Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn. ~ Benjamin Franklin
In his autobiography, Benjamin talks about how he changed his personality and became a man of unrivaled virtues. Benjamin was short-tempered and had a sharp tongue. He was keen to develop his character and become a better human being. At age 20, Benjamin listed the following 13 virtues he wanted to inculcate and master during his lifetime. He also wrote a short description for each virtue on his list.
- Temperance. Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation
- Silence. Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; 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 expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing
- Industry. Lose no time; be always employed 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 uncleanliness 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
His method is ingenious; he would take one virtue at a time and follow it for a week and leave all others their ordinary chance. He would consciously practice that virtue in his behaviors. After a week, he would move on to the next one on the list. This process would continue for 13 weeks to complete one cycle. In a year, Benjamin completed 4 cycles. Franklin did not live completely by his virtues and he fell short of them many times. He believed the attempt made him a better man contributing greatly to his success and happiness.
To me this is a phenomenal framework for character development. Practicable plan for improving our behaviors and leadership attributes. I humbly borrowed items 1, 2, 3, 4 and 11 from his and have attempted to inculcate them in my life. The process has been rewarding so far!
In his autobiography Franklin wrote these words, “I hope, therefore, that some of my descendants may follow the example and reap the benefit”.
If you have read this article so far, please do yourself a favor and try this idea for a week at least and see how this benefits you!