Born January 17, 1706 in Boston, USA
Died on 17. April 1790 in Philadelphia, USA
Benjamin Franklin was one of the founding fathers of the United States and a signatory of the Declaration of Independence, a diplomat and politician, founder of America’s first lending library, inventor of the lightning rod, self-employed printer, and throughout his life he wrote writings on various social and scientific topics.
Franklin came from a large family and had to leave school at the age of ten to contribute to the family’s subsistence. However, driven by an insatiable hunger for education, he acquired extensive knowledge through self-study and later had a lasting influence on the community. Franklin also attached great importance to moral perfection. And so, through his own strength and discipline, he developed into a true all-rounder.
“I wished to be able to live without making any mistake at any time; I wished to overcome everything that either natural inclination, habit or society could induce me to do.”
So Benjamin Franklin, in his twentieth year of life, set up a plan, summarizing under 13 virtues everything that seemed necessary or desirable to him at that time. In order to focus his attention, he concentrated each week on the exercise of only one virtue. Every evening he neatly noted down the missteps of the day in a calendar with the aim of strengthening the habitual exercise of this virtue at the end of the week. Then he went on to the next virtue. In this way, within thirteen weeks, he came closer to his idea of moral perfection. Franklin repeated this “course”, as he called it, several times in a row and later only once a year until the end of his life.
Franklin wrote down the names of the virtues and their rules as follows:
1. Moderation – Don’t eat to stupor, don’t drink to intoxication!
2. Silence – Say only what can benefit others or yourself; avoid insignificant entertainment!
3. Order – Let every thing have its place and every part of your business its time!
4. Determination – Go ahead to do what you must; do infallibly what you set out to do!
5. Economy – Make no expense but to do good to others or to yourself; that is, waste nothing!
6. Diligence – Do not lose time; always be busy with something useful; renounce all useless activity!
7. Sincerity – Do not use any harmful deception; think innocently and justly, and when you speak, speak afterwards!
8. Justice – Do not harm anyone by doing him wrong or failing to do the good deeds which are your duty!
9. Moderation – Avoid extremes; beware of taking insults as badly as you think they deserve!
10. Cleanliness – Do not tolerate uncleanliness on your body, clothes or in your home!
11. Peace of Mind – Do not worry about trifles or about ordinary or inevitable accidents!
12. Chastity – Rarely practice sexual intercourse for the sake of health or offspring, never to the point of dullness, weakness, or damage to your own or others’ peace of mind or reputation!
13. Humility – Imitate Jesus and Socrates!
“What does it help to wish and hope for better times? If you only change yourselves, times also change. Without effort nothing works.”