I just finished reading Benjamin Franklin's autobiography, and I'm not going to lie: there's a lot we can learn from the guy. Benjamin Franklin is a well known figure of the American Revolution. He's famous for his interest in science, his diplomatic help in France, his Deism, his writings, being a "ladies man", and more.
You might be thinking: "what could I possibly have in common with a man like Benjamin Franklin and why should a man like that be inspirational?" Good question. Honestly, the guy contributed a lot to America and the world as a whole.
Here's 5 things I think we could all learn from Ben:
1. A Good Work Ethic Is Important in Life
As you read his life's story, you can't help but see over and over that this was a key element to his character as a young man. He was given many opportunities in life because people saw his work ethic and respected him for it. A good work ethic (then and now) is a truly rare thing and it will stand out in the crowd.
2. Honest Self Reflection is Helpful to Not Only You But Future Generations
This is a man who changed the world. He was so instrumental in the birth of our nation that he was affectionately called "the first American" by many in his time. There was no doubt that a biography would be written for future generations, but Ben Franklin thought it was particularly important to sit down and write his life's story from his own perspective. He wrote as an older man writing to his son. He didn't simply recount his victories or his accomplishments. Of course some of those were included, but so were his reflections on poor choices he made and the consequences of those choices. In a book that he knew would be read and studied for hundreds and hundreds of years, he openly states that he made bad friends or that he was foolish or failing in morality in certain circumstances. In doing so, this older man passed on many valuable life lessons. There's something to be said of that.
3. Being Openly Argumentative With People Isn't the Best Way to Convince Someone You're Right
In a day and time where it is considered perfectly acceptable to call people who disagree with you "snowflakes", "idiots", or "fascists" this point seems pretty valuable. Ben isn't saying we should all just get along and agree...he's saying we should think about the way we try to persuade people of things. Creating dialogue rather than shutting others down. The goal should not be to simply create opposition in order to prove your thoughts/opinions superior. I could say more, but why not let Ben speak for himself:
"I wish well meaning, sensible men would not lessen their power of doing good by [using] an assuming manner that seldom fails to disgust, tends to create opposition, and to defeat every one of those purposes for which speech was given to us, to wit, giving or receiving information or pleasure".
4. Church Should Be In the Business of Making Better Citizens
Benjamin Franklin is well known for his Deistic beliefs. He was very outspoken about them. But that doesn't mean he was anti-Jesus or anti-church. In fact, he says that he financially supported the Presbyterian church and occasionally attended sermons of different ministers. Despite his doubt of certain doctrines, he thought that the church could and should be useful in teaching morality and therefore making better citizens. His complaint was that attending church should point individuals to be better people not just more informed people. He made a list of virtues that he thought were worthy to pursue, the final point: imitate Jesus and Socrates. Make what you will of Ben's religious beliefs, but his view of the church being useful for the benefit of society is something we should think about.
5. Your Life Isn't Just About You
Benjamin Franklin was one of the most respected men of his time, and yet his focus was on the betterment of others not the exaltation of himself. He shared his knowledge, his experiences, his opinions, and his resources. His lasting legacy speaks for itself. What will your legacy be?
If you want to read Benjamin Franklin's autobiography, you can order it here*. If you are looking for a good non-fiction book to read, I highly recommend it.
Want to change the world? Let's start by changing the way people view history.
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