Good Habits Kill Bad Habits

Can developing good habits kill the bad one's?

The short answer - Yes.

The long answer, well it is a long process and it takes time. But developing certain good habits are known to kill bad habits. Let me give you an example from my own life. 6 years ago, I was a sedentary, lethargic and utterly unfit person. I used to eat all kinds of junk food, smoke almost 8–10 cigarettes a day, sleep late and wake up late. All my vital health parameters like BMI, Blood Pressure, Lipid Profile, Urea, etc had gone over the roof. I knew that all that I used to do like smoking, binge eating, oversleeping etc are bad habits. But I did not know how to get rid of them. In fact, I never tried to shed those habits because I used to enjoy them.

In 2011, I took up running to control my weight. It was a difficult process. It took me several months and a truckload of will power to get into the groove of running. You can read that story here: Couch Potato to Runner - My Story!

In about an years time, the running habit was firmly established. I started calling myself a runner. I did not know that I was setting up a habit that would change my life. I lost the extra weight that I was carrying for most of my life. The health parameters came back to normal. I started taking part in longer runs. This meant I has to eat healthy food. My binge eating stopped. I had to wake up early to go for my daily run. This meant that I had to go to sleep early. My overall lifestyle changed because of the habit of running. In order to run better, I felt like quitting smoking. One fine day, I just stopped. The runs were much more enjoyable and I became faster.

Today, I am a changed person. I have become much disciplined and have incorporated many other practices into my daily life. My life today is 360 degree different from what it was 6 years ago.

So, yes, it is possible. It will take time. But with your will power and patience, a good habit will help you kill bad habits. Such habits are known as key-stone habits. They are the ones that help add more and more good habits in your life and drop the bad ones. Example of keystone habits are running, meditation, tracking your food intake, maintaining a daily to-do list etc.

The Three Bulls

Long ago, in a village, lived a young man. He fell in love with a beautiful young woman. He wanted to marry that woman. So, as was the custom in those days, the young man went to the woman’s father and asked for his daughter’s hand in marriage.

The woman’s father wanted to test the courage of the young man. The father said, “I will give you my daughter in marriage if you are able to pass in a certain test”. He added, “Come to my farm tomorrow morning. I will release three bulls one after the other. All you have to do is to touch the tail of any one of the bulls. Mind you, you have to touch the tail only. You cannot touch any other part of the bull”. The young man agreed.

The next day, the young man reached the farm. He was waiting at the gate of the farm for the bulls to be released. Soon, the gate of the farm was opened. The young man could see a large black bull was stomping inside. It was huge. It was more like a rhino than a bull. As soon as the black bull started running towards him, he felt nervous and queasy. He thought, “This is a large bull. If I try to touch it, it could kick me hard. I would be make pulp out of me. There are two more bulls to come after this. May be I should try the next one”. And he let the large bull get away.

After some time, the young man could see another red bull stomping inside the farm. It was not as large as the previous black bull. But it had two ferocious horns. The red bull was stomping the ground, raising a little storm, all the while tossing its head all around and jumping up and down. It displayed very aggressive behavior. The young man thought, “This bull is smaller that the previous one. So the next bull will be even smaller. Why to take risk of life. I still have one more chance and I will try it.” Thus, when the bull came running towards him, he let it go.

Finally the third bull came around. It was a white bull. It was built small. It had very small horns and looked very docile. The young man thought “This is my chance and I will catch the tail of this bull”. He positioned himself and got ready to catch the tail. The bull came running slowly towards him. Just as the bull reached near him, the young man stepped forward to catch its tail. But, alas, the white bull had no tail!

Thus, the young man could pass the test and could not marry the woman he wanted to.

In life, many times, we also let go of opportunities. Under various pretext and excuses, we forgo opportunities that life gives us. We say, we will take the next opportunity or the next one. But no one knows, whether the next opportunity will be the right one or not. 

Benjamin Franklin - Moderation

The ninth virtue developed by Benjamin Franklin was moderation. He described moderation as - Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.

Franklin advises us to avoid extremes in anything. One should be moderate. Everything in extreme is bad. Excess rain causes flood and no rain causes draught. Excess enjoyment causes senses to become dull and no enjoyment makes life very uninteresting. Excess eating causes health problems and so do not eating anything.

