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.
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.