Benjamin Franklin’s Self-Improvement System


Just finished reading Frank Bettger’s excellent book How I Raised Myself From Failure to Success in Selling. Bettger was a friend of Andrew Carnegie, who encouraged him to write this book after hearing Bettger’s life story (a former baseball player who applied himself to self-improvement as a salesman until he became incredibly successful).

Besides explaining the principles and ideals that he began to follow, Bettger describes following Benjamin Franklin’s self-improvement plan. When Franklin was still a poor baker, he decided to improve himself by writing down 13 “subjects,” or aspects of his personality that he wanted to improve:

  • Temperance in food and drink
  • Silence in conversation
  • Order (self-organization)
  • Resolution to do that which one has committed onesself to
  • Frugality
  • Industry
  • Sincerity
  • Justice
  • Moderation
  • Cleanliness
  • Tranquility
  • Chastity
  • Humility

Franklin then focused on one subject each week. He’d reflect on it, observe its use, and try to live it out over the course of the week. After the 13th week, he’d return to the first, thus covering all 13 subjects 4 times each year.

Bettger chose six of the same subjects, and added seven of his own. He writes, “At the end of one year, I had completed four courses. I found myself doing things naturally, and unconciously, that I wouldn’t have attempted a year before. Although I fell far short of mastering any of these principles, I found this simple plan a truly magic formula….Remember Franklin was a scientist. This plan is scientific. Reject it, and you reject one of the most practical ideas ever offered you.” (emphasis mine)

I’ve decided to follow suit. I’ve been collecting “subjects,” and while I only have 10 at the moment, I’m sure I’ll find another 3 in the coming weeks. Here’s my list:

  • Speaking with a radio announcer’s voice
  • Diligence in important matters
  • Conversation
  • Calling old friends
  • Money
  • Processing physical items and reminders
  • Remembering names and faces
  • Pride
  • Expressing gratitude
  • Having a spirit of adventure

I’m planning to write up an index card for each subject, with inspirational quotes and such, to carry with me and pull out at odd moments.

Wish me luck!

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