The second part of his description is about resentment. When someone causes you an injury, it is natural for the aggrieved person to resent it. In this situation, Franklin advises that one should tolerate it and not resent it so much. Basically, do not go to the extreme. One could say that if you have to get angry on someone, get mad, but be in control!

Various religions in the world have advocated the virtue of moderation. The Buddhists say, follow the middle path. In Taoism, the ancient Chinese philosophy, moderation is considered as a key part of one’s personal development. The Taoists believe that there is nothing that cannot be moderated. One's actions, one's desires and even one's thoughts can be moderated to an extent.

In ancient Greece, Moderation was a principle of life. In the temple of Apollo at Delphi there is the inscription Meden Agan which means 'Nothing in excess'. Greek philosophers believed that health was seen to flow from observing moderation – in exercise, in study, and in diet.

Thus moderation has been a key principle throughout history of mankind and many cultures and religions have extolled this virtue. This is certainly a key virtue for the student of success

Benjamin Franklin - Justice

The eighth virtue practiced by Benjamin Franklin was justice. Franklin described justice as (do) wrong (to) none by doing injuries or omitting the benefits that are your duty.

Everyone wants to live in a fair world. We want others to treat us fairly. This is something which was known even 2000 years ago. As Jesus told - Do unto others as you would want others to do unto you. This is known as the Golden Rule or the law of reciprocity. This is a principle which is seen in many religions and culture. If you want to be treated fairly treat others fairly. This is a very simple principle. You reap what you sow. You get what you give. Thus if you want to get justice, you have to be to be just. One cannot expect to be treated in a just manner while inflicting injustice or injuries to others. Similarly one cannot be partial and stop the benefits that are due to others and expect impartiality from others.

To be fair and just in all dealings requires a high degree of moral values. This is an investment which does not seem to pay in the short run. There have been many examples in real life and in stories, where the protagonist has been fair and just in all his dealings, but life has not treated him fairly. In real life, we see that the ones who wield muscle power, political power, and the ones who barge their way through things, the corrupt people seem to make the most progress in life. The ones who follow the law, the one who is on the path of the truth and Justice seem to lag behind. But if you look at the conscience of these two different type of people, you will find that the latter has a clear conscience. They go to the bed every night without any worries and fear in their mind.

There is another side of justice as well. One can be just and at the same time bear injustice from another person. In such a situation, one should not submit to the injustice. One has to raise his voice against it. This requires some degree of courage. As a student of success, we should develop this virtue of being just to everyone and have the courage to stand up against injustice.

Benjamin Franklin - Sincerity

The seventh virtue that Benjamin Franklin worked to develop was Sincerity.  Franklin described it in simple words as - Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly.

This particular virtue is the one that is closely related to being truthful. Franklin upheld truth not only in act, but also in thought and speech. He exhorts us act in a non-deceitful manner, to think innocently and justly and speak on the same lines as well. So, in a nutshell, it is to think, speak and act in a non deceitful manner.

We find so much degradation of moral values in today’s world. People have become so materialistic that they not only think and speak twisted truth, but also act in such a way as to deceive and hurt other people for their material or political gain. But in the fundamental analysis, all human connections depend on a single character strength which is trust. Trust is the bond or the glue which holds all connections together and everything else originates from that. Trust is the basis of business, trade, exchange of goods, services or knowledge. Trust is the basis of our life. And trust is sustained by truth.

Untruth, insincerity is the enemy of trust. Employing those tactics may lead to short term gains in business, but they lead to a erosion of trust. When there is lack of trust, or depreciation in trust levels, at the end of the day, the relationship suffers, the connections suffer and business suffers. But if someone is sincere, it leads to a higher level of effort, better trust and stronger bonds. Hence, being sincere is a very important virtue for a person.

