In past few months, I’ve read Ben Franklin’s Autobiography and Walter Isaacson’s “Benjamin Franklin- An American Life.” Both are fantastic and worth the read.
I’m fascinated with Ben Franklin because unlike most of the other Founding Fathers, he started from nothing and worked his way to global influence. He wasn’t gifted land or a another in a long line of British aristocracy. In this way I find him relatable. But he is also a person unlike anyone else I’m familiar with. During his life he was the most recognizable person in the world, America’s greatest and best-selling writer, the world’s most renowned scientist and inventor, the most influential diplomat, a governor, the postmaster general, a successful printer and much more. In today’s world of over specialization, it’s almost inconceivable to imagine one person being all of these things. Can you imagine an US President (most influential diplomat) being America’s best selling, author, and the world’s most renowned scientist and inventor? I can’t see this ever happening.
I learned so much from studying his life. Here are 10 things I learned from Ben Franklin:
- Do not neglect investing in and growing intimate familial relationships. Franklin was neither a great husband or father. He wasn’t there for his family in the ways he should have been.
- More can be achieved by working together for the common good. Ben was a master at rallying his communities to work together to get beneficial things done.
- Be unceasingly curious. About all kinds of things. Never Stop learning. From early childhood to his deathbed Franklin never lost his desire to learn about anything and everything.
- Anyone, ANYONE, can succeed in America by being industrious, curious, frugal, virtuous, and willing to work. The American dream is not dead. Hard working, virtuous people still succeed.
- Compromise requires great strength and wisdom. In his political career Franklin displayed a willingness to compromise for the greater good that is completely absent from modern politics. Today (as some did then), we think of people who compromise as weak, flakey, dispassionate, etc. This isn’t always the case. Many times compromise is a sign of wisdom, strength, and emotional maturity.
- Adapting to fit your surrounding culture can prove advantageous. When in France, Ben behaved like the french and spoke French. When in America, he acted American and spoke English. This allowed him to connect with people on a deeper level.
- Experiment! Try things. Make mistakes. Try again. Electricity? That was Ben Franklin. The common cold being caused by germs and NOT cold temperatures? Also Ben. Exercise prevents illness and improves heart health? Ben. Canals for ships to pass though? You guessed it! Ben. He took an interest in all kinds of things and was not afraid to try and fail. Most of the time I am too afraid to try and fail
- It’s not enough just to be virtuous, you must also appear virtuous. Being honest is great and the right thing to do no matter what. But it’s even better to be rightly known as an honest person.
- Speak ill of no person. Ben did his best on this but often failed. It’s still a noble goal.
- “Human felicity is produced not so much by great pieces of good fortune that seldom happen as by little advantages that occur everyday.” Benjamin Franklin