While America’s Founding Father Benjamin Franklin was alive over two centuries ago, he remains one of the world’s most renowned polymaths, with heaps of insight that remains extremely relevant to today’s leaders and entrepreneurs.
The author, political theorist, politician, freemason, and master of many other trades and schools of thought, is a model for the rags-to-riches story of the self-made individual. Born into a family of seventeen children as the son of a poor candle and soap maker, he went through just two years of formal education before living his young adulthood entirely on his own in Philadelphia.
Franklin stayed committed to the idea of self-improvement throughout his entire life, taking a holistic approach through a focus on mind, body and spirit. Benjamin read everything he could get his hands on, while forming his own methods to teach himself new skills and improve on existing ones. “Most people die at twenty-five and aren’t buried until they are seventy-five,” he said. “Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.”
Not only did Benjamin focus on his mind, but he was keenly aware of the importance of physical fitness. Having taught himself how to swim, he is the only founding father in the Swimming Hall of Fame. Instead of drinking beer, he often decided to drink water and encouraged his colleagues to do the same. He even transitioned to a vegetarian diet for part of his life so to save money for books and time on cooking, as well as for health purposes.
Keeping a close eye on time management has been a recurring tip given by successful leaders throughout the centuries, and Franklin was no stranger to this strict discipline. “Do not squander your time for that is the stuff life is made of.”
At age 20, Franklin committed to embarking on a course of “moral perfection.” He promised to be honest and sincere “in every word and action” and “speak ill of no man whatever, not even in a manner of truth.”
In all of his endeavors, Benjamin was not afraid of making mistakes, and was aware that every success came from countless “failures.”
“Energy and persistence conquer all things,” he said. “Diligence is the mother of good luck.”