Be like Ben (Franklin)…what good shall I do today?

Benjamin Franklin (1706 – 1790) was one of the Founding Fathers of the US.   He was a noted polymath (def: A person of wide-ranging knowledge or learning), a leading author, politician, musician, inventor, statesman, scientist…bottom line – a genius, this man.

He developed a process of overcoming his bad habits and replacing them with good habits.  He worked on this every single day.  KEEP IN MIND, THIS WAS OVER 290 YEARS AGO. Is it any wonder then, why this man was as accomplished as he was.

I read his process, his approach and his disciplined execution.  Writing down his goals.  Tracking progress daily.  My reaction? I am a Sloth.

“…He listed 13 virtues he felt were important in his life.  (Link to Benjamin Franklin’s Chart of 13 Virtues.)  Then he worked on each of the virtues, focusing on one per week for 13-week period.  By the end of a week, he felt he was well on the way to mastering the bad habit and so he proceeded in the next week to work on the following virtue, at the same  time recording his success with all the other virtues. Since some of the virtues would facilitate the acquisition of others, he put them in a specific order.

…Franklin gave a week’s strict attention to each of the virtues successively.  Thus, in the first week, he made every effort to be temperate, exercising moderation and self-restraint.  He left the other virtues to their ordinary chance, only marking every evening the faults of the day.  At the end of the first week when he saw that next to the T it was clear of spots, he figured his ability to be temperate was strengthened and that he could focus on the next virtue the following week.  He proceeded this way until after 13 weeks he had focused on all virtues.  After one 13-week period, he repeated the process so that there were “four courses in a year.” (Link to his Process and Chart)

(After completing the project he commented) “And like him who, having a garden to weed, does not attempt to eradicate all the bad herbs at once, which would exceed his reach and his strength, but works on one of the beds at a time, and, having accomplished the first, proceeds to a second, so I should have, I hoped, the encouraging pleasure of seeing on my pages the progress I made in virtue, by clearing successively my lines of their spots, till in the end, by a number of courses, I should he happy in viewing a clean book, after a thirteen weeks’ daily examination.”



  1. Great post David; very inspiring!


  2. Compared to me, though, Ben Franklin is a sloth. Many of my long-time friends call me ART, and it is an acronym.


  3. I agree with Ben, but you have to be committed to stick to it. A few weeks ago I was asked to do a list of ABC words that I try to live by. I created this slide show to list them. I call is “Words For Life Application. See here:



  4. Very inspiring post.


  5. Thank you very much for all the time you took, to research that, and share it with the world.
    Because this world needs this kind of help for it to be better.


  6. Started writing my list, so many things to do. Better get started on changing the world right now, long haul project. 🙂


  7. One key point here I value especially is that of only biting off in each listed task what we can reasonably expect to accomplish!


  8. One of the best success stories in American history and a great example of ‘root before fruit’ — develop the habit and the character will follow. Franklin’s autobiography is in the public domain and I believe every thinking American should read it; “Like Ben, I wanna be like Ben” 😀


    • “Root before fruit.”…had not heard this before. Terrific. Have read autobiography and agree with your recommendation Todd.


      • I first became aware of Franklin’s autobiography in the introduction to ‘7 Habits of Highly Effective People’. Did you know that 7 Habits was originally a study on success literature from 1776 to the present? Franklin’s autobiography was cited as an example of how prior to WWII, emphasis was on character. After WWII the emphasis was on personality or ‘fruit without the root’. I know you have 7 Habits — reread the intro! It starts:


        At the same time, in addition to my research on perception, I was also deeply immersed in an in-depth study of the success literature published in the United States since 1776. I was reading or scanning literally hundreds of books, articles, and essays in fields such as self-improvement, popular psychology, and self-help. At my fingertips was the sum and substance of what a free and democratic people considered to be the keys to successful living…

        …almost all the literature in the first 150 years or so focused on what could be called Character Ethic as the foundation of success—things like integrity, humility, fidelity, temperance, courage, justice, patience, industry, simplicity, modesty, and the Golden Rule. Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography is representative of that literature. It is, basically, the story of one man’s effort to integrate certain principles and habits deep within his nature.

        Covey, Stephen R. (2009-12-02). The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (p. 18). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.”


      • Had no idea Todd. Very interesting. Thanks for sharing. Dave


  9. great post – very inspiring!


  10. Reblogged this on Carlo Favaretti.


  11. Hmmmm interesting. Life improvement is nothing new. I wonder if Socrates or Davinci had progressive thought processes? Another mentor….. so many to admire, so little time.



  1. […] Be like Ben (Franklin)…what good shall I do today? March 2, 2012 By David Kanigan 24 Comments […]


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