How to Roll Like Ben Franklin

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Benjamin Franklin was kind of a big deal. He penned Poor Richard's Almanack, invented the lightning rod, bifocals, the rockin' glass harmonica, and a bunch of other great stuff. He was a politician, statesman, and diplomat (and made a killer appearance, in a bathtub in France, in HBO's recent John Adams miniseries). He's the eponymous Benjy featured on the U.S. One Hundred Dollar Bill. So how did Ben get so great? By following a code of "thirteen virtues," a set of guidelines for living that he developed in 1726, at the ripe young age of 20. Here they are:

1. TEMPERANCE. Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.

2. SILENCE. Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.

3. ORDER. Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.

4. RESOLUTION. Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.

5. FRUGALITY. Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing.

6. INDUSTRY. Lose no time; be always employ'd in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.

7. SINCERITY. Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly.

8. JUSTICE. Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.

9. MODERATION. Avoid extreams; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.

10. CLEANLINESS. Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, cloaths, or habitation.

11.TRANQUILLITY. Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.

12. CHASTITY. Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dulness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another's peace or reputation.

13. HUMILITY. Imitate Jesus and Socrates.

Wikipedia provides this helpful footnote (emphasis added):

Franklin didn't try to work on them all at once. Instead, he would work on one and only one each week "leaving all others to their ordinary chance". While Franklin didn't live completely by his virtues and by his own admission, he fell short of them many times, he believed the attempt made him a better man contributing greatly to his success and happiness, which is why in his autobiography, he devoted more pages to this plan than to any other single point; in his autobiography Franklin wrote, "I hope, therefore, that some of my descendants may follow the example and reap the benefit."

For more on Franklin and his virtues, read this TIME Magazine profile, or read a surprisingly good Wikipedia article on the man. See also: Tips from George Washington's Self-Help Manual.

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March 19, 2009 - 11:45am
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