Book Review - The Ice Cream Maker - Subir Chowdhury


Browsing through the book shelves in the management books section of our library, I came across a small book with a unique name - The Ice Cream Maker. The spine even had a tiny picture of an Ice cream cone! My first reaction was that probably someone has misplaced a story book in the management section. I looked at the name of the author – Subir Chowdhury. It was not a familiar name. However, the book seemed well worn out and I was intrigued. So, I pulled it out and read the front cover – It said – An inspiring tale about making quality the key ingredient in everything you do. I realized that this is not a story book, or may be a management book masquerading as a story book.

Subir Chowdhury is an expert in quality and processes. This is a story, fictional I guess, in which the protagonist is a manager in charge of an Ice-Cream manufacturing unit which is a profit centre on its own and is responsible for sales and marketing as well. The unit is not doing well and the owner is contemplating to sell it off or shut it down. Everything seems to be going wrong with the Ice-Cream factory. Their sales were dropping. Their quality was bad. The people were de-motivated and cynical.

That is when the protagonist finds a mentor, who is the manager of a large retail store in their town. He visits him and asks for his guidance. The subsequent story is about how the Ice-Cream Factory is turned around and finally sales soar and our protagonist gets a promotion.

A very lovable acronym – LEO is introduced in the book.
·         L stands for Listen. Listen to your customers ( and employees as well!)
·         E stands for Enrich. Enrich your products and services (innovate)
·         stands for Optimize. Optimize the customer experience

Here are a few more quotes from the book –
  • ·         If you sell something, you have customers
  • ·         Most companies are better at delivering “excitement” than at serving customers’ “basic” needs
  • ·         You need to think about how to improve your product or service every day
  • ·         Recognize the price of failure
  • ·         Get absolutely dogged on the details
  • ·         Develop productive paranoia
  • ·         Instill a passion for perfection in your team
  • ·         The real measure of performance is not how you do at your best, but how you do at your worst.

Overall, this was a very light read. It does not introduce any new concepts or ideas that you do not know. But it is a good refresher into how some of the basics of quality can be introduced in your team/operations.

Benjamin Franklin - Industry

The sixth virtue that Benjamin Franklin sought to develop was Industry. The word industry in today’s common usage means a factory or a place where some goods are produced. We have the Film industry, the IT industry, the heavy industries etc. But the another meaning of industry is to be industrious. It is to be productively engaged or employed in something useful. Franklin described Industry in the following words - Lose no time; be always employ'd in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.
These days, everyone is very busy. We find it difficult to add another item on to our packed schedule. There are so many attractions and distractions. Family, friends, profession, hobbies, social and personal life – all demand our attention and time. Hence, it is very important for us, not to lose time in those activities which are not useful and congruent to our goal. If someone’s goal is to be the best badminton player, his focus should be on the game most of the time. Except for some time devoted to recreation, he should focus on practicing the game, reading books on badminton, discussing various techniques with his team members, coach or other players, encouraging others to play and talk about the game because by doing so, one becomes motivated. The badminton player should not spend hours together watching movies or surfing internet or playing video games. He should drop out all the other activities that do not help him progress toward his goals.
The biggest impediment to industry is a lack of focus and laziness. If someone does not have a goal, if there is no focus, no aim in life, then one does not know what to work on. He wastes his time on many activities. He does not move forward on anything. It is like a mouse running on a mill. It keeps the mouse busy, but it don’t reach anywhere. Similarly, if someone has a goal, but is lazy to work on it, he keeps procrastinating the work. It is like you want to exercise to reduce weight, but every morning you tell yourself that you will do it the next day and sleep in some more. In either of the case, you will not be able to reach your goal.
Industry and hard work are key ingredients for a successful life. It has been the same 300 years ago during the time of Benjamin Franklin and it still is one of the key ingredients today. All students of success should have a big helping of this virtue to make their life sweet, successful and satisfying.

Related Posts:
List of 13 virtues developed by Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin - Frugality

Frugality is the fifth of the 13 virtues that Benjamin Franklin striven to develop as part of his self improvement effort. In short, he described frugality as: Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing.

Today’s materialistic world entices people to spend more. There are such creative advertisements which artificially creates wants and needs where none really exists. Consumerism urges people to buy more unnecessary stuff. Consumerism thrives on creating a sense of inadequacy in your life. It fires the emotions of envy and pitches it against pride. Remember the feeling of keeping up with the Joneses?  All these have led to the consumerist society.

