not to allow himself to be surrounded by enemy. He also learned the value of discipline, both for himself and for the troops of which he was in command. He learned from his past mistakes and he did not repeat them. We can thank the French for their lessons from 20 years earlier or we may not have the country we have today.

As business owners we will make mistakes and we need to learn from those mistakes. Our country was founded on the mistakes Washington made in his earlier years, and we should learn from his example to push through and benefit from our mistakes. It is the American way!!!

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