One of only two people commemorated on a US dollar bill that was never president (the other one is fellow founding father Alexander Hamilton), Benjamin Franklin came from relatively inauspicious beginnings. The son of an English candle maker and a puritan mother, Franklin was born in Boston, and it was his parents’ initial wish that he pursue a life as a clergyman, but because of career uncertainty and limited funds, he never finished his formal education, and instead, he joined his elder brother’s printing business.
Despite not having graduated from any university and coming from a working-class family, Franklin has become an accomplished scientist in the field of physics, the inventor of the lightning rod and the bifocal lens, and a hugely-popular political essayist and advocate of the American cause. He was the very embodiment of the American Dream.
In his posthumously-published autobiography, Franklin prescribes several virtues to live life by, which have helped him transcend his meager start and become one of the most famous men in America and in the world:
It is good that food delights the palate and drink heightens the spirit, but the reason we eat and drink should always be to sate hunger and quench thirst. Forgetting this leads to overindulgence.
Be economic in your use of words. Flowery, overly-verbose language serves nothing but your own ego. Be precise, state nothing that you do not know for a fact and avoid gossip.
Our living space is a reflection of our true selves. Keep your house tidy and well-organized, so that you know where everything is. Parcel out your schedule in advance so that no chore falls between the cracks.
Make a commitment to every chore and goal you take upon yourself and stand by your commitment.
When shopping, many of us are tempted to buy what we'd like to have. What we should instead do is only buy what we are going to use. If there is any doubt in your heart about its usefulness to you, there is no reason for you to acquire it. Do not let produce rot in your fridge or appliances gather cobwebs in your basement.
Needless to say, old Ben Franklin would probably not be a big fan of smartphones and social media. These words should not be taken to mean that everybody should be a workaholic; learning, making art, resting and spending quality time with family are all gainful exercises and good uses of time.
Practice and cultivate empathy towards your fellow people. Speak plainly, truthfully but also with tact. Honesty is not carte blanche to be offensive in your speech.
As in medicine, first, do no harm. That sounds easy enough, but you should remember that purposely withholding aid from those who require it amounts to harm, as well.
Always consider the opinions of others and measure where you stand in relation to your surroundings. Never lionize your own opinions and rivalries. Do not let your grudges dictate your life.
Just as you keep your house organized, so must you keep it clean. Your home is an extension of yourself, and a filthy house belongs to a filthy person.
Take everything in stride and govern your anger and dismay. Do not panic or break down at inevitable or trivial matters.
Shun pride and self-importance. Never make of yourself more than you are, and do not seek to elevate yourself at the expense of others. Recognize that, no matter how knowledgeable or skilled you are, there will always be good teachers to learn from- and seek them out.