He is known for his experiments on electricity and being one of America’s founding fathers.
But Benjamin Franklin was also a successful entrepreneur, owning real estate and businesses. He was an avid inventor too, responsible for the cast iron “Franklin stove”, the lightning rod and numerous musical instruments. As if that wasn’t enough, he made time to learn French, Spanish, Latin, and Italian.
Franklin was not busy for the sake of being busy. He wanted to make a difference.
His amazing ability to manage and lead a meaningful life has empowering self-leadership lessons for us today.
- “Content makes poor men rich; discontent makes rich men poor.”
Many people with money are not happy. They move from relationship to relationship, have alcohol and drug addictions and cannot find love, peace and happiness. Franklin called them poor. If you are satisfied with your life, regardless of how much money you make, then Franklin called you rich.
- “Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.”
We all have only 24 hours in a day. It’s how we use those hours. Franklin was a fanatical planner and one of the first people to use a daily to-do list. But his went beyond a simple listing of tasks.
Instead, in order to make his time meaningful, he allocated time slots to work on things that were important to him. He separated those periods from other time slots reserved for basic tasks, eating, sleeping and socializing.
Then, at the end of each day, Franklin would write down the answer to this question: “What good have I done today?” This allowed him to monitor and reflect upon the progress he was making in the most important areas of his life.
- “Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning.”
In Japan, business is based upon the principle of “Kaizen” or continual improvement. Franklin’s brand of self-leadership to achieve a meaningful life has a lot to do with kaizen. Even if we’re the junior person on the team, if we’re constantly learning and getting better, then we are already a success.
- “Some people die at 25 and aren’t buried until 75.”
You may know people who have given up on life. They’ve stopped searching for the perfect job and the perfect mate. More tragically, they’ve stopped trying to better themselves. If we die young on the inside, then it doesn’t matter when we die physically.
- “Any fool can criticize, condemn and complain – and most fools do.”
It’s a complaining planet. We are surrounded by waves of negativity and critical commentary. But Franklin believed any fool can complain. It is the rare individual who can stare down negativity with a powerful smile, offer solutions, put forth fresh and bold ideas, and take action.
- “Well done is better than well said.”
We all know people who like to boast about themselves. Some are great talkers. They sound good, but at the end of the day, they do nothing. Franklin chose to do things rather than talk about things.
- “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”
If you’re a manager, get people engaged in activities as soon as possible. I have a friend who says she cannot read instructions. They are usually poorly worded, so she just dives into a new product and plays with it until she figures it out. Do not tell. Instead, engage.
- “If a man could have half of his wishes, he would double his troubles.”
Today, we are trying to do too many things. Everyone seems to be leading a busy life, in a hurry to get somewhere else. Franklin had that problem too, likely with far more projects that he could handle. But he realized, it was better to set only very few priorities at a time and stick to them.
- “It is the eye of other people that ruin us. If I were blind I would want, neither fine clothes, fine houses or fine furniture.”
Here, Franklin is telling us that too much of what we do in life is to impress others. But a life of meaning is not about impressing. It’s about serving.
You CAN have a meaningful, purposeful, productive life. Start your week the Franklin way.
Ben Franklin’s failed attempt to reinvent the alphabet
Not everything Benjamin Franklin did was successful. In the 1760’s, Franklin concluded that the English alphabet didn’t make any sense because the way words are spelled doesn’t match how they are spoken.
As a result, he created his own alphabet, removing letters he felt were not necessary. He also created new letters to represent sounds such as “ch” in “chew”. Franklin’s new alphabet made a lot of sense because it simplified spelling. (For example, he spelled “alphabet” as “alfabet”). He pitched the idea to Noah Webster (of Webster Dictionary fame) but Webster wasn’t buying it.
Franklin’s alphabet, although logical, was never adopted.
© 2016 Cory Robert Galbraith, All Rights Reserved.