I’ve talked many times about one of the most inspiring and influential characters in history who was not always the epitome of upstanding behavior, exemplary interpersonal skills or the perfect example of the kind of life we we would want to fully emulate. His substantial contributions to us include bifocals, the lightning rod, the library and fire stations, electrical terms we now take for granted like battery, charge and discharge, and so much more–not to mention his impact on society and politics.
By early accounts of his life it would have been hard to believe he would be described at his death as the “Greatest American Diplomat.” Even though he was a great example of the rags to riches story, there was a time in his life he was brash, severely overweight, a drunkard, and most would rather cross the street then to face him face to face. He was known for telling people exactly what he thought of them and strived to win every argument he was in no matter who it hurt.
It wasn’t until someone in his life respected him enough to pull him aside and talk straight with him about how he was affecting others that this American hero decided to make some significant changes in his life. He began writing down some resolutions that would guide and direct his life. He would write these out on a weekly basis and study them to see how he was doing in these areas and how he could improve on them the following week. There were 13 ‘virtues’, which became his resolutions for improvement.
He committed to giving strict attention to one virtue each week so after 13 weeks he moved through all 13. After 13 weeks he would start the process over again so in one year he would complete the course a total of 4 times. He tracked his progress by using a little book of 13 charts. At the top of each chart was one of the virtues. The charts had a column for each day of the week and thirteen rows marked with the first letter of each of the 13 virtues. Every evening he would review the day and put a mark (dot) next to each virtue for each fault committed with respect to that virtue for that day. Here is the list of the 13 virtues he used to become the man we remember and admire today:
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.
You’ve probably figured out this was Benjamin Franklin. As you can see, these are some pretty powerful guidepost Ben Franklin created for his life. Slowly but surely as Ben Franklin studied and practiced these principles he started to mold his life into what he wanted to become. What is powerful about this change, is that once he started to see results in his life, he wanted to share his principles with others and start to mastermind with others, so they could accelerate the process of improvement.
What are you consistently doing to become the person you want to be? Do you have a set of principles or ‘virtues’ you practice every day to make powerful improvement in your life? Do you have a circle of like-minded people who help each other and hold each other accountable for results? I encourage you to be more Intentional about this. You may not become the next Ben Franklin, but you could! Even if not, think of who and where you could be.
To your Intentional Success!