“Be at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let every new year find you a better man.” –Benjamin Franklin
Benjamin Franklin is one of the most beloved founding fathers in the United States. Maybe it was his famous twinkling eyes, or maybe it was his ease with people. Regardless, he embodied several characteristics that inevitably led to his success during his lifetime.
1. He cultivated productive habits.
Famously known for his 13 virtues, in which he organized a 13-week plan focusing on one of his thirteen virtues of temperance, silence, order, resolution, frugality, industry, sincerity, justice, moderation, cleanliness, tranquility, chastity, and humility, Benjamin Franklin not only implemented important moral goals, but also found ways to hold himself accountable by marking his own progress. In addition, he formed a time table schedule that had his day planned from the time he rose at 5am until he went to bed at 10pm.
2. He took risks.
Ben Franklin was by no means a cautious man. Famously known for writing letters in the name of “Silence Goodall” while working at his brother’s printshop, he also ran away to Philadelphia after his brother began to abuse him, ultimately running a successful print store.
3. He perfected his public image.
In his autobiography, Benjamin Franklin states that he “took care not only to be in reality industrious and frugal, but to avoid all appearances of the contrary.” In the words of Jonathan Yardley, Benjamin Franklin was “a self-created and self-willed man who moved through life at a calculated pace toward calculated ends.” He knew that the opinions of others mattered, and the importance of being able to network.
4. He was a champion of the common person.
Never identifying with the elite, throughout his life Franklin identified himself as “B. Franklin, printer.” A strong believer in the power of community, he not only organized meetings and founded a library for his fellow citizens, but he also believed that pouring into “the common good” had a divine element. He is quoted stating: “To pour forth benefits to the common good is divine.” In other words, common people can find transcendence in giving back to their own community.
5. He was an early riser.
Famously quoted saying, “early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise,” Benjamin Franklin rose at 5am every morning, asking himself the question “what good shall I do today?”
6. He knew how to network.
Ben Franklin made friends and business connections everywhere he went. Never a shy man, he had a way with people. Walter Isaacson, a biographer, says of Franklin: “he had a happy talent of being at ease in almost any company, from scrappy tradesmen to wealthy merchants…His most notable trait was his personal magnetism.” This personal magnetism was a huge asset to him in both his business and personal endeavors.
7. He was a creative thinker.
Ben Franklin was definitely not one to think inside the box. He is quoted saying, “to create, we must first identify the problem, then offer the best solution possible.” To mention a few, some of his inventions and discoveries include:
- The Franklin Stove
- The first library
- Lightning rod
- Glass harmonica
8. He learned how to prioritize his time.
From his daily hourly schedule to rising at 5am every morning, Ben Franklin found ways to maximize his daily productivity. He is quoted saying: “Lose no time; be always employ’d in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.” In other words, make the best use of your time and find ways to prioritize, in order to produce your best work possible.
9. He was frugal.
Ben Franklin included frugality as one of his 13 virtues. He realized the importance of living debt-free and spending minimally. He is quoted saying, “a penny saved is a penny earned” and “when you run in debt, you give to another power over your liberty.” In order to live a productive life, it is helpful to not be plagued by the stress of debt.