Benjamin Franklin was born on this day in 1706. His legacy has lasted three centuries, a notable achievement for any leader. At the age of 20, he created a process for self-improvement, something that methodically helped him advance his character.
These were his 13 virtues, and he proactively worked on these daily. His system was simple: a card that listed the 13 virtues and the days of the week which he checked off when he adhered to the virtue.
(Given Franklin’s notoriety as an inventor and entrepreneur, I think of this simple tracking system as an 18th century precursor to a modern day app!)
In honor of Ben’s birthday, the 13 virtues follow. While some of the language (and spelling) are obviously dated, the concepts are timeless.
1. Temperance. Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.
2. Silence. Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.
3. Order. Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.
4. Resolution. Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.
5. Frugality. Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing.
6. Industry. Lose no time; be always employ’d in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.
7. Sincerity. Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly.
8. Justice. Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.
9. Moderation. Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.
10. Cleanliness. Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, cloaths, or habitation.
11. Tranquillity. Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.
12. 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.
13. Humility. Imitate Jesus and Socrates.