Ben on Business | Seeking Perfection

It’s one thing to conceive of an idea, another to put that idea into action.

Ben Franklin (1706-1790) was an entrepreneur, inventor and statesman – a man with big ideas and big accomplishments.

Along the way, he determined the pursuit of perfection was one key to success in life and business.

How did he translate such a “bold and arduous” idea into action? One step at a time.

First, he identified 13 specific “virtues” (behaviors, attributes). These behaviors if practiced diligently would, he believed, bring him and anyone else close to that elusive state of perfection.

Next, he defined each behavior clearly and succinctly to pinpoint his specific objectives.

Finally, he set up a simple system for addressing and mastering each behavior in turn. Or as he put it, “I judg’d it would be well not to distract my attention by attempting the whole at once, but to fix it on one of them at a time; and, when I should be master of that, then to proceed to another …”

Ben's 13 virtues are:
  1. Temperance
  2. Silence
  3. Order
  4. Resolution
  5. Frugality
  6. Industry
  7. Sincerity
  8. Justice
  9. Moderation
  10. Cleanliness
  11. Tranquility
  12. Chastity
  13. Humility
The words may sound a bit dated, but the key principles and the evidence of his achievements certainly resonate with many. Through diligence, discipline and yes, luck, he acquired wealth and extraordinary influence, and is credited with important research on electricity and inventions like the safer, more efficient open ("Franklin") stove.

So, periodically, we’ll examine a specific virtue or one of his astute business observations and consider the implications for success in today’s environment.

Did Franklin ever achieve perfection? No, he did not.

In his autobiography, he writes, "... I never arrived at the perfection I had been so ambitious of obtaining, but fell far short of it, yet I was, by the endeavor, a better and happier man ..."

Perhaps like Franklin, we should seek perfection. Set ambitious goals. Strive daily to achieve them. With luck and diligence, we might just become better, happier and more productive by that effort.


Ben on Business | Perfection in Perspective
Strategy | The Power of a Game Plan
Aristotle's Success Strategy

The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin: 1706-1757

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