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How to Apply Benjamin Franklin's 13 Virtues for a Life of Excellence

Philosophical writer and YouTube creator covering the topics of simplicity, homemaking, and the romantic vintage lifestyle.

Franklin's Virtues Manifest In a Series of Habits

In Benjamin Franklin: An American Life, Franklin's 13 virtues which guided him in the pursuit of excellence, was a map for intentional living. He tackled each virtue one at a time until it became habit. Today, bloggers like minimalist Leo Babauta of Zen Habits and entrepreneur James Clear have popularized the discipline of conquering one habit at a time. We are all works in progress. When breaking a poor habit, the best way to have lasting success is to replace the bad one with a healthful alternative. Lets look at each virtue and consider it's timeless relevance today, as they are rooted in the foundation of Biblical wisdom.

1) "Temperance. Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation."

Overeating leads to digestive problems, is wasteful and is harmful to the appearance. Stock your refrigerator with plenty of apples, carrots and light snacks. Bring them with you on road trips. Never overeat even on special occasions. Train your body to love the feeling of a light stomach.

Drunkenness leads to a multitude of sins. Impaired driving, brawling, inappropriate flirtatiousness, and an unprofessional demeanor. Do yourself a favor and reach for a root-beer or coffee instead. Bring your own soda to social events. Better yet, aim to avoid parties and instead meet a friend for coffee or attend a seminar. Donald Trump explained in an interview that he never had a single drop of alcohol or a cigarette because of the cautionary lifestyle he had witnessed in his older brother. He has earnestly implored his children to abstain from drugs, alcohol and cigarettes on a continual basis. Be empowered with alertness and avoid alcohol.

And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, (Ephesians 5:18)

Be not among drunkards or among gluttonous eaters of meat,for the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty, and slumber will clothe them with rags. (Proverbs 23:20-22)

Franklin's return to Philadelphia 1785

Franklin's return to Philadelphia 1785

2) "Silence. Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation."

When you carefully weight your words you are more likely to avoid unnecessary conflict. There is less opportunity for gossip or slander. In a side benefit you will appear far more intelligent and wise. To speak is energy expended, minimize your words and put your creative energy into your work. In my teen and young adult years I lacked economy of words, speaking was a form of theatrical expression. Yet I discovered that I could make far more completed "works" if I embraced silence and reached for the music keyboard instead.

Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent. (Proverbs 17:28)

When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent. (Proverbs 10:19)

3) "Order. Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time."

The simplest way to achieve order is through the process of decluttering your home or work environment. Once you have done this carefully keep only those items which bring you joy, eliminating all else. When I keep my environment clutterfree and orderly I feel serene. Neglecting this discipline leads to playing catch-up after the chaotic snowball effect.

Benjamin Franklin impersonator John Di Domenico

4) "Resolution. Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve."

Get crystal clear about your life's goals. Without plans you will flow in any direction the current pulls you in. Set boundaries with your time and people will learn to expect and respect this. And be a person of your word.

Where there is no vision, the people perish; but he that keepeth the law, happy is he. (Proverbs 29:18)

Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil. (Matthew 5:37)

5) "Frugality. Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing."

You will need less income to survive if you are frugal. This means more freedom to work in your chosen field, rather than being tide down to an unpleasant yet high paying job. It is often possible for a two income family to switch to a single source when the family lives frugally. In this example the career homemaker is most often the one making the household purchasing decisions, therefor learning to live on less will make the dollars stretch.

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Mathew 6: 19-21)

6) Industry. Lose no time; be always employ'd in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.

There is a time for diligent work and a time for restorative rest. During work do not be idle wasting your employers time, note you are building a reputation in the way you conduct your work day. For a homemaker, this would mean managing your household duties or the time spent on your home business tasks in a disciplined manner. Selectively engage in social media and activities. Log how you spend your time each day in a blank journal, notebook or computer word processing document.

Lazy hands make for poverty, but diligent hands bring wealth. (Proverbs 10:4)

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Slothfulness casts into a deep sleep, and an idle person will suffer hunger. (Proverbs 19:15)

Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! (Proverbs 6:6)

Benjamin Franklin drawing electricity from the sky

Benjamin Franklin drawing electricity from the sky

7) "Sincerity. Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly."

This reveals the importance of keeping a pure heart. Never give a false complement. If you truly desire to lift up those around you, find something to sincerely admire. Note to men: Try to avoid complementing a woman's appearance, as it may seem that you are are interested in them romantically.

