Even though he was alive in the eighteenth century, there are still many lessons from Benjamin Franklin that are relevant today. Franklin was a wise and witty man, and in 1732 he began his serial publication, Poor Richard’s Almanack, in which he used satire to deliver moral lessons. These lessons from Benjamin Franklin are often straight to the point and similar to Dr. Phil’s no nonsense talk. Personally, every time I read his lessons I am amazed at how relevant and applicable they are in the modern world. You might also be surprised at how useful these morals are for navigating life and striving for self-improvement.
1. Rise and Shine
"Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise" is one of the famous lessons from Benjamin Franklin. As a morning person, I find this quote extremely applicable to my own life. I am most productive in the mornings and I am a much more pleasant person when I go to bed at a decent hour. If you are not a morning person, this quote is still extremely useful because the basic message of productivity, being on top of things and getting enough sleep is the same whether you are a morning person or a night person. No matter what your normal routine is, try to get enough sleep and make sure you don’t get behind in your priorities. You will feel much better for being well rested and productive.
2. Your Enemies Will Be Honest
My mom always taught me that a person should be able to look in the mirror and see the cracks, which is very similar to Franklin’s expression, "Love your enemies, for they will tell you your faults." As hard as this advice is to swallow, I believe it is truly great advice. Listening to people who tell you that you can be too critical or are a little on the self-absorbed side is not necessarily a bad thing. It can give you an opportunity to grow and become a better person. When you face your flaws that is when you can become the best version of yourself. With that said, please walk away from anyone who dares to criticize your appearance, because you are beautiful!
3. Find the Good and Be Truthful about Your Faults
"Search others for their virtues, thy self for thy vice" is another moral from Poor Richard’s Almanack that addresses improving one’s self. Looking for the good in others is something we are all taught to do, but we are rarely taught to look at our own weaknesses. Yet, by doing both of these things we can improve ourselves on an even greater level. I always try to focus on the positive qualities in other people; however, sometimes I have a difficult time being honest with myself about the areas that I need to improve. I know I would benefit from listening to Franklin’s wisdom about self-improvement. He may have put his wisdom in a simple statement, but for that reason it is especially easy to follow.
4. Save Your Money
We have all heard some version of "A penny saved is twopence clear." As a saver this is one of my favorite quotes. Ever since I was little I have saved my money, and I have always been glad for my money saving qualities. Over the years it has allowed me to purchase things that I need and indulge in the occasional want. If you are able to, try saving a little each month, so that over the course of time you have built a safety net that allows you to meet your needs with money left over.
5. Know when You Have a Good Thing
Sometimes, we don’t know how good things are going until something bad happens. Franklin addressed this unfortunate human truth when he stated, "When the well’s dry we know the worth of water." Personally, I have experienced this on more than one occasion, and having the experience of appreciating the water only when it is gone has taught me to live with gratitude. With the hectic holiday season here, try to be grateful for each crazy, stressful day you have. Even on the worst days there is something to be thankful for, even if it is just being thankful for that really delicious piece of chocolate you had before you went to bed!
6. Take Action
"The sleepy fox catches no poultry" is Franklin’s very amusing way of asserting that only when you take action do you achieve something. Frankly, even though most people don’t live on or near farms anymore, this agrarian based message is as relevant today as it was in the eighteenth century. If you often find yourself thinking about things you would like to do or goals you would like to achieve but don’t take steps toward them, then you might want to think about that "sleepy fox." You will never know if you can achieve something if you don’t try or take risks. More often than not, you will be surprised at your success when you put all your effort into achieving your goals!
7. Secrets Are Hard to Keep
Have you ever shared a secret with someone, only to find out later that it wasn’t kept a secret? Then you may want to take note of Benjamin Franklin’s declaration, "Three may keep a secret if two of them are dead." Secrets are notoriously hard to keep. If there is something you truly want kept private, it is probably best to keep it to yourself. I always err on the side of caution and only tell people things I won’t mind being shared with others.
8. Education is Priceless
I love the honesty of Franklin’s quote, "Genius without education is like silver in the mine." As a person who studied to be an educator in college, I greatly appreciate this lesson. It speaks to the absolute importance of education and relates that without education a person doesn’t reach their full potential. If you are in school right now and experiencing some form of "senioritis," appreciate your education and know that it will result in your being more like a beautiful silver necklace than a piece of "silver in the mine." I truly believe that receiving a good education is one of the most important things a person can do.
9. Food Nourishes the Body
Franklin famously said, "Eat to live, and not live to eat." In our modern society, where a great emphasis is put on a woman’s size, this quote is especially important. Food should give you sustenance and nourishment so that you can have the energy to accomplish all of your goals. Looking to food as a source of comfort or something you can control will not result in a full and happy life. Enjoy your meals and know that the food you are eating is supporting your body so you can live a rich life.
Benjamin Franklin is one of the most colorful founding fathers of the United States, and he was a very wise man. The lessons he delivered in Poor Richard’s Almanack have remained relevant and are helpful even in the twenty-first century. I enjoy reading his lessons and always feel like following them will lead to a better version of myself. I hope you found Franklin’s lessons as helpful as I do. What is your favorite lesson from Benjamin Franklin?
Source: Issacson, Walter. Benjamin Franklin. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2003. Print