We live in an era of unprecedented uncertainty. At least that is what we are led to believe.
Yes, the economy is sputtering at best. Jobs are at risk or non-existent. Europe could implode financially. The Middle East could implode politically. Depending on your political views, either the left or the right is about to take the country over a cliff from which there is no return.
The challenges we face are certainly more expansive in their scope, but unprecedented uncertainty? Hardly.
Do you believe that the level of personal anxiety is any higher today than that which existed during the Cuban Missile Crisis; World War I or II; the Civil War; the Great Depression; or life in the American colonies during the Revolutionary War?
Our challenges are broadcast globally over every news cast. That doesn’t make them more challenging, just more publicized.
Fifty-six men signed the Declaration of Independence and by doing so placed themselves, their families, and all who supported the principle of freedom in the ultimate position to be fearful and uncertain about the future.
We romanticize the courage of these men, but in doing so we forget that they risked their lives, their family, their fortune, and if they lost, their sacred honor on an idea that the colonists could defeat one of the best-trained and equipped militaries of its time.
Here are three lessons we can learn about claiming our on independence from these every day men who would become heroes to the world by following their convictions in the face of uncertainty and fear;
• Look past the fear and visualize the opportunity. The Founding Fathers shared one goal in common – liberty. They believed that citizens should be active participants in government and that government derives its legitimacy from the consent of the governed. This is a common belief in democracies today, but the notion was completely foreign to most of the world in 1776. The Founding Fathers shared a common vision that was totally foreign to people living under the rule of a king or dictatorship. It was an opportunity that was so important that it rendered any fear as secondary.
What is the cause that is so great that you will look beyond fear to take action toward your goal?
• Take a bold step that lives your principles. The Declaration of Independence was approved on July 4, but the moment of truth came a few weeks later. The members of the Continental Congress authorized the printing of 200 copies of the document for distribution throughout the colonies. But, the point of no return was actually on July 28 – the date that a copy was sent to the British. That bold step marked the point of no return.
What is the bold step that you need to take that firmly commits you to the course of action that you know is in your best interest?
• Enlist the support of kindred spirits. Seventeen of the 56 signers of the Declaration lost considerable property. Nine lost their spouse. Several more lost other members of their family and even their own lives. But, none of them turned from their commitment to the cause of independence that was worth everything. Talk about honoring a commitment.
There were, no doubt, individuals who encouraged them to abandon their cause. There were probably others who told them that it was useless and there was no way a group of colonists could ever achieve independence. And yet, this group of kindred spirits held fast.
Benjamin Franklin, speaking of the need for unanimity in fighting the British, said: “We must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we will all hang separately.”
Who are the kindred spirits you need to enlist on your team, and who are the detractors that you need to minimize or remove from your sphere of influence?
Uncertainty and fear exist in every age. It is important that we maintain perspective and learn from history. The first time we experience a challenge is rarely the first time it has been experience by anyone.
The Founding Fathers declared their independence every day through the way they lived their lives. We should do the same. It is the best way to honor their vision, commitment, and sacrifice.