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13 Secrets to Successful Living: Benjamin Franklin’s Virtues for Success

By Mark Bowser

Success leaves clues. In order for us to become winners, we must watch winners.  That is true in business and that is true in our individual lives. In an earlier article, we explored Benjamin Franklin’s Rules For Failure.  They were the traits that he went great lengths to avoid. In this article, we are going to delve into Franklin’s opposite strategy for success. Not only did he have certain traits he wanted to avoid, he also had certain qualities that he knew if followed would lead to great success.

So, we are going to take another look at good ole Ben. If we model what he did, think what he thought, believe what he believed, learn what he learned, then we will get similar results as he did. Modeling is one of the fundamental strategies for success.  Anything you want to achieve has probably already been done before.  You know the old saying that “there is nothing new under the sun.” We don’t need to reinvent the wheel.  We just need to adapt the wheel to suit our purposes.

Benjamin Franklin had a goal of Moral Perfection. Even though it isn’t humanly possible to reach such a goal, Franklin believed the endeavor for perfection made him a happier, more successful person. Franklin discovered that this habit was the key to success. He observed,

“It was about this time I conceiv’d the bold and arduous project of arriving at moral perfection. I wish’d to live without committing any fault at any time; I would conquer all that either natural inclination, custom, or company might lead me into. As I knew, or thought I knew, what was right and wrong, I did not see why I might not always do the one and avoid the other. But I soon found I had undertaken a task of more difficulty than I had imagined. While my care was emply’d in guarding against one fault, I was often surprised by another; habit took the advantage of inattention; inclination was sometimes too strong for reason. I concluded, at length, that the mere speculative conviction that it was our interest to be completely virtuous, was not sufficient to prevent our slipping; and that the contrary habits must be broken, and good ones acquired and established, before we can have any dependence on a steady, uniform rectitude of conduct. For this purpose I therefore contrived the following method.”

Franklin’s method consisted of 13 virtues. He would focus on one virtue at a time. He would spend one week focusing on that virtue and then he would move on to the next virtue. Every night, Franklin would record his progress in a journal. He would mark every transgression he made that day not only in the virtue he was currently studying, but in all 13 virtues.

We might describe this exercise as a lot of hard work or one that takes too much time. Well, the road to success has never been easy and that is why there is plenty of room at the top. Success is hard work.  You have to struggle to get the success train out of the station.  But once you are down the tracks a mile or two, the success momentum will begin to push you along like a Spring wind at your back.

Let’s take a look at Ben’s 13 Virtues of Success. It may just be the recipe you have been looking for…

  • One, TEMPERANCE.

Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.

Franklin believed in being in control of mind and body. If we are not self controlled, then is it possible to succeed? Usually not.  Any success that we might achieve while being out of control would be temporary at best.

  • Two, SILENCE.

Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.

Remember what our Mom’s taught us when we had a conflict with a sibling or friend? If your Mom is anything like mine, you probably heard  a thousand times that “if we can’t say something nice then don’t say anything at all.”  That is still good advice today.  Thanks Mom!

  • Three, ORDER.

Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.

It has been said that many people spend an extra four hours every week looking for something they know is on their desk. Sound familiar? This happened to be the virtue that Franklin struggled with the most.

For many of us, order is not an easy task. But, success moves with order. Success abhors chaos.

Athletes talk about getting “in the zone”, writers and speakers talk about the “muse that flows,” and mothers talk about bedrooms that — well, you know…are “neat.”

Success and order go hand in hand. I am not saying your desk, office, or room has to be spotless. What I am saying is that you have to have an order that works for you. Arrange your space so that everything you need on a consistent basis is in easy reach. Arrange your time in a way that improves your productivity.  Find what works for you and then stick with it.

  • Four, RESOLUTION.

Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.

First, set a goal.  A rock solid, gotta have it, dream to achieve.   Now, go do it!  Take action on something today that will move you closer to that objective.

  • Five, FRUGALITY.

Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing.

Be wise with money. Be a good steward of everything you have been given. Don’t forget, that includes the talents the good Lord has given you too.

  • Six, INDUSTRY.

Lose no time; be always employ’d in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.

We all need to master our time management.  When it comes to time, everyone is equal.  We may have different talents and we may have different strengths, but we all have only twenty-four hours in a day.  We have to make the most of that time. 

Actually, we don’t even have twenty-four hours in which to be productive.  First, we have to sleep. There goes six to eight hours.  Two, we need some rest and relaxation time.  Let’s say two hours.  Now, we are down to fourteen hours in which to be productive.  How are we going to use those fourteen hours?   Will we make the most of them or will we squander them?

One of the areas that wastes a lot of my time is television. I love to veg out in front of the tube. However, I could be using that time to work on my dreams and goals. Now, don’t misunderstand me, I am not saying don’t watch T.V. I am saying that we all could probably watch a little less T.V. We need to plan our week. What shows do you really want to watch? Alright, then schedule them in your calendar and watch only those shows.

Where we will save a lot of valuable time is when we stop watching shows we don’t care about watching. We plop down in the chair, grab the remote, and start flipping. Don’t see anything good there —  so let’s flip some more. Before we know it, we have spent an hour flipping channels, watching nothing, and wasting time. 

