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John Peterson 01-16-2018 07:47 PM

Benjamin Franklin: Lessons in Life Mastery
Hello Everyone,

This past weekend I re-read one of my all time favorite books, "The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin".

Benjamin Franklin (January 17, 1706, Boston - April 17, 1790 Philadelphia), was an American Renaissance Man. He was a printer, inventor, physical culturist, musician, statesman, diplomat and one of the most prominent scientists in the world of the Enlightenment, famed for his discoveries and experiments in electricity.

He was known as "the First American" because his efforts were critical to the formation of the new nation, the success of the American Revolution and the unification of the 13 colonies into the new "United States of America". Serving as the American Ambassador to France, he secured decisive military and financial aid for the American Revolution, while asserting the values of democracy and republicanism. He assisted his protege Thomas Jefferson in writing the Declaration of Independence in 1776 when he (Franklin) was 70 years of age and helped to write and legitimize the U.S. Constitution in 1787 at the age 81 which, at the time, was considered extraordinary because the average life expectancy was 36. His effective diplomacy, creative nationalism, promotion of civic virtue and devotion to republicanism earned him the top tier as a Founding Father.

The key to Franklin’s success was his drive to constantly improve himself and accomplish his ambitions. In 1726, at the age of 20, Ben Franklin set his loftiest goal while on an eighty day voyage back to the colonies in America. His Goal: the attainment of moral perfection. In chapter 9 of his autobiography he states,


"I conceiv’d the bold and arduous project of arriving at moral perfection. I wish’d to live without committing any fault at any time; I would conquer all that either natural inclination, custom, or company might lead me into."

In order to accomplish his goal, Franklin developed and committed himself to a personal improvement program that consisted of living 13 virtues. The 13 virtues were:

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.”

He stated at the end of his autobiography that it was his pursuit and practice of the 13 Virtues that made his life a standout success.

I challenge anyone to not only read but also APPLY Franklin's 13 Virtues. By doing so you will have lived a life worth living and will have achieved total life mastery.

---John Peterson

gbjj 01-17-2018 05:10 AM

Worthwhile pursuit John,

With the new year, most folks have new resolutions hoping that 2018 will bring a better year than 2017.

We started out the new year with a great series and I'm sharing the first episode. Most folks don't realize the importance of habits and don't realize that if you don't change your habits then your 2018 will be exactly hte same as your 2017

I'm currently listening to "Celebration of Discipline" by Richard Foster on audible.

I also might add Jocko's book "Discipline equals freedom"

John Peterson 01-17-2018 09:02 AM

Hello Jon,

Great post. Thank YOU for posting it.

---John Peterson

lionking 01-17-2018 09:08 AM

Ben Franklin was also a vegetarian and weightlifter (although he preferred walking for exercise) His weakness for alcohol left him with awful gout. Fascinating man.

Andy62 01-17-2018 11:35 AM

Many people who develop great strengths also retain some weakness

John Peterson 01-17-2018 06:34 PM

Hello Everyone,

As I have stated above, Benjamin Franklin, was a man of extraordinary talent: scientist, inventor, diplomat, writer, sage, musician, America's first postmaster, founding father, physical culturist, and fitness guru.

But wait, you might be thinking, I've seen pictures of Benjamin Franklin and he looked portly and plump like a fat and wise old owl. Not true!

Granted, it's true that Franklin let himself go in his seventies, when he was America's ambassador to the French Court of Louis XVI of France, and living in Paris between 1776 and 1785. At that time he was eating rich food, drinking a great deal of alcohol and supposedly bedding down a rather large number of aristocratic ladies. But for almost all of his life before that time, Franklin was a physical specimen. One Biographer, Walter Isaacson, described him as muscular, barrel-chested, and standing 5'9" tall.

As stated in his autobiography, Franklin's fascination with fitness began at the young age of seventeen. Working as a typesetter in London, he garnered respectable physical prowess by running up and down stairs with heavy trays of lead type. Often, he would carry two trays instead of one, a feat which wowed his colleagues because most of them had a difficult time with just one tray and none could carry two. At the same time, he eschewed drinking beer and ale, choosing water instead, and convinced his co-workers to do the same.

Franklin was a genius by birth, but he was an athlete by choice.


In an age when few people knew how to swim, Franklin not only taught himself how to swim but had even contemplated becoming a full-time swimming instructor. As a result, Benjamin Franklin is the only founding father in the Swimming Hall of Fame. He was an avid swimmer all his life.

Franklin later returned to the colonies and, in 1733, began to publish the famous Poor Richard's Almanac in Philadelphia. In it, he frequently proffered advice on diet and health. "Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise," he coined. "Eat to live; live not to eat," "A full belly makes a bad brain," and "To lengthen thy life, lessen thy meals," he also quipped.

In terms of diet, as a young man in his teens, twenties, and thirties Franklin practiced what we now call intermittent fasting by intentionally skipping some of his meals. He advocated paying attention to your weight and to heed what you ate. Be abstemious and utilize self-control at all times. In Poor Richards Almanac he advised, "If you find yourself rotund, eat less. If you find yourself too thin, eat more. If you find yourself in good health, eat the same amount." His approach was simple and scientific, emphasizing self-experimentation.

