Benjamin Franklin’s guide to modern life

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I’ve always been a fan of Benjamin Franklin. I’ve never been able to put my finger on it, but I think what was so intriguing was how he was so influential to so many fields. He was an influential politician, journalist, scientist, and businessman and still had time to enjoy life’s pleasures. While reading William Powers’s recent book, Hamlet’s BlackBerry, I came across part of how Franklin managed to live his life the way he did.

As a younger man, Franklin had to deal with a society that easily allowed him to do anything to excess. He realized that the benefits of modern life were allowing him to partake in activities that made him unable to reach his full potential. After doing some thinking, he realized that he needed to provide positive reasons for how to change his life and came up with a list of 13 virtues that he hoped to attain on a daily basis.

Franklin’s 13 Virtues:

  • Temperance — Eat not to Dullness. Drink not to Elevation.
  • Silence — Speak not but what may benefit others or your self. 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 Expence but to do good to others or yourself: i.e. Waste nothing.
  • Industry — Lose no Time. Be always employ’d 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 Uncleanness in Body, Clothes or Habitation.
  • Tranquility — 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.

Franklin aimed to do each of these things everyday and kept track of them in something similar to Hamlet’s erasable tables. In addition, he tried to keep a strict schedule everyday:

Benjamin Franklin's Daily Schedule

I think that we all could be more like Franklin. I know that I could benefit from keeping a much more strict schedule and trying to attain each and everyone of those virtues on a daily basis. These virtues still apply in today’s world and many of us already try and live by a code that is similar. I think I might just try and be Ben Franklin until graduation — I definitely need to emulate him to reach my full potential.

Benjamin Franklin Portrait

The long, flowing gray hair might be tough to pull off.