Reading Ben Franklin’s autobiography has challenged me in my leadership. His ability to come up with a plan for how to do life at the age of 20 is astounding. I’m 45 and still trying to figure some of that out.
He possibly birthed the idea of self-discipline and how such an attitude helps in producing a successful life. Let’s be honest, he did alright on that philosophy. My leadership and therefore my influence is poor in comparison, but I am inspired.
Here are the 13 virtues that he determined to improve and in so doing believed he would see an improvement in how life turned out…
Temperance: eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation. In other words don’t overindulge in food or drink. In keeping this he felt that others would easier to follow.
Silence: speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation. This is first to gain knowledge, which you do better by listening rather than always talking. Second it was about stopping the silliness, ‘the prattling & joking’ as he put it which is the lowest form of conversation.
Order: let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time. Order is about making progress, having time for the right and beneficial things. It requires self-discipline to keep all aspects of business within its allotted time.
Resolution: resolve perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve. If you say what you’re going to do it, then do it.
Frugality: make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; waste nothing. This is not about being stingy but about being purposeful with what you have.
Industry: lose no time; be always employed in something; cut off all unnecessary actions. Laziness is not a virtue to be celebrated. A willingness toward hard work, contributing and adding value is essential. You want success as a leader and a person then frugality and industry are extremely worthwhile partners.
Sincerity: use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly. Words matter. How we treat others matters. Personally, I would rather be thought of as sincere than insincere.
Justice: wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty. Be ready and willing to fight for what is right. Don’t knowingly hurt another or knowingly avoid standing on behalf of another either.
Moderation: avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.
Cleanliness: tolerate no uncleanliness in body, clothes or habituation. A leader who cannot look after themselves well is not a leader that others would want to follow.
Tranquility: be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or avoidable. Keep the peace, be at peace, don’t rise to everything.
Chastity: rarely use venery (sexual indulgence) but for health or offspring, never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation. Enough said really.
Humility: imitate Jesus and Socrates (that’s according to Ben Franklin)
How would you score? I looked at this list, amazed at its simplicity but also at its depth and power in its potential for making me a better leader. So I thought I’d give the plan a go. Franklin kept a record at the end of each day to note if he had failed, the aim being that with the focus on one virtue each week he would begin to see some change over time.
I’ll let you know how it goes. Or if you know me, maybe you will let me know how it goes.