Art of Virtue - Benjamin Franklin’s Guide to the Good Life
We all want “the good life,” but what does it take to have “the good life?” For most of us, it can mean a variety of things - family, friendships, romance, a successful career, a peaceful retirement, or simply visiting your favorite place to relax and unwind. All of us are searching for the good life, and we spend most of our lives trying to find peace, contentment, growth, and purpose through our strivings and activities.
One of history’s most famous men, Benjamin Franklin, was also pursuing “the good life.” Franklin is an American legend. He single-handedly invented the idea of the “self-made man.” Despite being born into a poor family and only receiving two years of formal schooling, Franklin became a successful printer, scientist, musician, and author. Oh, and in his spare time he helped found a country, and then served as its diplomat.
The key to Franklin’s success was his drive to constantly improve himself and accomplish his ambitions. In 1726, at the age of 20, Ben Franklin set his loftiest goal: the attainment of moral perfection. In order to accomplish his goal, Franklin developed and committed himself to a personal improvement program that consisted of living 13 virtues. Franklin would focus on one virtue each week by placing that virtue at the top that week’s chart and including a “short precept” to explain its meaning. Thus, after 13 weeks he had moved through all 13 virtues and would then start the process over again. The 13 virtues were:
TEMPERANCE (live soberly): “Eat not to dullness; drink not to excess.”
SILENCE (listen well): “Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.”
ORDER (get organized): “Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.”
RESOLUTION (be committed): “Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.”
FRUGALITY (budget well): “Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing.”
INDUSTRY (stay productive): “Lose no time; be always employed in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.”
SINCERITY (live authentically): “Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly.”
JUSTICE (be fair): “Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.”
MODERATION (find balance): Avoid extremes
CLEANLINESS (be tidy): “Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, clothes, or habitation.”
TRANQUILLITY (stay calm): “Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.”
CHASTITY (love well): “Use sexuality for health or offspring, never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation.”
HUMILITY (stay humble): “Imitate Jesus and Socrates.”
While Franklin never accomplished his goal of moral perfection, and had some notable flaws, he felt he benefited from the attempt at it. The idea of living a virtuous life is consistent with a Christian world-view of a thriving individual. Even research in positive psychology has noted that seeking out virtue can benefit an individual’s well-being, work performance, relationships, and family interactions. Indeed, it appears that the virtuous life may be the key to living “the good life.”
Virtues are also one of the four foundational cornerstones to AG Thrive’s “Authentic Growth Blueprint,” and as such, they play an important role in creating your most authentic and purposeful relationships, whether with yourself, your family, or your business. Our focus at AG Thrive is to help anyone who is ready to grow, start on that journey towards fully thriving.
Future newsletters will focus on one of the thirteen virtues listed above. Each virtue will be highlighted and described – offering practical tips to help you live the good life. We hope you will find positive benefits not only for you and your family, but those closest to you, your business and your community! Will you join us?
Note From Dr. Andy
In my work with clients - I have experienced that when leaders are very intentional in how they develop virtue within their families and businesses - that the results are profoundly meaningful and transformational.
So, we want to challenge anyone who is reading this to be intentional in practicing a virtuous life. Go on this journey with us to explore the 13 virtues in the Art of Virtue, and try developing and implementing these virtues into your daily activities. If you do, please reach out - we would love to hear about your experience.
We are confident that this is a journey worth traveling - and believe the impact will be significant!