Be Like Ben Franklin

“I have always thought that one man of tolerable abilities may work great changes, and accomplish great affairs among mankind, if he first forms a good plan, and, cutting off all amusements or other employments that would divert his attention, makes the execution of that same plan his sole study and business.”

I’ve just got done flying through the autobiography of Ben Franklin (given repeated recommendations to) and let me tell you one thing, Dr. Franklin was a boss.

He seems to have understood life to its utmost clarity. Despite his superiority in self-education, he never belittled any of his fellow countrymen — quite the contrary — they loved him! He used his intelligence and good character to make America great in record time. His words were well chosen and his actions well calculated to ensure success in all his efforts –of which all were to benefit mankind in whole.

I’m going to dive into a few aspects of his life that we can emulate if we hope to one day reach the level of success as the man, the myth, the legend, Ben Franklin.

Area of Life: Arrangement of Thought

As it relates to Ben: Despite having any family money to go to school, Franklin was intrinsically motivated to read, write, and think freely whenever given the chance. To improve the expression of his own thought, he would perform experiments using his favorite literary works. He would take each sentence, create a short hint as to its meaning, let a few days pass, randomize the order of the hints, then attempt to reorder the hints and rewrite the sentences in order to recreate the original work.

What a fucking badass.

What it means for us: Now, not all of us aspire to be famous writers or public figures, but there is a lot to be begged in the world when it comes to successful formation of thought and debate. By employing a technique such as this, we might be able to generate more power and effect in our everyday conversations.

Area of Life: Increasing Intellectualism

As it relates to Ben: Throughout his entire life (including his younger years), Franklin repeatedly sought out like-minded individuals who shared his love of life. His circle of friends would challenge one another to grow further every day, to be better than one another. At age 21, he formed a club dedicated to this cause of mutual improvement called JUNTO, wherein they explored topics in Morals, Politics, and Natural Philosophy. It was, “to be conducted in the sincere spirit of inquiry after truth, without fondness for dispute, or desire of victory”.

What it means for us: Too often we seek acquaintances and friendships that are easy for us — as in they don’t require we improve ourselves in any manner. Franklin demonstrates that if we want to be successful, we ought to be constantly using those around us to push us to be better version of ourselves or else suffer. Experts say that we’re the average of our 5 closest friends, so don’t underestimate the effects of your pessimistic, unambitious, or disorganized friends.

Area of Life: Arriving at Moral Perfection

As it relates to Ben: Franklin once decided to try and live without committing any fault at any time, conquering all, “that either natural inclination, custom, or company might lead [him] into”. He declared that contrary habits must be broken and good ones established in their place before he could depend on a steady, uniform conduct. To accomplish this task, he created a list of thirteen virtues — Temperance, Silence, Order, Resolution, Frugality, Industry, Sincerity, Justice, Moderation, Cleanliness, Tranquility, Chastity, and Humility — all of which he clearly defined. To establish each as a habit, he focused only on one of them at a time, mastering each before proceeding to the next one. He would only continue to the next one if all virtues were withheld every subsequent week, of which he kept close track. All in all, it took him one year to complete the first go-around.

What it means for us: It seems that all of the greatest great have developed their own personal philosophy in terms of success in life. Ben Franklin is no different, and he provides yet another option for us to choose from. I encourage you to review his virtues and their definitions at a later time to get a better idea of the type of perfection he was after. Regardless, it highlights a key aspect I like to repeat here, and that’s creating and establishing habits to affect your life in beneficial ways.

These are only a few of the many lessons taught in the rather short autobiography of Ben Franklin. Reading it gives me hope for the good of America, the young people today, and the immense impact we may have on the world if we live by the example of Dr. Franklin. I highly recommend you all to read it — it’s free online. His words will directly relate to your own life in more ways than one and inspire you to take on your wildest dreams.

I leave you with a few of my favorite quotes from the autobiography.

“I grew convinced that truth, sincerity and integrity in dealings between man and man were of the utmost importance to the felicity of life”.

“Nothing so likely to make a man’s fortune as virtue”.

“That, 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”.

“Disputing, contradicting, and confuting people are generally unfortunate in their affairs. They get victory sometimes, but they never get good will, which would be of more use to them”

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