Benjamin Franklin’s 13 Virtues

Founding Father Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) was an autodidact, who taught himself an extraordinary range of knowledge and skills. He kept a journal from a very young age and by his early twenties had developed a list of 13 values, which he actually graded himself against every day in a notebook. He found that these values were very helpful to him in living his life as a statesman and diplomat and pursuing his career an inventor. While some of these particular values may seem old-fashioned or out of sync with modern life, I find it helpful and interesting to study him as an example of someone who thought deeply and seriously about the principles on which he based his life.

  1. Temperance: Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.
  2. Order: Let all your things have its places; let each part of your business have its time.
  3. Resolution: Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.
  4. Frugality: Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself (i.e. waste not).
  5. Moderation: Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.
  6. Industry: Lose no time; be always employed in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.
  7. Cleanliness: Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, clothes, or habitation.
  8. Tranquility: Be not distributed by trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.
  9. Silence: Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.
  10. Sincerity: Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly. And, if you speak, speak accordingly.
  11. Justice: Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.
  12. Chastity: Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dullness or weakness, or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation.
  13. Humility: Imitate Jesus and Socrates. (This one was added later in his life.)
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