The consumerist society is full of show offs. They are the ones who get a sense of achievement by bragging their latest acquisitions, be it the newly launched iPhone or an Applewatch or some other gizmo. Some people love to splurge on cars and yachts, some others on castles and property. They have different tastes. Different strokes for different folks. But in the final analysis, to live a life well, one need not spend unnecessarily on such extravagant luxuries. Benjamin Franklin believed that the money that one earns should be spent judiciously. Money should be spent in such a way that it should either do good or be beneficial to others or be beneficial to yourself. There should not be any wasteful expenditure.

Some people may argue why one should not be free to spend their own money in the way they like. I am sure Ben Franklin would not have objected to one spending his own money as per his desire. But before spending that money, one should ask, if this expenditure will result in something beneficial or not. When a millionaire goes for yet another race car, whom is he doing good? It is only for his ego satisfaction that he is buying another race car or luxury yacht. Doing something for your own ego is universally known as a selfish act. A student of success should not act in a selfish manner.

Frugality is a way of life. It can be practiced not only in matters of money, but also in matter of words. Wise people are known to be frugal with their words. They think more and speak less. By being frugal with their words, their words carry more weight. These days, there is a small tribe of people who follow a way of life called minimalism. They like to call themselves minimalists. Their philosophy is one should live one’s life with minimum need for material things. They live in a sparsely furnished house. They have bare minimum possessions. They may have just a pair of dresses, few books, few utensils, etc. Some sleep on the floor and live a very monastic life. Some of them take minimalism to a different sphere by thinking in a minimalist way. They try to think less. They meditate more and try to stop their thinking process when it is not needed. I think this is the height of being frugal. This may not be possible for many people.

There are 2 ways to become rich – either earn more, or spend less. Those who are frugal will be rich due to the second reason. Their life is a life of fewer needs. Since the needs are less, they have more time, better relationships and enjoy life more.  By practicing the virtue of frugality, one can get the strength and courage to drop out of the rat race and focus on those things that are truly fulfilling and uplifting. Being judicious in money matters and avoiding wasteful expenses will result in a wonderful life. 

Benjamin Franklin - Resolution


The fourth virtue that was practiced by Benjamin Franklin was Resolution. He described Resolution as - Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve. In other words, make and keep promises.

Making resolutions and keeping them is what separates the dreamers from the achievers. The dreamers see a beautiful future. They nurture their dreams and some of them make promises to themselves to realize those dreams. But, only a few of those dreamers, who are disciplined of mind and spirit can only make it to the next stage of keeping those promises. Most of them fall off track from pursuit of their dream. It takes courage, it takes determination and most of all, it takes perseverance to go after one’s dreams, despite obstacles in the way, despite failures, and despite challenging circumstances, to finally emerge victorious. It is then that the dreamers become achievers.

Habits are the passport to create or destroy one’s life. If a person has good habits, his life will be ordered, disciplined and successful. A person with bad habits will eventually succumb to the effects of those bad habits. Creating good habits and changing bad habits are essential for any student of success. Will power is the basis of creating good habits. It is the basis of breaking bad habits. It is the sole source of strength. And contrary to common perception, will power is something that can be developed in a person. The surprising thing about will power is that just like your muscle power. It can be strengthened by exercising it on a daily or regular basis. Just as one can increase the strength in ones arms by doing pushups daily, one can increase one’s will power by taking up certain small challenges and progressively big and bigger ones.

In order for a dreamer to become an achiever, one needs strong will power. Will power is that internal strength which propels the dreamer to move forward in a hostile environment. This can be developed by making and keeping resolutions. This is as applicable in today’s world as it was 300 years ago!

Benjamin Franklin - Order

The third virtue that Benjamin Franklin sought to work on was Order.  He advised - Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.

Keeping things in order is a sign of a great mind. It is not only sign of a great mind, but sign of a very disciplined person as well. How many times do we forget where we keep various things. Hence, it is good to not only have a place for everything, but also have everything in its place. Assume that you have a book shelf to keep all your books. But if most of your books are lying scattered here and there, all over your house, what is the purpose of the book shelf?

