The Tour
 71 Gems
 12 Goofs 

 Site Map


Special Report: Credit Cards

Site Search:
Google Custom Search

 B. Franklin,

SmartConsumerTips Logo 
Gems of Consumer Wisdom
Health • Safety • Financial Freedom









  A Glimpse Into Ben Franklin's Character  

Ben Franklin is one of the great heroes of the consumer advocacy movement.  Jim Guest, CEO of Consumers Union and publisher of Consumer Reports Magazine, was asked who would make a great CEO of Consumers Union.  His answer?  Ben Franklin!  Guest praised him as an inventor and publisher who cared about people enough to always publish the best possible advice for them.

Franklin believed that we can all create a path to success, no matter what our lives are like at the moment.  Unusually for his time, he discarded any preconception we are naturally bad or good people.  He was simultaneously a great proponent of both personal freedom and ethical living.  Biographer Ormond Seavey noted that "It was always natural for Franklin to be trying on a fresh identity, as if he were putting on new clothes."  Franklin knew that self-help philosophy is all about the prospect of a fuller and more exciting life, not just striving to accumulate power, wealth or even knowledge.

Franklin was only nineteen years old in 1726 when he embarked on a sea voyage home from London, intent on opening up his own little print shop to serve Philadelphia's newsmen and authors.  At sea Franklin had time to think deeply about personal success and how to achieve prosperity.  As he put it:
"It was about this time I conceived the bold and arduous project of arriving at moral perfection. I wished to live without committing any fault at any time; I would conquer all [faults] 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 employed in guarding against one fault, I was often surprised by another..."
To reduce the confusion he felt, he distilled a list of thirteen virtues from his reading of philosophy, religion and history.  Some of the details may seem antiquated, but for the most part they're still valid today.  He defined these virtues this way:

Temperance: Don't eat oneself into dullness; don't drink to get high.
Silence: Speak only of what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trivial conversation.
Order: Let all your things have their assigned places; let each part of your business have its due time.
Resolution: Resolve to do what you ought; do without fail what you resolve.
Frugality: Make no expense except to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing.
Industry: Lose no time; be always employed in something useful; cut out all wasted actions.
Sincerity: Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak in that same way.
Justice: Do wrong to no one by either doing injury or neglecting your duties.
Moderation: Avoid extreme courses of action; forgive when it makes good sense to.
Cleanliness: Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, clothing, or residence.
Tranquility: Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.
Chastity:Rarely have sex except for health or offspring; never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another's peace or reputation.
Humility: Imitate Jesus and Socrates.

He found it helpful to each morning simply ask himself "What good shall I do this day?"  Before he went to bed he would ask "How well have I achieved what I set out to do?"  He would regularly pick one virtue from his list and concentrate on it for an entire week, trying to get as good as possible at it.

So how well did he do?  In his autobiography he concluded "On the whole, though I never arrived at the perfection I had been so ambitious of attaining, but fell far short of it, yet I was, by the endeavour, a better and happier man."  To many people, this is the most appealing aspect of Franklin's advice:  He was an admitted failure at his own plan, and yet he became a great success by resolving each new day to do his best as he saw fit.

And that just might be his most inspirational message.  To this day, it inspires many people to start reflecting on what is most fulfilling to their own lives, and then live their own chosen values.  Sometimes a simple story like that is better than an entire self-help book that offers so much advice, it seems more unmanageable than the hectic schedules of the people it's supposed to help.
 The Life of Ben Franklin (1706 - 1990)

ABOLITIONIST - Started the Society to Abolish Slavery
AUTHOR - His Autobiography is considered the first great American book
BANKER - Very frugal, he was known as "the patron saint of savings accounts"
BELIEVER - Favored non-denominational spirituality; introduced prayer in Congress
CONSERVATIONIST - He conceived of "daylight savings time" and invented the wood-conserving Franklin stove
DIPLOMAT - As Ambassador, he recruited French allegiance and negotiated peace with Britain
EDUCATOR - Helped found two colleges
HUMORIST - America's first cartoonist and humor writer
INSURER - Started first American insurance company
INVENTOR - Invented lightning rod, bifocals and many others
JURIST - Philadelphia's Justice of the Peace, 1749-1750
LIBRARIAN - Founded first American library to lend books
LINGUIST - Spoke French, Spanish, Italian and Latin
MARINER - Charted the Gulf Stream, invented swim fins, designed storm-resistant anchor
MEDICINE - Founded first American hospital, invented catheter tube
MENTOR - Acted as a counselor to other "founding fathers"
MERCHANT - Achieved enough wealth to retire at age 42, owning several businesses
MILITARY OFFICER - Colonel in Pennsylvania Militia
MUSICIAN - Wrote songs, played four instruments, and invented the glass armonica.
PATRIOT - Helped draft the Declaration of Independence, Articles of Confederation and Constitution of the United States
PHILANTHROPIST - Raised funds and contributed to many charities; originated "matching contributions"
PHILOSOPHER - Started American Philosophical Society
POLITICIAN - Speaker of the Pennsylvania House, then Governor 1785-1788
POSTAL REFORMER - First American Postmaster General
PRINTER - Published Poor Richard's Almanac and much more
SAFETY ADVOCATE - Started first American police and fire departments
SCIENTIST - Helped us understand electricity and refrigeration
SELF-HELP GURU - Penned many proverbs and personal development ideas
VISIONARY - The first to conceive and promote the idea of a United States
WIT - Good-humored, magnetic and popular with ladies, he was always welcome at parties.

Franklin thought of all his accomplishments as just doing a little more good each day.  He stayed humble through it all, always remembering to give credit to others, and signing his letters simply "B. Franklin, printer."

 HomeQuick TourThe Tipsheets12 GoofsWeb LogCalendarList of ExpertsSite MapMedia Room
Mission StatementPrivacy PolicyContact InfoDisclaimer and Terms of UseB. Franklin, Printer
© 2007, Consumer Freedom Alliance • 14241 NE Woodinville-Duvall Rd. #182 • Woodinville, WA • 98072-8564
This site best viewed by IE 5.0 or above, or Firefox 5.0 or above. • A C.O.P.P.A. compliant site.