Sunday, March 13, 2016

A great man I just met - Benjamin Franklin!

I never read about Benjamin Franklin in school or heard about him from my friends & colleagues. My first contact with Franklin was when I saw USD 100 currency note during my first overseas travel. Here was a man with long bright face, small lips as if he is chewing them and curly long hair drooping over his shoulders. One could guess he must be an extraordinary man!
After this short & impressive introduction, I met him next when I read about Charlie Munger. Charlie Munger is a man with impressive abilities. Charlie was greatly influenced by Benjamin Franklin & appreciated the way he conducted his life. It became noteworthy to learn more about Franklin to internalize Charlie’s learnings.

Franklin was an American ingenious, a scientist, a self-taught writer & journalist, successful bureaucrat & businessman, a philosopher, a humorist and an honest man. Melville says “Franklin was everything but a poet”. His abilities were beyond imagination – probably much more than what he gave impression of. One may certainly doubt if the man himself knew of all his abilities.He was master of everything!  
His autobiography is a collection of letters written over a period from 1771 to year 1789 addressed to his son and youth in general which gave indelible impressions of this great man. While reading the book, one could fathom his ability to understand shortcomings in himself and society at large. Franklin, in his pursuit, to become a better person moved away from his family and taught himself all what was needed to be a valued man.
“Almost every man has a strong desire of being valu’d & esteem’d by the rest of his species, but I’m concern’d and greiv’d” said Franklin “to see how few fall into the right & only infallible method of becoming so”.
Franklin devised his own set of virtues and the ‘infallible method’ to become a better person. Some of his virtues (13 in all) which are more relevant today than ever are:
1. Temperance: Eat not to dullness, drink not to elevation
2. Order: Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have time.
3. Frugality: Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself i.e. waste nothing.
4. Industry: Lose no time & be always employ’d in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.
5. Moderation: Avoid extremes; forebear resenting injuries much as you think they deserve.
6. Humility: Imitate Jesus & Socrates
Franklin created a chart to focus on all virtues and marked if he wouldn’t follow them. He would repeat it multiple times and ensure all the virtues have been strengthened and there was no weakness - such was his discipline and focus.
One of the virtues lost in today’s times is ‘Order’ – every part of the business should have allotted time! Franklin’s normal day looked like below. I could wish for such a balanced and effective day which would add just so much of value to system.
The Morning (5AM-7AM): Rinse, wash and pray. Plan day’s business, take resolution and eat.
Work (8AM-11AM)
Noon (12PM-01PM): Read, overlook the accounts and eat.
Work (2PM-5PM)
Evening (6PM-9PM): Put things in places, supper, music, conversations, examination of the day.
Franklin’s ability to question status-quo led to dramatic changes in society. People didn’t clean the streets fearing dust might enter in their houses while doing so, Franklin thought otherwise and influenced people to pay taxes for regular cleaning.
Franklin realized importance of pavements when he found people’s feet and carriage getting stuck in mud. Franklin set up the first Fire Company and one of the first libraries.  
Franklin was surprised how British could use a street lamp which doesn’t combust the air properly leading to poor illumination. He redesigned the lamp for proper flow of air and better combustion.
I wish I could have met him before; I would certainly have been a better person.  

1 comment:

  1. Good read. Thanks for sharing. Regards Jaison