Following this simple virtue can save you hours which would have otherwise been wasted searching for things. It is not only with things, it is about time as well. If we have a proper routine for our day, we will be able to focus on all the things that are important to us, without missing out anything. We will be able to attend to the important things as well as the urgent things.

If you maintain order in material things around you, it will also rub off in other spheres of your life. You will be disciplined and ordered in your activities and in your thinking as well. When you keep things in order in your personal and professional life, your life will be in order.

Related Posts:List of 13 virtues of Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin - Silence

The second virtue that Benjamin Franklin practiced was Silence. He advised to speak that what may benefit others or yourself and to avoid trifling conversation. 

With regards to speaking Aristotle had proposed a very simple and effective test known as the Triple Filter Test. When one of his friends came and told him that he had some news to share, Aristotle stopped him and asked if he had used the triple filter test. He said, before one speaks, one should check if any of the following questions is true, with respect to what one has to say:

  1.           The Truth Test:              Is it true? 
  2.       The Goodness Test:        Is it something good?
  3.       The Usefulness Test:      Is it something useful?

If the answer to anyone question is yes, then one should tell it. Else, it would be better to remain silent.

Today, it is a world of self-promotion.  We find people too loud and verbally too aggressive. When one is too preoccupied in airing ones views, it does not give us the time to reflect, think and construct the correct world view. This is where silence helps. Silence is the garden where good thoughts grow. Silence provides us time for introspection, time to review our goals and time to think about course correction. The best form of silence is not just to stop talking – it is to stop thinking – it is silencing the mind.

There is a constant inner talk that goes on in our mind. This inner talk affects us in many ways. It drains us of our energy. It can create a negative outlook and persona. The way to stop this is to silence the mind – an extremely difficult, but very powerful tool that one can acquire. Silence calms a person. It paves the path for clear and focused thinking and thus taking correct decisions.

The virtue of silence has been described as a source of great strength by the Chinese Philosopher Lao Tzu. Francis Bacon, the English Philosopher compared silence to the sleep that nourishes wisdom. Unfortunately, in the affairs of the world today, silence is seen as a weakness. The most loud and vocal groups or persons are making the most hay. But from the development of your inner strength and virtue, silence is as effective today as it was 300 years ago.

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List of 13 Virtues of Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin - Temperance


The first of the 13 virtues that Benjamin Franklin worked on was Temperance. He defined Temperance as “Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation”.  Temperance means having restraint, having control or self-control. It is the opposite of excess. So, it is basically moderation.  One might wonder, why Franklin chose Temperance as the first of the virtues to be practiced. Franklin probably believed that to start on a virtuous path, temperance in food is one thing that could be easily followed and will build the requisite discipline and will power to master the other virtues as well.

Franklin meant temperance only in terms of food and drinks. It seems to me Franklin developed this virtue to maintain a good health. We all know how important health is. As long as someone is healthy, one does not realize how lucky one is. But as soon as one’s health fails, one realizes the adage Health is wealth.

Apart from very few diseases that can be congenital, all others are due to some foreign germs or carcinogens or particles which get into the body. The bulk of the diseases in human beings can be traced to what we eat and drink. So, if we are able to control our food intake, it will result in a strong and healthy body. That could be the reason that Franklin advised not to eat so much so as to become dull and lethargic. He advised not to drink so much as to lose one’s sobriety. Being a man of the world, he did not restrict someone completely. It was not very prescriptive saying one should remain in a sugar free diet and have only proteins, or abstain from alcohol completely. Food and drinks should be taken in moderation. With a healthy body and a healthy mind, one will live long and enjoy the gift of life fully.

