Few Americans had a greater impact on the history of this nation than Benjamin Franklin. Franklin was the embodiment of hard work, self-discipline, and an innovative spirit. At the age of twenty, Franklin established Thirteen Virtues to live by in order to help develop his character. These Thirteen Virtues are as applicable today as they were during his time, and each can easily be applied to the development of our professional characters as well.
1. Lose no time; be always employ’d in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions. – This seems straight-forward enough: Don’t waste time and be productive. When it comes to accomplishing as much as Franklin did, efficiency was certainly a top priority.
2. Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time. – More than anything, often times business seems to be a matter of how many things you can give your attention to. You may have 100 balls to keep in the air and each one needs your attention to do this. If you can’t personally do it, delegate.
3. Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty. – Franklin was a master of finding Win-Win situations. Instead of attempting to harm and defeat his enemies, it was always Franklin’s first goal to make allies of them. By doing so, he gained many more friends than he ever had enemies. This served him well in both business, and politics.
4. Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation. – Often times, unhealthy relationships can take a huge amount of our mental space. This is energy and attention that could be directed toward our goals. If we find ourselves in relationships that are taking up too much needless time and attention, we must be willing to re-evaluate our approach to them and whether or not they should be maintained at all.
5. Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing. – Again, this could not be more applicable to business: Waste no money. Be frugal. According to Franklin, whenever we spend a dollar we must make sure it is being put toward a useful goal. And perhaps the best use we can make of our money is putting it toward sound investments.
6. Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable. – A big lesson in business is not allowing yourself to be concerned by the things that don’t matter. Likewise, we should not be concerned about the little or unavoidable mistakes that will inevitably occur. Things happen. And when they do, we need to fix them, and move on.
7. Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, cloaths, or habitation. – Dress for success. Look the part. If you want to be successful, it doesn’t hurt to dress this way. As shallow as it may seem, people will treat you differently based on your outward appearance. So, if you want to be successful, you should attempt to walk, talk, act, and yes even dress the part of success.
8. Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation. – Many business opportunities have been stymied because someone drank too much. Likewise, if we want to stay productive, living a healthy lifestyle can be to our huge advantage. In fact, the one thing many billionaires all state they have in common is that they exercise. By eating healthy and watching how much we drink we can give ourselves an advantage in both our productivity, as well as our mental, and physical well-beings.
9. Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly. – In business, one of the most powerful assets a person can have is a good reputation. Such reputations are built by treating people well, treating them fairly, and treating them honestly. If we can make it a habit to never slander another, and to be impeccable with our words, it will go a long way toward raising our profiles as noteworthy businesspeople.
10. Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve. – Perhaps the two greatest traits a businessperson can have are reliability and responsibility. By simply doing what we say we are going to do, every time, we immediately place ourself ahead of almost everyone else out there. We must make it a practice business, as in life, to simply always do what we say we are going to do. End of story.
11. Avoid extreams; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve. – Often times, taking an extreme stance can leave us on an island. And often times once such an extreme stance has been taken it can be very difficult to come back from it. When we view our decisions as binary, often times we miss the middle-ground where many more options lay.
12. Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation. – Don’t speak merely for the sake of speaking. Instead, try to make it a practice of only speaking when you have something valuable to say. Often, if we want to get someone to like us it is far better to let them talk about themselves, than it is to list our own accomplishments. This is as true as in business as it is in dating, friendship, and in life in general. If you only speak when you have something good to say, when you do speak people will be much more inclined to listen to what you have to say and take you seriously.
13. Imitate Jesus and Socrates. – Finally, to this list we could add: Imitate, Benjamin Franklin.