Richard Branson‘s got nothing on William Bradford.

As the governor of Plymouth Colony for more than 30 years, Bradford oversaw the development of what could be considered one of America’s first entrepreneurial ventures. An impressive leader, Bradford leveraged his clarity of vision and accuracy of decisions that lead to the Colony’s impressive growth despite adverse conditions.

But he wasn’t alone in his accomplishments: the members of Plymouth Colony also embraced an entrepreneurial attitude. Had that not happened, Bradford could not have succeeded. To paraphrase a popular leadership proverb: without followers, you’re just someone out for a walk.

Pilgrim's Pride in Legos
Flickr: Lego Junkie

In that spirit I prepared the list below of 8 entrepreneurial insights learned from the Plymouth Colony Pilgrims:

1. Have Vision: It took tremendous ability to envision life in the New World and the confidence to venture forth into the unknown. Similarly, in her noteworthy TED Talk, The secret structure of great talks, Nancy Duarte discovered that great leaders define “what is” and “what could be.”

2. Embrace Ambiguity: The Pilgrims had no idea what to expect when they departed for the New World they and, when they did arrive, they were 200 miles off course.  Yet they didn’t let that stop them from venturing forth into the unknown with determination and drive. Don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone and approach a challenge from an unfamiliar perspective.

3. Confront Adversity: The Pilgrims endured an almost endless array of hardships and challenges during and after their 66 day sailing. During the first winter 45 out of 102 settlers died! Yet, they persevered and made the most of what they had. It is often through challenging times we discover a strength inside ourselves that might have otherwise been dormant.

4. Take Risks: Imagine how history might have been different if the Pilgrims had not taken a risk and boarded the Mayflower? I might not even be sitting here writing this blog post. Consider the thoughts of former hockey great Wayne Gretzky who is credited as saying “you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” Although he has no connection to the Pilgrims, his words are exceptionally relevant.

5. Celebrate Community: This idea is the most thematically related to Thanksgiving — after all, it is the reason the holiday is celebrated. Although the way we give thanks is different from the Pilgrims’ experience, the goal is the same: gather with friends and family to celebrate the achievements while embracing gratitude for everything you have, not what you don’t.

6. Leverage Partnerships: The Pilgrims were not fully prepared to flourish in their new home. Had they not signed treaties with Native Americans like Samoset (a member of the Abenaki tribe), Squanto (a member of the Pawtuxet tribe),  and Massasoit (the leader of the Wampanoag), the Pilgrims very well might not have survived that first winter.

7. Encourage Innovation: Sometimes adversity can inspire ingenuity; necessity is the mother of invention after all. And, if ever there was a group of people who needed to be innovative when an original option failed, it was the Pilgrims. Even on of their original two ships, the Speedwell, proved unfit for the Atlantic crossing, which forced them to consolidate into the Mayflower.

8. Give Thanks: There are many things we don’t have enough of, but there are also a many things we have in great supply. The Pilgrims didn’t have much yet they appreciated what they had (they certainly didn’t fight each other over the latest Xbox the day after Thanksgiving). People want to feel appreciated, even for “just” doing their job.

Happy ThanksgivingAlthough the Pilgrim’s first arrived nearly 400 years ago, their entrepreneurial achievements are as relevant as ever.  

So, if you own your own business or are otherwise independently minded, consider integrating the 8 ideas above into your operations.