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List of 13 virtues of Benjamin Franklin

How to Become a Voracious Reader


All good habits are difficult to form but they make your life easy. A reading habit is no exception. But there are certainly somethings that can be done to establish this habit. Here is a list of 10 tips that can help to make you a voracious reader
  1. Make a list of 12 books that you should read. You can compile this list by looking at best sellers in NY Times or books in your area of interest or the most popular books in Goodreads etc. Try to finish one book a month. 
  2. It is a good practice to make sure that you read at least 15 pages of a book every day. You have to read it every single day, whether you feel like it or not. 
  3. Join a reading challenge in a social media forum . The 2016 reading challenge is underway in Good reads. The 2017 Reading challenge will start in 2 months time.
  4. Join a book club in your area. If there   are no book clubs, form one with like minded people. This will help you with a support group that will be encouraging and appreciative of your efforts. Also, you will get to learn from the reading experience of other members of the club during the club meetings where you discuss on the books that people have read. 
  5. Join a book lovers group in Facebook or good reads. This provides the similar benefits of being part of a tribe, even if not physical. There can be virtual discussions, book reviews and immense learning.
  6. The amount of information you can acquire depends upon how fast you can read printed materials or articles online. Learn various techniques and methods for speed reading and skimming contents of books. You can devour more books in a shorter time span using these techniques. 
  7. Once you finish reading a book, ensure that you write a review or summary of the book and your key take away in the form of a blog or review on Goodreads or on other social media. This will give you a sense of accomplishment and help retain the knowledge. 
  8. Become a member of a lending library. If not a member, try to visit libraries in your area and browse through the different collections. You can also visit upmarket book stores where you can sample and savour many books. This will help you find out the genre of books that you like. 
  9. Once you create a habit of reading, read books outside your area of interest. This will help you understand different forms and structure of writings and broaden your knowledge base.
  10. Make your intention to read more books public and you will see your family and friends will help you achieve it.
All leaders are readers. Hence, you should cultivate the habit of reading. It takes time, it takes effort and it takes loads of patience to establish this habit. Once you start, you may not be able to continue on a daily basis. But do not give up. Start again. Slowly but surely you will find your rhythm and become a voracious reader!

Benjamin Franklin - 13 Virtues

In the annals of self improvement, the one person whose life has been most inspirational among all stalwarts is Benjamin Franklin. Ben Franklin, one of the founding fathers of United States, was a person who built his life, virtue upon virtue, just as a majestic cathedral is built brick by brick. Much before challenges like 100 days Sugar Free, 21 days 21 km running were in vogue, Benjamin Franklin pioneered a unique Challenge. It was a 52 week method of self development. Benjamin Franklin showed the world the method and technique for self development through his systematic process of virtue refinement and improvement.

Even at the young age of 20, Franklin realized that one needs to cultivate ones character by building virtues. He conceived a plan to improve upon 13 virtues in his life. The 13 virtues he worked upon were:

  • Temperance - Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.
  • Silence -      Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.
  • Order - Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.
  • Resolution - Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.
  • Frugality -       Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing.
  • Industry -       Lose no time; be always employ'd in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.
  • Sincerity - Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly.
  • Justice -        Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.
  • Moderation - Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.
  • Cleanliness - Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, clothes, or habitation.
  • Tranquility - Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.
  • 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.
  • Humility -         Imitate Jesus and Socrates

Franklin developed a virtue chart. He had the virtues listed in that against the days of the week. Each night, after his days work was over, he used to spend some time in solitude, introspecting upon the entire days affair. He recollected his experiences and observations against each of the virtues, and noted them in his chart. Typically, for each week, he focused on improving one virtue, while he left the rest 12 virtues to chance. The next week, he picked up another virtue. Thus, in 1 year, he would cover all the 13 virtues for 4 times.

Virtue Chart

Franklin in his own admission, fell short of living his life perfectly to the standards of the virtues on every day. It was as difficult in those days as it would be today to live such a morally perfect life. But, yet, he admitted that this attempt to work on virtues made him a better human being and greatly contributed to his success and happiness. In his autobiography, Franklin wrote, "I hope, therefore, that some of my descendants may follow the example and reap the benefit”.

For any serious student of success, Benjamin Franklin's autobiography is like a Bible. It is recommended to read and implement those methods for your own benefit.