Franklin continued to be a religious exerciser throughout his life. He especially enjoyed swimming, walking, and leaping. When old age and gout which he suffered as a result of rich food and excessive alcohol restricted his activity choices, he would focus on lifting and swinging light dumb bells.

Franklin's moderate, balanced lifestyle of his youth led to a long life of 84 years, about 40 to 45 years above the average estimated lifespan of the time! Bottom line: say what you will but it worked for him.

Michael Beasley 01-17-2018 07:53 PM

A tidbit that most younger Americans do not know is that Ben Franklin was one of the first truly great salesman that this country produced. In my former retail life I have used the methods he mastered to close many sales. Anyone interested can just google-The Ben Franklin Close. Some think it is outdated, but I think the method is timeless.

Andy62 01-17-2018 10:13 PM

Benjamin Franklin and the other founders were supermen in the right place at the right time.

John Peterson 01-18-2018 12:08 AM

Gordon My Friend,

I agree but out of ALL of all of our Founding Fathers, Benjamin Franklin was the oldest and most extraordinary. Without him there would never have been a United States of America. He wrote the first draft of the Declaration of Independence at age 70 and three months later on October 26th of 1776 sailed to France as our first Ambassador for a country that had not yet won it's independence. He remained our Ambassador to the French court until late 1785 when he decided to come home and celebrate his 80th Birthday with his family and friends. Without Franklin, France would have never supported let alone underwritten our US war of Independence. Without Franklin discovering the military genius of Baron Von Steuben and then recommending to George Washington that he hire Baron Von Steuben of Prussia on nothing more than a promise to pay him whatever he asked after the US had won it's independence, we would have never had Von Steuben. It was Von Steuben that turned the troops at Valley Forge into a world class army capable of fighting the best armies in Europe . Consider this excerpt from a letter that Baron von Steuben wrote to Benjamin Franklin dated September 28th of 1779 a full year and a half after Baron von Steuben turned a rag tag militia into a world class fighting machine,


From the Baron von Steuben4

Copy: New-York Historical Society

Head Quarters West Point, Sept. 28th. 1779

Dear Sir

I take the Liberty of transmitting you a few Copies of the Regulations published last Winter for the service of the Infantry. As this Work has been made under my Direction, I must let you know that Circumstances have obliged me to deviate from the Principles adopted in the European Armies, Such as the formation in Two Ranks, the Weakness of our Battalions &c. Young as We are, We have already our prejudices as the most ancient Nations, the prepossession in favor of the British service, has obliged me to comply with many Things, which are against my Principles. However, We have now fixed Regulations, which will at least produce an Uniformity in the Service, & our System, tho’ imperfect, is far preferable to having none.

I leave it to your other Correspondents to give you an Account of the present State of our Army; If they tell you that our Order & Discipline Equals that of the French and Prussian Armies, do not believe them, but do not believe them neither, if they compare our Troops to those of the Pope, & take a just medium between those two Extremes. Tho’ we are so young that we scarce begin to walk, we can already take Stoney Points, & Powle’s [Paulus] Hooks with the point of the Bayonet, without firing a Single Shot. This is very premature, yet we have still many Weaknesses which bespeak our Infancy. We want, above all, the true meaning of the Words Liberty, Independence &c that the Child may not make use of them against his Father, or the Soldier against his Officer.

I will say nothing of our Political Affairs. These do not fall within the verge of my District. All I can assure you of, is that the English will not beat us, if we do not beat ourselves.

As I receive no Letters from Europe which pains me Very much, I have taken the Liberty to direct my friends & Correspondents to address my Letters to you. I rely on your goodness for transmitting them.

I am with great respect & Esteem Dear Sir Your most obedient & most humble Servant

His Excellency B. Franklin, Esq; Minr Plenipoy: &c &c.

Notation: Doctr Franklin Sept 1779

Here is my point. Benjamin Franklin has often been referred to as 'The First American' and the more we study his life the more obvious it becomes that he (Benjamin Franklin) really was 'The First American'. God literally placed the right man at the right time here in the USA when Benjamin Franklin was born on January 17th of 1706.

As a side note I find it interesting that in his Autobiography, Benjamin Franklin, says he was the youngest son of the youngest son for five generation’s in the paternal line. He was the fifteenth child of his father’s seventeen children by two marriages and the eighth child of his mother’s ten children. His parents named him Benjamin, after the youngest of the twelve sons of Jacob in the Bible, because they expected him to be the last and youngest, but they missed the mark by two girls.

One more point of interest, Franklin was 70 when he represented the interests of the yet unformed United States of America. he continued to serve until his 80th birthday which was more than 40 years beyond the average life expectancy of his day. Why did he do it when as a very wealthy man he could have lived out the balance of his life in luxury but instead decided to put it all one the line by being one of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence? Why? Because he believed that he was placed here by Providence to do what no one else could do.

Sorry to go on and on about Benjamin Franklin but after studying his life in such detail I'm sure that I could write a book about him. He's been a hero of mine since 3rd grade when I took a book home from the school library about him and I haven't stopped studying about him since.

---John Peterson

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