Franklin's Virtues

Benjamin Franklin must be one of the most multi-talented men in history! He was an author, printer, politician, scientist, inventor, activist, statesman, and a diplomat. He was a leading proponent of improving oneself and the idea of the "self-made man," and he remains a stellar inspiration to anyone who wants to improve their own talents and lifestyle.

Franklin was such an accomplished man because of his dedication to his ideals and his daily discipline—they even named a famous planner system after him. This attention to industry and progress has made some to consider him one of the most influential people in regards to the idea of what it means to be American.

To give you an idea of what he has accomplished, as a scientist he is often credited for developing the theory regarding electricity; as an inventor he developed the lightening rod, the Franklin stove, a type of carriage odometer, the glass "armonica", and bifocals. As an accomplished writer and supporter of the written word, he found great success in publishing both the Poor Richard’s Almanac and the Pennsylvania Gazette, and he also founded the first lending library and helped establish several colleges.

In his political life, he played an important role in the colonies' decision for American independence and served as a diplomat during the revolution. After the war he continued to live a full life in civic service by encouraging the dissolution of the Stamp Act, establishing positive relations between America and France, serving as President of the Supreme Concil of Pennsylvania, and taking the position of Postmaster General under the Continental Congress.

Benjamin Franklin lived an almost impossible, mythic life, but he was only a mortal man with a 24-hour day—just like the rest of us. Certainly he was a brilliant and determined, but his skill and brains alone didn’t drive him to accomplish all he did. He was the man he was because he strove everyday to improve upon his talents and develop new ones, and he also worked to improve his character. When he was only twenty, Benjamin Franklin developed thirteen virtues which he found to be essential to leading a happy, productive life. He would choose a virtue each and every week and focus on building upon that value and face any personal limitations that stood in the way of turning the virtue as second nature. By continually focusing on developing new skills and working on bad habits, he developed the habits and character that would allow him to reach his full potential—and he had a lot of potential!

Everyone has more potential than they realize, and most people are far from reaching their full ability. We have developed a program, however, that will guide you on the same path of fulfillment Benjamin Franklin was on, using the same virtues and ideals he focused on every day!

In this program you will:

  • Design your own program to build your successful life.
  • Discover you limitations, and how you can improve them.
  • Keep track of your progress and results.

Virtues

These are Benjamin Franklin's virtues, in his own words. Throughout the site we will explain how these virtues apply to you today.

  • 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.
  • Tranquillity — Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.
  • Chastity — Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another's peace or reputation.
  • Humility — Imitate Jesus and Socrates.

Opinion

Franklin celebrated wholesome ambition. The central goal of life, he seemed to imply, is to improve yourself and thereby improve your station in life. Franklin celebrated a characteristically bourgeois set of virtues: frugality, honesty, order, moderation, prudence, industry, perseverance, temperance, chastity, cleanliness, tranquility, punctuality, and humility. These are not heroic virtues. They don‘t fire the imagination or arouse the passions like the aristocratic love of honor. They are not particularly spiritual virtues. But they are practical and they are democratic. Anybody with the right work ethic can adopt them. ‘How little origin is to happiness, virtue or greatness,’ Franklin observed.

David Brooks, Bobos In Paradise: The New Upper Class and How They Got There

Resources

Benjamin Franklin: Autobiography, Poor Richard, and Later Writings (Library of America) — by Benjamin Franklin and J. A. Leo Lemay

This is some of the most influential early American writing by Franklin collected into one volume—a must read if you want learn more about his ideas in his own words.

Benjamin Franklin: An American Life — by Walter Isaacson

This biography is a well-respected and detailed account of the man's life.

Benjamin Franklin's the Art of Virtue: His Formula for Successful Living — by Benjamin Franklin and George L. Rogers

Benjamin Franklin always intended to write a volume on virtue, and George L. Rogers completed the task for him based on his writing and notes.

General Rules

Practice virtues daily so that they become ‘habits of the heart’.

Don‘t strive for perfection.

Never give up! Remember: even the greats have off days.

Rely on your intuition.

Avoid extremes. Strive to achieve the golden mean between excess and deficiency of a virtue.

Have fun and enjoy the program with humor and optimism.



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Fewer possess virtue, than those who wish us to believe that they possess it. Cicero
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