Lessons on Collaboration - Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin

There have been many great personalities in the course of modern history. We have had unparalleled scientific minds like that of Albert Einstein, great literary figures like Ernest Hemingway, artists who have made incomparable contributions like Pablo Picasso and folks who have made contributions to several aspects of knowledge and literature like Leonardo da Vinci and Rabindranath Tagore. But among all the great historical personalities that I have read about, I am really fascinated by one person who was what they call as a polymath. This person had expertise in several fields and made his mark in all of them. He was a well known editor, scientist, industrialist, institution builder, sea farer, politician and statesman. He is none other than Benjamin Franklin, who lived in the United States of America in the 18th century. He achieved all these things in a single lifetime, at an age when information was scarce and resources non-existent. Such ambitions are unimaginable to any of us even today, with all the resources that we have in our disposal. He is truly among the Founding Fathers of the United States. Franklin viewed virtue as a path to personal happiness and social utility.

Here are some of the key achievements from the life of Benjamin Franklin. I have picked up a few of them to illustrate one point which I feel has been key to his success. And it is collaboration. Franklin was a master at networking and collaboration. He was able to work with many people simultaneously and produce work of great value. This was one of his key capability.

1.  Network of Printers:  Franklin established the ‘The Pennsylvania Gazette’, as a successful newspaper in Philadelphia. He tried to establish an inter colonial network of printers which grew to be one of the prominent and influential informal network. One of his aims of setting this network was to promote virtues among people. As recorded by Ralph Frasca, “Franklin intended for his network of printers to teach virtue and encourage its adoption. The network would disseminate his moral truths to a mass audience, and this would in turn further his own political, economic, and moral ambitions

2.  Freemason: Franklin joined the Freemason club in 1731 and became a Grand Master in 1734. He also produced several Masonic books and remained in the organization for the rest of his life.

3. Gulf Stream Discovery: Franklin worked with Timothy Folger and other experienced ship captains to chart the Atlantic ocean current and named it Gulf Stream. It is known by the same name even today.

4.  Socializing with Chess: Franklin was an avid chess player. He used chess as a means to network and meet new people during his time as a civil servant and diplomat in England. Old Slaughter's Coffee House in London was the place he visited to play chess and socialize, and he made many important personal contacts during that time. When he was in Paris, later as an ambassador, he used to go to Café de la Régence, where the best French chess players met.

5. Volunteer Fire FightingIn 1736, Franklin established the Union Fire Company, a volunteer firefighting company, comprising of volunteers, who will be pressed into service as and when needed. These were on-call fire fighters who would be pursuing other vocations in their regular life but could assemble to fight a fire when the need arose.

6. Ameriacan Philosophical SocietyFranklin established the American  Philosophical Society in 1743. The main objective of this society was to help  scientific men discuss their discoveries and theories.

7.  Model CollegeFranklin worked with  Dr. Samuel Johnson  and Dr. William Smith to establish the new-model college would focused on the professions, with classes taught in English instead of Latin. This college later became one of the constituent college of the University of Pennsylvania.

8.  Raising an army : In 1756, Franklin organized the Pennsylvania Militia. He recruited a regiment of soldiers to go into battle against the Native Americans.

9. Royal Society of Arts:   In 1756, Franklin had become a member of the Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures & Commerce. This society is now the Royal Society of Arts or RSA. In 1775, Franklin became the Society's Corresponding Member, continuing a close connection.

10. Military Alliances and treaties: 1776–1785: As the Ambassador to France, Franklin conducted the affairs of his country toward the French nation with great success, which included securing a critical military alliance in 1778 and negotiating the Treaty of Paris (1783).

As you can notice from all the above examples, Benjamin Franklin knew how to work with people, in groups, big and small. In most of his endeavors, he formed superlative teams which propelled him to success. He was part of various literary and scientific societies and alliances and drove them towards a common objective.  No doubt, Benjamin Franklin was a great person and he had immense personal virtues. He professed and cultivated the 13 virtues to improve his character. But the virtue of collaboration was something he practiced and practiced well to perfection! This is something which as a student of habit we all have to learn.

Missing Practice

Today, I missed my morning run. I could not wake up at 5:00am. I woke up at 6:00am. Things started getting delayed from that point onwards. Since I did not wake up on time, I could not go out for my run. One thing got delayed after the other. I had to miss few things and adjust or cut short many others. My morning routine was completely off schedule.

