What I Learned From Benjamin Franklin

Franklin grew up poor, but went on to become one of the most influential people in the world. There’s always some luck involved in success stories, but here are some lessons I derived from his autobiography that likely contributed to his success:

-Stay out of debt. This was especially important during Franklin’s era, since unpaid debt could land you in prison. Franklin recognized that underspending his income was vital to getting ahead in life.

-Don’t drink. Even when in the company of other people who were drinking, Franklin would drink water. He saw how alcohol tended to ruin lives. He also thought it would be damaging to the reputation he was trying to establish in his community.

-Don’t flaunt your wealth. If you’re doing well financially, continue to dress modestly, to avoid creating enemies of those who might become envious.

-Read a lot. Franklin did this starting from childhood. His reputation for being a voracious book reader even reached the Governor of New York, who after hearing about Franklin’s book collection, wanted to meet him. Franklin was still a teenager at the time. Franklin would always look for any opportunity to read books when he wasn’t working. He referred to such times as his “studies”.

-Stay away from bad company. As defined by people who are likely to get you into trouble through their actions, whether intentional or not.

-Try to get along with everyone. Instead of being argumentative, Franklin used the Socratic Method to persuade people (asking questions that cause the person to see that they’re wrong, instead of telling them they’re wrong). He also tried to avoid saying bad things about people.

-In religion, be thankful to God and focus on doing “good works”, instead of belonging to a particular sect or clinging to doctrine.

-Have a moral compass. Franklin wrote down several principles for himself and evaulated himself according to those principles on a daily basis, looking for where he went wrong and how he could do better. Here are his 13 virtues.

-Stay busy doing important work. Franklin wanted to be useful and to have financial security. He recognized that being diligent in his business, and in whatever public duties he was offered, was better than being “idle”. He observed, while temporarily camped with military men, that when the men didn’t have anything to do they were less happy and fought with each other more often.

-Don’t give too much for your whistle.