The Thirteen Virtues of Benjamin Franklin

The 13 Values of Benjamin Franklin

By reading books and journals of thought leaders around the world, I’ve come to understand that the key to establishing success is creating the right habits. That’s powerful right? However it’s easier said than done. What are the right habits and how do we create them? Turns out our country’s founding father was on to something way back in 1726.

Reading Steven Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is a great start. By reading that book you can learn the seven habits to achieve personal and public success. Here’s a tip to get started.

Habit number one is Be Proactive.

In order to be proactive, Covey suggests that you live a Principal based life. This way you choose your actions based on your principals and values and not act reactively. Living with great character and the right habits will lead to freedom and fulfillment. There are temporary shortcuts but for real lasting results, you’ve got to do the homework and implement.

The concept of principal based living is very powerful but it’s not brand new, it’s been around for some time.

In 1726, at the age of 20, Benjamin Franklin created a system to develop his character through his life.

In his autobiography, Franklin listed his thirteen virtues as:

  1. Temperance. Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.
  2. Silence. Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.
  3. Order. Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.
  4. Resolution. Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.
  5. Frugality. Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing.
  6. Industry. Lose no time; be always employ’d in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.
  7. Sincerity. Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly.
  8. Justice. Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.
  9. Moderation. Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.
  10. Cleanliness. Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, clothes, or habitation.
  11. Tranquillity. Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.
  12. 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.
  13. Humility. Imitate Jesus and Socrates.

Each week Ben would focus on getting better at one virtue at a time. At the end of the week he’d rate himself on how he did and reflect on how he could improve. He went through each of the thirteen virtues over a period of thirteen weeks. When the list was completed, he’d repeat the process and go back through the list. He’d go through this process four times a year and did this for over fifty years!

Benjamin Franklin, one of America’s founding fathers used this system for most of his life to shape his character.

Do you think by reflecting on his virtues and developing his character with purpose and focus made a difference in his life?

Of course it did!

Be proactive and take control of your destiny.

Action Step:

  • Right down your values and define what they mean to you.
  • Set up your system for implementing them into your daily life. You can copy Ben’s strategy.
  • Be proactive and let your values drive your actions.


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