Before You Cast Off…
Take a Look at Benjamin Franklin’s Thirteen Virtues

Some advice from two-hundred years ago…

Before you cast off, take some advice from Benjamin Franklin who, in his autobiography, attributes his success and happiness to one practice. Franklin writes about his early years, and says that in his youth, he determined that if he could “acquire the essential principles of successful living,” then those principles should lead him to a successful life. But what method could he use to acquire them? A man cannot change his skin over night. He decided to choose thirteen ideals that he would attempt to master in his life, and he decided to give one week’s strict attention to each ideal, “leaving all others to their ordinary chance.”

In this way, he would cycle through all thirteen ideals over the course of thirteen weeks, and then repeat the process four times a year. Each time that an ideal would circle around, he would develop a new and deeper understanding of that ideal, and find new ways to integrate it into his life. Franklin’s ideals were temperance, silence, order, resolution, frugality, industry, sincerity, justice, moderation, cleanliness, tranquility, chastity, and humility—which he defined as imitating both Jesus and Socrates.

For the past five years, I have cycled through my own rules. The fourteen rules that I have outlined on this web site: cause and effect, definition, reflection, focus, strategy, vacuum, process, responsibility, contribution, attraction, entropy, understanding, persuasion and indirect effort. The impact that these rules have had on my life has been well worth the effort.

No one can change everything in an instant. So, take one lesson at a time, give it one week’s “strict attention,” and leave all of the others to “their ordinary chance.”

A River Worth Riding: Fourteen Rules for Navigating Life
Copyright: Lynn Marie Sager 2005

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