Friday, July 15, 2005

What Did Our Founders Feel?

I'm reading a book by Gore Vidal called "Burr." It's the life of Aaron Burr, vice-president of the United States and well-known as the person who killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel.

The book is utterly excellent. The rich details of the American founders' characters and habits is a delight to read.

As I read what they went through in those years, I actually felt some kinship. Of course, the types of things I'm "founding" are infinitely less in magnitude, but still I feel many of the same feelings that Vidal attributes to them in those early years of America.

Starting my own company, founding a holistic practitioners' networking group, and a lobbying group all give me those feelings. Most of the time, I'm wondering if we're doing the right thing. I think of us as a rag-tag group of nobodies trying to pretend we're important. That's how the founders often felt too!

Vidal's chapter on the inauguration of Thomas Jefferson was illustrative. Nobody knew how to get started. Jefferson told Burr "You go first," and Burr said "I think you should start." (Ha! We've had meetings like that!) Finally, Jefferson made his speech, but no one could hear him. Jefferson hated speaking in front of crowds, so he just mumbled his way through. Only two people (Burr and the judge) heard Jefferson's eloquent inauguration speech, because they sat right beside him. Later, Jefferson flipped his speech notes all over the floor and nervously tried to gather them up again.

It's always the same when people are trying to start something new. You don't know what you're doing, and you feel stupid because you think you should know. But you don't. So you do it anyway.

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