A Few Lessons from Benjamin Franklin

There are a lot of reasons to want to be like Benjamin Franklin.  He is one of the most well-known Founding Fathers.  He was a statesman, an inventor, an entrepreneur, an ambassador, an economist, and a powerful revolutionary.

Although he became wealthy and famous, Franklin was always proud of his working class roots.  He was born in 1706 in  Boston, where he apprenticed under his older brother who was a printer and who founded “The New England Courant,” which was the first independent newspaper in the colonies.  At the age of 17, he moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  He loved to learn and read, but in those days, books were expensive and hard to come by.  He came up with the idea of the first subscription library, which would pool the funds of members to buy books for all to have access to.  The library was located on the second floor of a building that would later become known as “Independence Hall,” where the Founders later designed the American Revolution, and where the Declaration of Independence was signed.  He helped found “The Academy and College of Philadelphia,” where he served as president.  “The Academy” later became the University of Pennsylvania, one of the most well-respected Ivy League universities in the country.

Franklin also found success as an author and, of course, an inventor.  Among his inventions were the lightning rod, bifocal glasses, catheters, and the Franklin Stove, along with multiple innovations and improvements to the printing press.  As he matured, Franklin became more involved in current affairs and politics, especially as the American Revolution drew near.

In 1775, the American Revolution had begun with the fighting at Lexington and Concord.  The Pennsylvania Assembly unanimously chose Benjamin Franklin as their representative to the Second Continental Congress.  In June 1776, he was appointed a member of the “Committee of Five” that drafted the Declaration of Independence (along with Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Rodger Sherman and Robert Livingston).  Benjamin Franklin is the only Founding Father who signed all four of the major documents of the founding of the United States:  The Declaration of Independence, the Treaty of Alliance with France, The Treaty of Paris, and The United States Constitution.

Sorry this might seem a little long of an introduction, but Ben Franklin is a personal hero of mine.  Although there are so many things we could learn from Franklin, I narrowed it down to 3 quotes that I think most apply to the Millennial Generation:

1. “A life of leisure and a life of laziness are two things.  There will be sleeping enough in the grave.”

There is nothing wrong with relaxing and taking a load off.  Ben Franklin is talking about keeping your eye on the prize – the big picture.  It is best to be constantly engaged in something that you are passionate about, whether it be your education, work, or some other important cause (for Franklin, it became the Revolution and Independence).  I’m pretty sure none of us will be involved in something quite as monumental as our nation’s founding, but the crux of Franklin’s words is to be anxiously engaged in your own life.

2. “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”

It is well researched and documented that on average a college graduate will make more money per year (by quite a large amount) than someone who has not gone to college.  There is even a larger contrast between those who have a masters degree or professional degree and those who have not gone to college.  The chart below is from 2000.  The average annual salary gap has widened since then.

College tuition is skyrocketing, and some are questioning the true value of a college degree.  As long as you mitigate the cost as much as possible, a degree is still very much worth the investment.

3. “Diligence is the mother of good luck.”

I’m sure that most of us have felt at one point or another that nothing comes easy.  But hopefully we have also felt the satisfaction when things seem to just work out.  I’m not a big believer in just plain “good luck.”  Benjamin Franklin believed that good luck is created by diligence.  Diligence is defined as “constant and earnest effort to accomplish what is undertaken; persistent exertion of body or mind.”  When you and I are diligent in our efforts, luck tends to follow.

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3 thoughts on “A Few Lessons from Benjamin Franklin

  1. The scary thing is that these are average salaries, and some students don’t realize that they may have to work somewhere for a couple of years to earn something comparable. I love Franklin’s story about his experience with his wife: “We have and English proverb that says, ‘He that would thrive, must ask his wife‘ It was lucky for me that I had one as much dispos’d to industry and frugality as myself. She assisted me chearfully in my business, folding and stitching pamphlets, tending shop, purchasing old linen rags for the paper-makers, etc., etc. We kept no idle servants, our table was plain and simple, our furniture of the cheapest.” -Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin. Sometimes we see average salaries and think that that is what will be guaranteed to us if we pursue that career. Thanks for sharing this.

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