Benjamin Franklin's Virtues

Over a year ago, I started a series about Benjamin Franklin's 13 Virtues, and I realized over the weekend, I never finished it.  So I've finished the last few, and I'm going to repost the entire series, every Wednesday--starting with this short introduction.

Benjamin Franklin
(1706 - 1790)
Benjamin Franklin is an American legend, what we’d call today a “self-made man.” He was born into a poor family and only receiving two years of formal schooling. Regardless of his humble beginnings, Franklin became a successful printer, inventor, scientist, musician, diplomat, and writer.

The key to his success was that he constantly strove to improve himself. By the age of 20, Ben Franklin had set a lofty goal for himself.

“I conceiv’d the bold and arduous project of arriving at moral perfection. I wish’d to live without committing any fault at any time; I would conquer all that either natural inclination, custom, or company might lead me into.”

Franklin's weekly chart to
track his progress
In order to accomplish his goal, Franklin developed and committed himself to a personal improvement program that consisted of living 13 virtues. In order to keep track of how well he was doing in attaining his goal to, Franklin carried around a small book of 13 charts. Franklin evaluated himself at the end of each day. He placed a dot next to each virtue each had violated. The goal was to minimize the number of marks, thus indicating a “clean” life free of vice.

Franklin would pay particular attention to one virtue each week, trying hard not to get a single mark for an entire week on that virtue. So after 13 weeks he had moved through all 13 virtues and would then start all over again. It was a habit he continued for the rest of his life.

While Franklin never accomplished his goal of moral perfection, being particularly challenged by the virtues of temperance and chastity, but he felt he benefited from the exercise none-the-less.

“Tho’ I never arrived at the perfection I had been so ambitious of obtaining, but fell far short of it, yet I was, by the endeavour, a better and a happier man than I otherwise should have been if I had not attempted it.”

Applying Franklin’s Virtues To Your Life

I thought over the next several weeks, every Wednesday, I’d post one of Franklin’s virtues and his definition of it. Perhaps over the course of the next several weeks, it will help us all the think more about what we do every day, and perhaps by doing so, we may benefit by the exercise as Franklin did.


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