Franklin fervently expressed to us how vitally important it is to be purposeful with our time.  If we waste time, success won’t complain. Success will quietly go to it’s corner like a child put in a time-out.  And, just like that child, success can’t wait to get back out of the corner.

  • Seven, SINCERITY.

Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly.

I believe the best way to accomplish this is to open our Bibles and live what we commonly call The Golden Rule. “Do for others what you would like them to do for you. This is a summary of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 7:12 NLT)

One of the greatest persons I have ever had the privilege to meet is the late Zig Ziglar.  I consider him a mentor, even now, though he doesn’t walk on this earth anymore.  One of the greatest blessings in my career life was to write the book Sales Success with Mr. Ziglar, Tom Hopkins, and Scott McKain.

Zig’s whole business was founded on a principle which became his most famous saying. Zig said, “You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help enough other people get what they want.”  That is a wonderful contemporary way of expressing The Golden Rule.

  • Eight, JUSTICE.

Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.

The Golden Rule pretty much sums this one up too. As we can see, it is a very important rule to live by.

  • Nine, MODERATION.

Avoid extreams; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.

Forgive people. That is a key ingredient for a successful and happy life.   We must decide to quit holding people up to a standard in which no one can reach.  What is that standard?  Perfection! 

None of us will ever be perfect. So, give others a break and forgive them. While you’re at it, you may as well forgive yourself too.

  • Ten, CLEANLINESS.

Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, cloaths, or habitation.

Is dressing for success really that important? Yes! I am not saying you have to have the best shoes and the most expensive outfits. Not at all. All I am saying is that we need to look sharp and smell good. Our first impression is important. And, we only get one first impression.

  • Eleven, TRANQUILITY.

Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.

Peace!  Isn’t that something we are all looking for?  Particularly, in this fast paced world in which we live. So, how do we gain peace?  First, by making a decision to be peaceful. Decide to be proactive in every circumstance. Don’t get ruffled.  Stay calm.  Even if you don’t feel calm — stay calm on the outside. What did that old deodorant commercial used to tell us?  Oh yeah,  “Don’t ever let them see you sweat.”

Second, have some quiet time everyday.  Turn off your phone and all other interruptions and just sit quietly.  It is amazing what a few minutes can do for your emotional well being as well as your sharpness of mind. Do this for five to ten minutes everyday.

  • Twelve, 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.

King Solomon, the wisest of earthly kings had some great advise for us. 

“Choose a good reputation over great riches, for being held in high esteem is better than having silver or gold.” (Proverbs 22:1 NLT) 

“Drink water from your own well — share your love only with your wife. Why spill the water of your springs in public, having sex with just anyone? You should reserve it for yourselves. Don’t share it with strangers.” (Proverbs 5:15-17 NLT)

Nothing else needs to be said.

  • Thirteen, HUMILITY.

Imitate Jesus and Socrates.

Many times when we think of humility, we think of mild mannered and weak. Nothing could be further from the truth. Humility is great strength. Humility is having so much confidence in yourself and the ability that God has given you that you don’t have to brag. Jesus Christ never bragged. He told the truth with great confidence and conviction. A humble confidence which is the significance of a high self-esteem.  That is the way to live!

Well, there we have it, Benjamin Franklin’s 13 virtues for success. If we follow them, how can we not reach the mountaintop of success? Even though we can’t keep them perfectly, I am confident that we, like Franklin will say, “But, on the whole, tho’ I never arrived at the perfection I had been so ambitious of obtaining, but fell far short of it, yet I was, by the endeavor, a better and a happier man than I otherwise should have been if I had not attempted it….”

Thanks for reading today.

*Some of the spelling in the quotes in the article above are in old English. That is why some of the words are spelled differently than we spell them today.

*If you enjoyed this article, then please visit other Mark Bowser articles:

https://medium.com/@markbowser/benjamin-franklins-rules-for-failure-bc67823c907b

https://medium.com/the-innovation/the-philosophy-of-the-vault-8d5d2657991a

https://medium.com/@markbowser/success-leaves-clues-are-you-looking-for-them-how-you-can-join-the-super-successful-b745fc576a3a

*Want to get motivated?  Enjoy this clip from one of Mark Bowser’s live presentations.

https://youtu.be/Y9EHnmkkQaI

*Want to learn multiple ways to sell information style products?  No one better than my friend and mentor Tom Antion.  Check out his article. https://medium.com/swlh/how-to-sell-your-knowledge-in-28-different-ways-85a7127c9f60

*Want to contact Mark Bowser?  Visit our website where you can join our free newsletters, contact Mark to speak at your next event or training seminar (in person or virtual), or simply connect with Mark, then visit www.MarkBowser.com.

*Mark Bowser is one of the Top Professional Business Speakers on the circuit today.  He has presented thousands of seminars to organizations including Ford Motor Company, FedEx Logistics, Southwest Airlines, United States Marine Corp., Sony Music, Princeton University, Purdue University, Kings Daughters Medical Center, and many more. 

He is the author of several books including “Sales Success” with Zig Ziglar, “Nehemiah on Leadership, “Some Gave It All” with Danny Lane (endorsed by Chuck Norris, and the popular Christian Living book Jesus, Take the Wheel.  Pick up your copies today at Amazon.com.