Learning from Franklin

I just finished reading the autobiography of Benjamin Franklin and I am surprised at how much I enjoyed it. I put it on hold at the library after coming across a quote from it on a blog (I don’t even remember which blog) and thought it might be good for me to read something a little different than the fiction I normally read.

There were two things that stood out to me that I will remember and hopefully use in my life. Franklin developed 13 virtues that he wanted to master in his life. He numbered them beginning with the one he thought he could master the easiest and then once he felt it had become habit he would move onto the next until that one was mastered. All of the virtues he wrote (except for chastity, which begins with “rarely use venery but for health or offspring”…maybe taking it a bit far) were things I could see improving in my own life, but the one that I remember and have thought of many times a day since I read it was tranquility, be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable. Having three young children I can certainly have many instances a day to improve on this virtue. Since reading about it I have caught myself before snapping at Anna over a spilled drink or chastising Lincoln for a pile of dinosaurs that got left out in the middle of the floor. It is just not a big deal. I can clean up the milk and pour some more and I can remind Lincoln nicely to pick up his toys when he is done playing.

Later on in the book Franklin decided to add the virtue of humility to his list. A friend told him once that he was proud and that he was not content with being right in a discussion, but was overbearing and insolent. He decided to make changes in the way he debated and discussed things and removed the words such as “certainly” and “undoubtedly” from his language and replaced them with expressions such as “I conceive”, “I apprehend”, and “I imagine”. Not only did his conversations go more pleasantly, but he noticed he wasn’t as embarrassed when he was wrong and people were more likely to agree with him when he was right. He attributes the mastery of this virtue to his influence with the public in his business and politics.

There were several other things in this book that I really enjoyed, but if I can remember these two things I will feel like I really learned something from it.



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