For as he thinks in his heart, so is he. (Proverbs 23:7)

8) "Justice. Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty."

Obeying the law not only keeps your record clean, it is loving to others. Speeding causes car accidents. Shoplifting will result in an increase of the price of goods. Be respectful of others and mindful of the law.

For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Romans 13:9)

9) "Moderation. Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve."

Extreme health fads that include mostly meat (harmful to the kidneys) or are vegan (no animal products which limits the red blood cell count) can be taxing on the body. Have a balance of whole foods for optimum vitality. And have a forgiving spirit, for many illnesses result from a lack of forgiveness.

For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. (Mathew 6:14)

Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven. (Mathew 18: 21-22)

10) "Cleanliness. Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, cloaths, or habitation."

Some areas are a challenge to tackle, such as cleaning trashcans, organizing drawers and cabinets. You are not expected to keep a perfect home, only to make strides in creating a nice environment.

11) "Tranquility. Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable."

When we face hardships place your focus on the blessings you have been given. Cherish the past golden moments of life, appreciate the beauty of the present moment and anticipate the future with a hopeful spirit.

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. (Mathew 6: 25-34)

Simplicity and Wealth with Ben Franklin's Thirteen Virtues

12) "Chastity. Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another's peace or reputation."

Save your sexuality for your spouse. In doing so you will naturally avoid many needless events which may result in jealousy, transmitted disease, unplanned pregnancy and the temptation of abortion.

But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. (1 Corinthians 7:2)

13) "Humility. Imitate Jesus and Socrates."

The Bible and the 10 commandments are the ultimate foundation for pure ideals. We can also learn from the successes of others, yet test their message against the scriptures to see if it holds true and pure.

Never Settle for Giving Less Than Your Best

Living a life of excellence is a mindset. This is not about being "perfect", simply striving to improve a little each day in some area of your life. Not only will you have more spring in your step with this outlook, you may inspire others to strive for a more purposeful life.

© 2014 Rain San Martin


Rain San Martin (author) from Fort Wayne on September 16, 2014:

Eilval, Thank you for the nice words.

Rain San Martin (author) from Fort Wayne on September 16, 2014:

MySuccess8, Thank you for dropping by with your encouraging words.

Rain San Martin (author) from Fort Wayne on September 16, 2014:

Susan, The list is something I plan to continually refer to.

Rain San Martin (author) from Fort Wayne on September 16, 2014:

Timothy, Benjamin's view of frugality is shared by some of the wealthiest people I have learned. Rather than squander their wealth they spend intentionally. Your site, The Paranormal Blog looks intriguing with it's scientific approach, I subscribed through Feedly. The Halloween tracker widget was fun too.

Rain San Martin (author) from Fort Wayne on September 16, 2014:

Thank you John. May you continue to enjoy composing, playing and writing in LA.

Rain San Martin (author) from Fort Wayne on September 16, 2014:

Carol, You could say Benjamin was sturdy-ish. And silence can be "golden" indeed. Enjoy your work in Montreal.

Rain San Martin (author) from Fort Wayne on September 16, 2014:

Roshan, Thankyou. I find the study of his scientific inventions especially interesting.

Rain San Martin (author) from Fort Wayne on September 16, 2014:

Pedro, As I was reading the virtues I was pleasantly surprised by how scriptural they were.

Rain San Martin (author) from Fort Wayne on September 15, 2014:

Jim, "Avoid trifling conversation" on number two, without question is one of my favorite virtues. It would end gossip and idleness.

Rain San Martin (author) from Fort Wayne on September 15, 2014:

Mary, His list of virtues are something I want to continually study. Absolutely the world would be closer to heaven if we all strived to live this way.

Rain San Martin (author) from Fort Wayne on September 15, 2014:

Muheeb, Thanks for dropping by from Pakistan.

Rain San Martin (author) from Fort Wayne on September 15, 2014:

Stove and Home, I see you have a nice Benjamin Franklin Museum. I hope to visit there one day. I checked out your blog and I see your a homemaker, without children. Nice to see this! I have written a couple of Hubs addressing this topic.

Rain San Martin (author) from Fort Wayne on September 15, 2014:

C.V. Rajan, It wasn't until I had recently read an autobiography about him that I learned of these refreshing virtues.

Nelly van der Werff from The Netherlands on September 14, 2014:

Great article. Something to strife for.

Linda F Correa from Spring Hill Florida on September 13, 2014:

Your article was thoughtfully written. I loved how you applied Franklin's statements to our lives today. Selection of pictures was excellent. Very thought provoking. Enjoyable reading.

