Benjamin Franklin was a tremendous inspiration to me as a child. I remember going to a re-enactment of the signing of the Declaration of Independence with my school mates as part of a celebration of the bicentennial of our great nation. Two hundred years had passed since the drafting and execution of that momentous symbol of the underlying agreement of our Founding Fathers, but it felt like they were right there in the room with us.
In my early twenties I came across Mr. Franklin’s “The Art of Virtue.” (for full text see http://tinyurl.com/depz93) A short but powerful piece written to help him to accomplish a “bold and arduous Project of arriving at moral Perfection,” the thirteen virtues outlined serve as a wonderful and timeless guide for self-examination. Mr. Franklin “determined to give a Week’s strict attention to each of the Virtues successively…” a recipe for refinement! Here they are:
1 . Temperance
Eat not to Dullness. Drink not to Elevation.
Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself. Avoid trifling Conversation.
Let all your Things have their Places. Let each Part of your Business have its Time.
Resolve to perform what you ought. Perform without fail what you resolve.
Make no Expense but to do good to others or yourself: i.e. Waste nothing.
Lose no Time. Be always employ’d in something useful. Cut off all unnecessary Actions.
Use no hurtful Deceit. Think innocently and justly; and, if you speak, speak accordingly.
Wrong none, by doing Injuries or omitting the Benefits that are your Duty.
Avoid Extremes. Forbear resenting Injuries so much as you think they deserve.
Tolerate no Uncleanness in Body, Clothes or Habitation.
Be not disturbed at Trifles, or at Accidents common or unavoidable.
Rarely use Venery but for Health or Offspring; Never to Dullness, Weakness, or the Injury of your own or another’s Peace or Reputation.
Imitate Jesus and Socrates.
No matter how busy you are, how many plates you’re spinning, balls you’re juggling, there is always an opportunity for improvement in the way you are carrying yourself. Being a better person requires diligence, honesty and humility and remember, “you may delay, but Time will not.” There is no better time than the present to develop your self.