And I’m only saying here what he would have said.
He was the first to admit he had work to do and, in fact, he did work at it.
Which is the thing worth noting here: Benjamin Franklin wasn’t perfect, but he was working toward it.
According to his autobiography, it was at the ripe old age at 20 that he outlined 13 virtues he wanted to commit his life to.
More than that, he made up a chart and tracked his progress — or lack there of — working especially hard on one of the 13 each week, then rotating through them four times in a year.
They were worthy goals — such as “Order. Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time,” and “Frugality. Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing.”
He also championed temperance, silence, resolution, industry, sincerity, justice, moderation, cleanliness, chastity and humility in himself.
Humility was added after he came up with the first twelve, when a Quaker friend “kindly informed me that I was generally thought proud, that my pride showed itself frequently in conversation, that I was not content with being in the right when discussion any point, but was overbearing and rather insolent, of which he convinced me by mentioning several instances, I determined endeavoring to cure myself, if I could, of this vice or folly among the rest….”
Which brings to mind a trait he may have had from the get go and didn’t have to work on at all — an ability most of us lack in spades — of graciously accepting suggestions for improvement.
The U.S. State Department website lists Franklin’s goals, then states:
“The rest is history. Franklin went on to become one of the most productive, successful and self- actualized people in all of history. He knew what mattered most. That was how he could set about being an author, a printer, an inventor, a father, a politician, the first American Ambassador to France, the inventor of bifocals, swim flippers, lightening rods, hundreds of other things and the Franklin stove and how he could found a public library, a hospital, an insurance company and a fire company and help to write the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.”
I’m not going to be the one to point out which virtues history shows Franklin met and which ones history shows he perhaps did not.
I’m just going to point out what he said at the end of his life because it can pertain to me and maybe you.
“Tho’ I never arrived at the perfection I had been so ambitious of obtaining, but fell far short of it, yet I was, by the endeavour, a better and a happier man than I otherwise should have been if I had not attempted it.”
So maybe we’ve made resolutions before and not hit the mark.
Maybe we set 13 goals one year but didn’t make a chart and by the end of the week the list was tucked in a drawer and abandoned.
Maybe we gained 3 pounds instead of reaching our goal to lose 10 last year. Not naming names here.
Maybe instead of reaching a goal of getting our schedule under control, it got fuller and crazier.
That doesn’t mean we should stop setting goals if we want to improve ourselves.
Or stop making charts and checking them off.
It just means we should try again.
Because just by the endeavor, as Franklin said, it might make us “a better and happier man.”
Or something such.