Now, I am not so much bothered by my morning routine going haywire. The best thing about a morning routine is that there is always the next day! But what I am interested is in understanding how missing practice affects the process of habit creation. Researchers say, it takes at least 21 days of consistent practice to set a new habit. But missing the practice for 2-3 days can be detrimental to the effort of establishing a new habit.

Consistent practice is needed to form new habits. Some say, the practice should be done for 21 days, some day 30 days and some other says 66 days. But missing the practice consecutively for 2 to 3 days, brings one back to the old routine. This happens mostly in the initial phase of habit creation when you are still trying to internalize the habits.

In the initial phases, there is a tussle between your old ways of doing things and the new habit that you are trying to establish. You have to spend high amount of will power to set up a new habit. When you keep doing something new, you are basically setting up new neural pathways, and ignoring the old neural pathways in your brain. Daily practice strengthens the new neural pathways. It is needed on a daily basis, until the habits become self sustaining, i.e you do not have to expend will power to do it. But, when you skip the practice, the daily reinforcement of the new neural pathway does not happen. Missing practice consecutively makes the old neural pathways takeover and then you tend to revert to old routine. To come out, you have to expend more will power than it would have been if you had not skipped practice.

I so wish I would have woken up at 5:00 am today.

Being a writer

I just joined this support group for writers  - The Insecure Writers Support Group, also known as ISWG. IWSG was created by Alex J. Cavanaugh and his monthly support team, Joylene Novell Butler, Jen Chandler, Mary Aalgaard,Lisa Buie Collard, Tamara Narayan, Tyrean Martinson, and Christine Rains!  Special thanks to all.

The first Wednesday of each month is officially the "Insecure Writer's Support Group Day". A writing prompt is given on that day, and you are supposed to post on the same. So, the prompt for today, being the first Wednesday of November is:

November 2 Question: What is your favorite aspect of being a writer?

A writers derives many things from writing. For me writing, like a magic potion, has always been very therapeutic. Here is an attempt to crystallize my thoughts on writing in the form of a poem:

Writing is the culmination of the tsunami of my thoughts. 
Writing is the proof of the exuberance of my emotions.
Writing is the visible iceberg of my imagination.
Writing is my heart, soul and inseparable companion.

I do not create stories, poems, plays or prose.
I create and destroy several parallel universe.
I give birth to some and kill some character
I play God, in my head, and on paper.

I derive strength, I derive solace,
I derive happiness and I derive joy.
Writing is a way of expressing a promise.
Writing is the freedom from this matrix.

So, if you want to join this group, please sign up here #IWSG

Zero, zilch, nix, nothing!

This is a story that illustrates the difference between the western view of life and the eastern. 

Alexander the great, who was on his dream of conquering the world, reached the banks of river Sindhu. On the opposite side of the river bank, sat a Jina – a Digambar jain- a gymnosophist. He was a enlightened soul, but as a Digambar, he was completely naked. Alexander looked at him and asked, “what are you doing?”. The Jina said, “I am doing nothing”. Alexander heard him and laughed. The Jina asked Alexander, “what are you doing?”. Alexander answered, “I am conquering the world”. The Jina heard his reply and laughed out loud.

Both men were correct. Both men understood the world from their perspective. Both men were evaluating the situation against their own paradigm.

Alexander was brought up in Greece, under the western philosophy of heroism. He believed that man gets only one chance at life. The value of one’s life is all the achievement that one can garner in one lifetime. So, wasting time doing nothing was absolutely ridiculous. Thus he laughed at the Jina, who was doing nothing.

But the Jina was brought up in the eastern philosophy. He believed that this life is just one of the infinite birth that the soul goes through. While the external actions in the life are important, in the perspective of the infinite births that the soul goes through, one birth is insignificant. 1 divided by infinity is Zero, zilch, nix, nothing. He believed that trying to conquer the world was futile, zero, zilch, nix, nothing. He believed that conquering the self was paramount. Conquering the world, zero. Conquering the self - Infinite!

While Alexander and Jina can keep laughing at each other, what is it that you learn from this exchange? 

PS: I heard this story first from Devdutt Pattanaik and have added a bit of my own interpretation as well.

PS. Written for Indispire Edition 141 #zero