Benjamin Franklin proves that one’s morals will determine how far they get in life since what you know is only part of the battle, and who one knows is equally as important. The Book of Virtues is a concise read that will teach you more than most three-hundred-page books out there. As you read this, you will see connections to many modern topics, proving that Benjamin Franklin was a true renaissance man. I mean it has only been two-hundred and twenty-eight years since he died.
Franklin starts off by listing his psychological fallacies. For example, how focusing too much on one subject would cause him to miss out on another; this is still true today people are either one extreme of too much work or living for the weekend. One must find a balance to make sure that everything that life has to offer is experienced.
I am not going to lie Benjamin was one well-versed player; I found my self-googling a few words like avarice (material greed). He also brings up temperance in life, in my mind this connected with Jocko Willink’s, “discipline equals freedom;” just because there are so many temptations out there that we must implement self-control, in this era of the Internet. Every second we are bombarded with ads and vices. Fast food and hassle-free shopping have deprived us of our willpower.
Benjamin then goes into his thirteen virtues, here are my thoughts on each one:
- “Temperance. Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.” Develop the self-discipline to accomplish what you want to, and to be healthy.
- “Silence. Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.” Don’t talk about your goals because it tricks your brain into thinking that you are doing something, and then you get nothing done. Avoid gossip that does not benefit either party.
- “Order. Let all your things have their places, let each part of your business have its time.” Prioritize your life to make sure that everything important is attended to personal and business.
- “Resolution. Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.” Write down your goals and get to it, one’s resolve is the only thing holding them back. Colonel Sanders came to mind right away; he got rejected 1,009 times.
- “Frugality. Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing.” Joe Rogan states that “we are all connected in some weird way.” Waste nothing to me means that time and opportunities are limited. In a physical sense, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. For example, five dollars USD could positively impact someone’s living situation in a third world country or even clean water which would fall under Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.
- “Industry. Lose no time; be always employ’d in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.” This paradigm is the bases of Tim Ferris’s brand, do the minimum amount of work or actions to achieve x. Just because time is one of the variables that humanity has yet to manipulate. Social media, YouTube, and other virtual blackholes would qualify as unnecessary actions most of the time.
- “Sincerity. Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly.” Honesty and trust is the best way to connect with others, that is why blockchain technology is going to blow up.
- “Justice. Wrong none by doing injuries or omitting the benefits that are your duty.” Don’t harm others if you don’t want to be harmed, and don’t let those around you or yourself down through your actions.
- “Moderation. Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.” Do not count your losses and realize that too much of something can be harmful.
- “Cleanliness. Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, clothes, or habitation.” Take care of yourself and your surroundings. Just because there are so many internal and external variables that can both positively and negatively affect us.
- “Tranquility. Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.” Meditate on all the randomness of the universe, and don’t let events or people wane your focus.
- “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.” Ha-ha, the first thing that came to mind was one of the videos about gold diggers, don’t be ratchet or deceiving for personal gains.
- “Humility. Imitate Jesus and Socrates.” Live for others and not just for yourself, is what came up from the Jesus half. I am honestly more adept with the Socrates half. “I know that I know nothing.” Know yourself strengths and weaknesses both make up the whole. Realize that you are not as smart as what you think you are there is always someone better than you, and even geniuses have their limits.
After the virtues are listed, Franklin states that one should be mastered at a time instead of trying to work on all thirteen of them at once; this is true when you block out time for just one thing and focus on it you are more likely to get it done. There was an example of how he conditioned himself to be aware of the virtues in his life. All he did was make a seven-day calendar where the days were the columns, and the rows were the thirteen virtues.
Every time that he messed up on one of them he would mark a dot in that square, but he would only do one virtue every week, so this table was only good for thirteen weeks. There are fifty-two weeks in a year that makes for four repetitions of this table. One can only imagine what kind of results that would produce, I cannot wait to start trying it. This technique was mentioned in the Power of Habit. If you want to stop a bad habit that you have been doing for a long time keep a tally of every time that you perform said action. Then you can quantify how severe the problem is and feel guilty about it.
I am not going to say the prayer that he made, but he made a short prayer to help him focus on his virtues; this could be where Tony Robbins, got into the habit of repeating daily affirmations to himself. For example, I am a beast, or I am relentless. The Un-F*ck Your Self-book does the same thing giving people a short list of daily affirmations to make sure that they stay on track. Franklin states that he never reached perfection in his writing, but in his journey, his writing significantly improved. When writing his virtues, Franklin tried to avoid religion to reach more people. I think that is becoming more of a norm with millennials and the newer generations going against the standards of the previous generations.
Franklin then gets all philosophical stating that people shouldn’t hurt each other since everyone wants to be happy. This is a common Buddhist teaching that even Tony Robins uses. From there he pivots into how people can forward themselves based on integrity and strong moral principles. Franklin also states that he learned humility from a Quaker, so if this is one of your weaknesses you can live tech-free for a while and get your Quaker on. I recommend this book to everyone, dare I say it should be mandatory reading for all high school students. You can read it on a lunch break, and level up tenfold. It will force you to put your life into perspective, solidifying that Benjamin Franklin is the god of all things self-help. The last four pages where a real treat, so I will not review said content here.