Benjamin Franklin by Walter Issacson

Parker Klein
Nov 16 · 6 min read

Nothing is useful which was not honest

Industry and frugality are the means of procuring wealth and thereby securing virtue

He has perfect inattention to food during his life

Fish and guests stink after three days

Progress: the concept that individuals, and humanity in general, move forward and improve based on a steady increase of knowledge and the wisdom that comes from conquering adversity

Personal strivings are intertwined with the progress of humanity

History is a tale not of immutable forces but of human endeavors

Franklin was vegetarian for financial reasons. Franklin ate biscuits and raisins and used the time for study, “in which I made the greater progress from the greater clearness of year and quicker apprehension which usually attend temperance in eating and drinking”

He wasn’t always vegetarian

“So convenient a thing it is to be a reasonable creature, since it enables one to find or make a reason for everything one has a mind to do”

“A man is sometimes more generous when he has little money than when he has plenty perhaps through fear of being thought to have but little”

People are more likely to admire your work if you’re able to keep them from feeling jealous of yoy

Don’t always hold your head so high. Stoop, young man, stoop — as you go through this world — and you’ll miss many hard thumps

Misfortunes are brought upon people by carrying their heads too high

A secret to being more revered than resented was to display a self deprecating humor, unpretentious demeanor, and unaggressive style in conversation

Happiness existed only as a contrast to unhappiness, and one could not exist without the other. Therefore, they balanced out: “Since pain naturally and infallibly produces a pleasure in proportion to it, every individual creature must, in any state of life, have an equal quantity of each”

Be extremely frugal

Speak truth in every instance; give nobody expectations that are not likely to be answered, but aim at sincerity in every word and action

Apply myself industriously to whatever business I take in hand, and not divert my mind from my business by any foolish project of suddenly growing rich; for industry and patience are the surest means of plenty

Never speak ill of no man whatever

Truth and sincerity have a certain distinguishable native luster about them which cannot be perfectly counterfeited

If two persons equal in judgement play for a considerable sum, he that loves money most shall lose; his anxiety for the success of the game confounds him

A person who is too fearful will end up performing defensively and thus fail to seize offensive advantages

Man is a sociable being and it is one of the worst punishments to be excluded from society

Knowledge was obtained rather by the use of the war than the tongue

Push ideas through suggestions and questions, and to use naive curiosity to avoid contradicting people in a manner that could give offense

Would you win the hearts of others, you must not seem to vie with them, but to admire them. Give them every opportunity of displaying their own qualifications, and when you have indulged their vanity, they will praise you in turn and prefer you above others. Such is the vanity of mankind that minding what others say is a much surfer way of pleasing them than talking well ourselves

The greatest conversational sin is talking overmuch which never fails to excite resentment

Other conversational sins: seeming uninterested, speaking too much about your own life, prying for personal secrets, telling long and pointless stories, contradicting or disputing someone directly, ridiculing or railing against things except in small witty doses, and spreading scandal

Slow and steady diligence is the true way to wealth

It is foolish to try and avoid all criticism

Gossip can promote virtue as some people are motivated more by fear of public humiliation than they are by inner moral principles

He continually resolved to speak ill of nobody

Keep your eyes wide open before marriage, half shut afterwards

Opinions should be judged by their influences and effects; and if a man holds none that tend to make him less curious or more vicious, it may be concluded that he holds none that are dangerous, which I hope is the case for me

At the last day we shall not be examined by what we thought, but what we did. That we did good to our fellow creatures

His 12 virtues

Temperance: eat not to dullness, drink not to elevation

Silence: speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation

Order: let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time

Resolution: resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve

Frugality: make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; (I.e., waste nothing)

Industry: lose no time; be always employed in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions

Sincerity: use no hurtful deceit, think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly

Justice: wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty

Moderation: avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve

Cleanliness: tolerate no uncleanliness in body, clothes, or habitation

Tranquility: be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable

Chastity: rarely use veneer but for health or offspring, never to fullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation

Humility: imitate Jesus and Socrates

Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy wealthy and wise

He’s a fool that makes his doctor his heir

Eat to live and not live to eat

He that lies down with dogs shall rise up with fleas

Where there’s marriage without love, there will be life without marriage

Necessity never make a good bargain

There’s more old drunkards than old doctors

A good example is the best sermon

None preaches better than the ant and she says nothing

Diligence is the mother of good luck

He that pursued two gates at once does not catch one and let’s the other go

Haste makes wasye

He’s a fool that cannot conceal his wisdom

No gains without pains

Love your enemies for they will tell you your faults

There was never a good knife made of bad steel

Half the truth is often a great lie

God helps them that helps themselves

His goal was to help aspiring tradesmen become more diligent, and thus more able to be useful and virtuous citizens

Let all men know thee but no man know thee thoroughly

Benevolence is the binding virtue of society

The good men may do separately is small compared with what they may do collectively

To pour forth benefits for the common good is divine

People are reluctant to support a proposer of any useful project that might be supposed to raise one’s reputation

People will eventually give you the credit, if you don’t try to claim it at the time

The present little sacrifice of your vanity will afterwards be amply repaid

Avoid direct contradiction and argumentation

If you would keep your secret from an enemy, tell it not to a friend

Lost time is never found again

As we enjoy great advantages from the inventions of others, we should be glad of an opportunity to serve others by any invention of ours, and this we should do freely and generously

To distress is to weaken, and weakening the children weakens the whole family

In colonial America it was sinful to look idle, in France it was vulgar to look busy

Never hurry your opponent, do not try to deceive, and never float in victory

Moderate your desire of victory over your adversary, and be pleased with the one over yourself

Of all the dear things in this world, idleness is the dearest

They who threaten are afraid

All wars are follies, very expensive, and very mischievous ones

There never was a good war or a bad peace

Science should be pursued initially for pure fascination and curiosity, and then practical uses would eventually flow from what was discovered

Industry and constant employment are great preservatives of morals and virtue

You know the soul is immortal; why then should you be such a niggard of a little time, when you have a whole eternity before you?

Franklin believed in salvation through good works, his religion was benevolent and tolerant, and was unabashedly striving and upwardly mobile

Franklin did not view penny saving as an end in itself but as a path that permitted young tradesmen to be able to display higher virtues, community, spirit, and citizenship

It is hard for an empty sack to stand up straight

Human felicity is produced not do much by great pieces of good future that seldom happen, as by little advantages that occur every day


Thank you for reading :)

Buy Benjamin Franklin by Walter Issacson on Amazon: https://amzn.to/2jKExz1

Read my original notes: https://parkerklein.com/notes/benjamin-franklin

Read all my notes: https://parkerklein.com/notes

Visit my website: https://parkerklein.com

App used to take notes: https://twosapp.com

App used to track habits: https://awarepath.com

App used to reflect: https://reflectwithmuse.com

Parker Klein
Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade