Friday, May 30, 2014

Ben Franklin's Virtues 1-7

I think that people are always trying to improve themselves, or at least they started out trying to improve, and because of whatever social or personal reasons they stopped. I have always striven to improve myself, I have often fallen flat on my hypocritical face while doing so, but luckily I never let myself or the world stop me in my pursuit of a better me. In my journey towards betterment I have learned something that is spoken in all religions, is known by most of us, but continues to elude many. Here it is, here is the big secret. WE KEEP SCREWING OURSELVES. We are our worst enemy, whether it is work, love, friendship, parenthood, etc, humans continue to shoot themselves in the foot. Rather than ranting about this highly hilarious and frustrating fact, I would like to offer up some wisdom that has helped me to quit drinking cold turkey for 18 months, and realize my dream of becoming a successful self-published author.

I give you Benjamin Franklins 13 virtues.

According to his autobiography (which is really a series of letters to his son) he devised a way to go about living that would help him achieve a happy and successful life. His system he called the thirteen virtues, and surprisingly he formulated this plan when he was in his early 20's (When most young men can think of nothing but ass and alcohol...and ass).

So here are the thirteen virtues with my two cents attached.  If you are in the habit of attempting self improvement I highly encourage reading on, I mean come on, the dude is on the hundred dollar bill. He invented the lightning rod and a million other things, he was given degrees from colleges he never attended, and was instrumental in creating the country you live in. I'd say his two cents is worth a listen.

1. Temperance: Eat not to dullness, drink not to elevation. - translation - Don't eat until you feel like you should be rolled down the road, and don't drink until you're drunk.
 This one (like all the others) is hard, but given the obesity problem in this country, and the drinking problem humans have always had, I think this one alone could change lives. You will notice that moderation is a main theme of many of these virtues.

2. Silence: Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation. - translation - Don't talk shit about other people, and don't complain all the time.
 If only more people would try this one.

3. Order: Let all things have their places; let each part of your business have its time. - translation - Pick up your crap!! And make time everyday to get your personal business done.
 Anybody with kids knows how much easier it would be if everyone just picked up their own messes. My wife will probably scoff at this one and give me the stink-eye (Hi Honey, love you).  The second part seems obvious as well, you should take time to take care of your personal business, however, so many of us seem unable to tackle this one. In the spirit of #3 I won't get into my thoughts on it.

4. Resolution: Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve. - translation - Make up your mind to do the things you think you should, and then do those things until they are done.
 This is a big one for me personally. One line by the Tragically Hip comes to me here, "No one's interested in what you didn't do." When I decided that I was going to become a successful self published author if it was the last thing I did, I took this virtue to heart. I made up my mind to succeed, and I have worked tirelessly the last year and a half to do so. That is not to say that I was successful simply because of my drive, luck had a lot to do with it as well, but as Ben used to say. "Diligence is the mother of good luck."

5. Frugality: Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; ie, waste nothing. - translation - Don't buy so much useless crap!
 How many people do you know who have worked hard, been successful, and ended up in the poor house? Why? Well they either had a crack habit, a gambling problem, or they bought too much useless crap. How many sports stars or movie stars or musicians have squandered fortunes? Guess what, we all have. Think about it. Even someone making minimum wage their entire life is going to make nearly a half million dollars. Where does the money go? You guessed it, useless crap. Basically take every holiday there is, roll it up in plastic, and put one thousand company logos on it and there you have it. Rather than property and homes and legacies passed down to children, you've got a big plastic shiny piece of crap that stands proudly as a testament to your coolness.

6. Industry: Lose no time; be always employed in something useful, cut off all unnecessary actions. - translation - Quit wasting your time with dumb shit.
 We all have a finite amount of time to fly around on this ZooPrisonCircus, and if your goal is to go about your day entertaining your inner couch potato with eye candy and pop tarts, by all means go for it, however, if you are trying to make each year find a better you, then do yourself a favor and stop doing dumb shit. For me this meant no video games, no more than 6 hours a week of TV (most days none), it meant fixing myself before I try to fix the world. And it meant taking a time-out from everyone else's endless problems. The amount of work we make for each other is astounding. I think my friend Paul Fiacco said it best, "The world needs to take a f**king time out from each other, seriously, enough already. Get in your corner and leave each other alone."

7. Sincerity: Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly. - translation - Don't lie, shed preconceived notions, and speak likewise.
 In my opinion lies are a tyrant's most powerful weapon. I have seen it here in this country, and if you look at history you will see it splattered all over the records of time. It has been used since times forgotten to keep humanity from realizing its potential, it is being used now.

That is all for now. I implore you all to take a shot at one or all of these. I will add 8-13 soon. Don't be overwhelmed, even Ben only attempted one per week at first, and in the end he admitted to never having mastered his 13 virtues. But he said that his life had been richer for the trying. Good luck Friends.

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