Benjamin Franklin's Thirteen Virtues: for Leadership

Benjamin Franklin’s Thirteen Virtues: for Leadership

“No one gossips about other people’s secret virtues.” – Bertrand Russell, mathematician and philosopher.

When was the last time you read an in-depth article about a level-headed business executive with quiet family life, steady company, and no personal problems?

The fact remains, whether it is a gossip website, Vanity Fair article, or scandalous tweet, we tend to cue in on the Type-A, crash and burn, marriage on the rocks, multiple substance abuse problems, individuals when we give our attention to the media.

It might even seem like a prerequisite to success. Never mind the hard work, long hours, unique ideas, and good timing. But, instead, the national spotlight’s impression is that the natural avenue to achievement is extreme eccentricity.

Eccentricity, for the sake of itself, is a shortcut. The real value of success comes from hard work and discipline. It can be easy to forget, but here are a few clues to help you remember.

At the age of 20, Benjamin Franklin created a system to develop his character. In his autobiography, Franklin listed his thirteen virtues as:

  1. Temperance. Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.
  2. Silence. Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.
  3. Order. Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.
  4. Resolution. Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.
  5. Frugality. Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing.
  6. Industry. Lose no time; be always employ’d in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.
  7. Sincerity. Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly.
  8. Justice. Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.
  9. Moderation. Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.
  10. Cleanliness. Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, cloaths, or habitation.
  11. Tranquillity. Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.
  12. 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.
  13. Humility. Imitate Jesus and Socrates.

It’s always helpful to have guidance from someone who has mastered a variety of fields, including business, politics, science, and travel, all without a formal education.

The extreme elements of world culture these days seem to almost beg for extreme behavior. We should remember that the race of life is long and in the end, we’re only really competing with ourselves.

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