Increase your Lifetime Accomplishments: Learn from Ben Franklin

I’ve often wondered how our forefathers accomplished so much. Was it the times in which they lived? Were the ones we learn about in history class actually genius’s? Has history somehow magnified what they did?

Benjamin Franklin lived in the 1700’s and died at age 84. There were no instantaneous communications, no fast travel methods, no fast food joints nor powerful computing devices to assist him in his achievements. In spite of this, his lifetime achievements are noteworthy and bountiful.

A small number of his accomplishments include inventions like the Franklin Stove; learning trades such as candle making; print shop and publishing company ownership; authorship of numerous books, magazines and publications that influenced society both domestically and internationally; financial independence through his various enterprises, including franchising of print shops from which he drew a commission; world travel and diplomacy; community leadership such as leading the Freemasons or starting a library, university and fire department; and of course being a key participant in the American Revolution, including assisting with the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution.

His life wasn’t all fun and glory. He suffered failure in business, statesmanship and diplomacy as well as personal grief in the death of a young son and his wife. His health was precarious, starting at age 21 with pluerisy and extending into gout in his middle age along with a constant battle with his weight. His house was robbed and he was once stranded for months in England as a young man without funds.

How did Ben Franklin accomplish so much? How can you emulate his methods?

Based on information gleaned from his biography and autobiography here are the methods I believe he may have used to accomplish so very much.

He lived live purposefully.

At age 20, he set up his own self-improvement plan, based on 4 resolutions he made, which he then detailed into thirteen virtues he thought were important. For years he steadfastly practiced each virtue and evaluated his efforts on it each week and then moved on to the next virtue. In a time when physical activity and exercise weren’t considered important, he tried to be physically active. He had a lifelong habit of learning – to improve his mind.

Establishing goals for his conduct and life helped Franklin accomplish what he wanted to do.

What you can do.

Explore life possibilities outside of your experience and then set goals to get on your chosen path. Monitor your behavior to determine what, if any, changes you want to make.

He was frugal.

Franklin was born into a large family with hard working Puritan parents. He was trained to be frugal and practiced it always. He once gave up meat and became a vegetarian, to save time and to save money to buy the books he wanted to improve his mind.

What you can do.

Explore the many financial blogs and websites to learn how to be frugal, then decide to cut your expenses to free up your time for making accomplishments.

He worked hard – and smart.

He was apprenticed at age 12 (indentured actually) to his brother who owned a print shop. Franklin wanted to contribute articles to the New England Courant which was the paper being printed in his brother’s shop. Since he was an apprentice, his brother would not let him contribute, so Franklin wrote the Silence Dogood letters and sneak them under the print shop door at night. They became hugely popular.

He worked continually and hard in early adulthood to become a printer, author and publisher. Along the way he worked for his father making soap; his brother at the Courant, as an apprentice printer several other places, including Philadelphia and London; and also as a bookkeeper, clerk and etc. He and his wife owned multiple shops and ran them – a book store, a print shop, a general store and also rented out space to relatives for their business.

Early in his career, Franklin realized that the public’s perception of reality was as important as the reality itself. He believed that he would get more work for his business if people thought of him as a really hard worker. Franklin made sure that townspeople saw him hard at work early in the morning and late at night, hoping that people would perceive “hard work” as “good work” and become customers of his print shop.

He retired at age 42 and bought some land upon which to live and farm, but was called back to the city for public works.

What you can do.

As with Franklin, you can seek to continually improve your skill and knowledge in your chosen field. His was printing. He pursued it diligently through multiple jobs as a printer helper, an apprentice, a print shop owner and more.

Find what you enjoy doing, a career that will allow you to live life on your terms and then pursue it relentlessly.

Focus on what is important to you. I suspect that Franklin did not use up his time with mundane chores that clutter many of our lives – grass mowing, home maintenance, shopping, house cleaning and the like. In fact he had servants and slaves to do the mundane work. Figure out what is important to you and either let the rest go or get someone else to do what needs doing that isn’t important to you.

He became financially independent at a relatively young age.

While many around him were struggling (as his parents had struggled) to support their families, Franklin was able to create a situation in which he had financial independence.

Ben Franklin had 13 brothers and sisters. He started life poor and worked his way to affluence. In his own words at the start of his autobiography, he proclaims his success:

“Having emerged from the poverty and obscurity in which I was born and bred, to a state of affluence and some degree of reputation in the world, and having gone so far through life with a considerable share of felicity, the conducing means I made use of, which, with the blessing of God, so well succeeded, my posterity may like to know, as they may find some of them suitable to their own situations, and therefore fit to be imitated.”

His progression from printer helper to apprentice printer and then to print shop owner set him up for his key to financial independence. At age 25 he he started franchising out the printing business, setting up partners in other cities for a share of the profit. One year later, he published the popular and lucrative Poor Richards Almanac. These endeavors helped him reach the point financially where he could spend time on other pursuits and not have to put all his time towards support of his family.

For whatever reason, he also had just 3 children – far fewer than most families had in those times.

What you can do.

Seek methods of generating passive income streams and find creative ways of continually setting up new streams until you get to the point where your time is freed up for other pursuits.

Seek to live on less so you don’t have to earn as much to support yourself and your family.

He sought to expand his influence.

At age 20, Franklin helped start a group called Junto The group met every Friday evening to help one another, study and improve themselves (as well as have fun). The members of this group later went on tho have a large degree of influence in the community. Today, we might call this a mastermind group.

His many publications expressed opinions on the leading edge of the Enlightenment Age and not only gained a large degree of influence for him but also influenced to a large degree those around him.

Franklin was active in community improvement as well. Being involved (usually as a leader) in starting libraries, fire departments, insurance companies and universities also helped expand his influence.

As Franklin’s reputation and name recognition increased, his opportunities to make significant contributions also rose, especially on the diplomatic and political front.

What you can do.

After careful consideration and study, express your honest opinion about the issues of your day and do something about them.

Start your own mastermind group to help and from each other.

Become a speaker, an organizer, a volunteer and a leader in your own sphere, in your own community at home and at work.

He wrote about his life and times.

Were it not for his voluminous writings, little might be known of his many accomplishments.

What you can do.

Don’t be afraid to honestly and modestly record your own accomplishments and efforts.  Write a book, start a web site, record your history in letters to your descendants, co-workers or friends.

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