Katharine L Sparrow from Massachusetts, USA on September 13, 2014:

Ben Franklin was such a wise man. Brilliant too! I think he is often overlooked as a founding father, but he certainly qualifies. Thanks for the "translation" of his points into modern living. Great hub!

Daniel Joseph Bringhurst from Buffalo, New York on September 13, 2014:

Wow, great hub! It really pays to live your life with these virtues in mind. I like the way you laid it out and included links within the text. The Bible verses were a nice addition too, they help drive home the power of each virtue. Good stuff!

trailrunner7 on September 13, 2014:

I'm going to save this and post to my desktop for inspiration! I especially appreciated your commentary and biblical references. They really drove the message home!

MartieG aka 'survivoryea' from Jersey Shore on September 13, 2014:

Very interesting and nicely done!

Fel Amejan from Philippines on September 13, 2014:

Great hub! I never thought that Benjamin Franklin has a bunch of wonderful virtue that people must know. .

Nick Deal from Earth on September 13, 2014:

This is better than 7 habits of highly successful people

June Campbell from North Vancouver, BC, Canada on September 13, 2014:

What a wonderful set of virtues this is. Could you imagine what the world would be like if everyone strove to live this way?

Don A. Hoglund from Wisconsin Rapids on September 13, 2014:

Franklin is relevant even in today's world. His values are good to live by whether one is religious or not.

Linda Jo Martin from Post Falls, Idaho, USA on September 13, 2014:

Beautiful... reminders of how life is best lived. Thank you. Benjamin Franklin is one of my heroes so I pinned this to my "My Heroes" board at Pinterest. He was such a great man... a deep thinker, and an individualist who followed his conscience and not the ways of other men.

Patricia Scott from North Central Florida on September 13, 2014:

We would all do well to heed # 2... Well done...Congrats on hub of the day

Angels are on the way to you ps

eilval on September 13, 2014:

Beautiful and insightful article . Congrats on HOTD

mySuccess8 on September 13, 2014:

These are great virtues which are vital for a happy and healthy life. Thanks for highlighting and reminding us. And congrats on your HotD!

Susan Deppner from Arkansas USA on September 13, 2014:

Ben has always been my choice for most fascinating character in colonial American history. What a great list. Surely everyone can find something here to work on in our own lives. Congrats on your inspirational HOTD!

Timothy Yohe from St. Louis on September 13, 2014:

Love the article, Rain! Ben Franklin was truly one of the greatest men in history. Not only was he one of the rare few people to achieve the highest level of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, but he was a man who loved everyone, from the rich to the poor. The article caught my eye immediately because the first photo you used is the exact one I used when writing a blog about him regarding frugality and his number 5 principle. Nice job on achieving the hub of the day!

John Sarkis from Winter Haven, FL on September 13, 2014:

This is a great article; I was really taken by it. Congrats on winning HOTD; voted up and away!

Carol Houle from Montreal on September 13, 2014:

Nice article. #1 made me smile. While Ben is not a thin man by any means, my grandpa used to tell me "thin is weak, eat up to be strong". My father, on the other hand, said "Silence is Golden".

Roshan Sharma from India on September 13, 2014:

Beautiful. You forced me to search for more on Benjamin Franklin. Enlightened Being. Loved the advice.

Pedro Morales on September 13, 2014:

Great work! Good advice from "the First American", and excellent matching of biblical verses.

Jim from Kansas on September 13, 2014:

I think if a person followed them all, they couldn't go to wrong. I thought of my grandfather, at #2.

"avoid trifling conversation"

He used to always tell me you learn more from listening, than you do from talking.

Mary Hyatt from Florida on September 13, 2014:

BF was a very wise man. Too bad we don't live the way he advised. The world would be a better place.

Congrats on a well deserved HOTD! Voted UP, etc. and shared.

muheeb from pakistan on September 13, 2014:


Stove And Home on September 13, 2014:

There is so much to learn from Ben Franklin. He was one of the most industrious and gifted men of all time. Growing up in Philadelphia, we were taught about Ben -- his contributions and philosophies -- quite a bit. He is an excellent role model. I am happy to see this list of his wise sayings here.

Disillusioned from Kerala, India on September 13, 2014:

I never knew this side of Benjamin! Thanks for sharing. Ah! he has spirituality running in his veins. Good read for the day.


Audrey Howitt from California on September 03, 2014:

I find this list interesting--Ben Franklin is one of the most industrious people in our early history!

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