Monday, July 20, 2015

Ben Franklin's 13 Subjects

Ben Franklin was smart enough to know that even though he was a brilliant man, he could, by himself, make himself an even better man. It was in this light that he described a game he played with himself, one that many now refer to as Ben Franklin's 13 Subjects.

He described the game in the first half of his autobiography, the part he wrote before the Revolutionary War when he still had a good relationship with his son.

He created the 13 Subjects, which were essentially qualities that were necessary or desirable for him to acquire and try to master in order to be the perfect Ben Franklin. Each week he would focus on one of the subjects and try to master it.

He would sit down each night and record moments when he succeeded at mastering it, and also the times when he failed. This was his attempt to keep track of how he was doing in order to get batter at each subject.

He was able to go through the entire list in thirteen weeks, and repeat th process four times a year.

In 1960, Frank Bettger wrote "How I Raised Myself from Failure to Success in Sales.” In his book he said that if a man as successful as Ben Franklin had created a method of making his life better, then, perhaps, it would be wise for other people who wished to succeed in life to follow his plan, or develop an individual plan of their own based on his.

That said, here are Franklin's 13 Subjects.
  • Temperance: Eat not to dullness, drink not to elevation. 
  • Silence: Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation. 
  • Order: Let all you things have their places; let each part of your business have its time. 
  • Resolution: Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve. 
  • Frugality: Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing. 
  • Industry: Lose no time; be always employed in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions. 
  • Sincerity: Use no harmful deceits; think innocently & justly, and if you speak, speak accordingly. 
  • Moderation: Avoid extremes; further resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve. 
  • Justice: Wrong none by doing injuries, or emitting the benefits that are your duty. 
  • Cleanliness: Tolerate no unseemliness in body, clothes or habitation. 
  • Tranquility: Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable. 
  • Chastity: Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of our own or another’s peace or reputation. 
  • Humility: Imitate Jesus and Socrates. 
He admitted that he had occasions where he failed at these, but would always make himself aware of his fault, either immediately or in the evening when he reviewed how he did. Then he'd come up with a method to prevent himself from repeating his errors.