The 13 Virtues of Benjamin Franklin

Philadelphia - Old City: Second Bank Portrait Gallery - Benjamin Franklin

In the last two or three years, I’ve done a lot of research into long-lasting companies, long-lasting fitness and long-lasting ‘change‘ in general.

Some books that come highly recommended in terms of finding long-term success, that far outweigh (in terms of practicality) that of most so-called, ‘self-help’ books, are books that feature some long-term studies and mostly pattern observations, within long-term successes.

I think specifically useful — though many analysts and statisticians would probably disagree with me — are qualitative observations, which due to their nature are incredibly difficult to quantify but perhaps 2-3 times as important as the more commonly used quantitative observations — things like stats, graphs, figures, etc…

We are after all emotional individuals, and nearly half of our sensory input is actually visual, not linguistic or numeric, which make up only a small portion of our sensory capacity.

Jim Collins, in the book, Built to Last refers to what I’m talking about as BHAG or Big Hairy Audacious Goal.

Daniel Pink, in the book, Drive – The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, refers to what I’m referring to as a Purpose Statement.

Simon Sinek, in the book, Start With Why, discusses more or less a Why Statement and it’s radiance outward in driving long-term successful companies and objectives.

Alan Deutschman, in the book, Walk the Walk, enlightens us about the Rule of One or Two, that is, the one or two principles that are the driving force behind long-term successful individuals and companies, essentially having to walk to the walk and live up to this philosophy indefinitely.

I could probably go on and on with example of books and studies, I’ve stumbled across over the years.

Some people find religion I suppose, but I’ve found it more practical to create a personal philosophy.

I think every one should have one and it’s a constantly evolving position.

In essence what all the authors above (and many more too…) are referring to, is that of developing what Peter Gollwitzer — the world’s foremost researcher on Goal Setting — calls,The Self-Defining Goal.’

Basically a goal that you try to live up to indefinitely but has no real end-time, found in conventional goal setting, and one that you could probably never fully realize.

A vision, if you will.

To take it one step further than that, I think it’s valuable to have such a statement that you refer to regularly, whether you are in business — a meaningful creed or Vision Statement — or an individual, is to then do as Benjamin Franklin did, and create a set of values or principles by which you also try to live up to.

A compass of guidance.

That such a noteworthy contributor to the history of the United States, would go to the trouble of listing this and aiming to live his life into it, speaks volumes.

I think you generally find very successful individuals living into something similar — the famous basketball coach John Wooden has his Pyramid of Success too, with 13 guiding principles, coincidence? — and this includes many prominent figures in history that extoll virtues, even religion goes so far as to offer up the seven deadly sins and the seven virtues or the Ten Commandments, etc…etc…

Anyways, here are Ben’s 13 Virtues:

  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 your things have their places; let each part of your business have it’s 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 extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve
  10. Cleanliness – Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, cloths, or habituation
  11. Tranquility – Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable
  12. 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
  13. Humility – Imitate Jesus and Socrates


Do you have set of principles, values or virtues you try to live by?


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