Ben Franklin sought to cultivate his character with a plan of 13 virtues, which he developed at age 20 (in 1726) and continued to practice in some form for the rest of his life.
His autobiography lists his 13 virtues as:
1. Temperance. Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.
2. Silence. Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.
3. Order. Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.
4. Resolution. Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.
5. Frugality. Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing.
6. Industry. Lose no time; be always employed in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.
7. Sincerity. Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly and, if you speak, speak accordingly.
8. Justice. Wrong none by doing injuries or omitting the benefits that are your duty.
9. Moderation. Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.
10. Cleanliness. Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, cloaths (sic) or habitation.
11. Tranquility. Be not disturbed at trifles or at accidents common or unavoidable.
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.
13. Humility. Imitate Jesus and Socrates.
Franklin didn’t try to work on them all at once. Instead, he would work on one each week, leaving all others to their ordinary chance. While Franklin did not live completely by his virtues, and by his own admission fell short of them many times, he believed the attempt at living them made him a better man. He believed these virtues contributed greatly to his success and happiness.
In his autobiography, Franklin listed and wrote about the virtues: “I hope, therefore, that some of my descendants may follow the example and reap the benefit.”
His list is certainly no be-all end-all list of virtuous characteristics, but it gets you thinking about yourself and your virtues. Impossible not to.
Not wanting to in any way infringe on the genius of Franklin, I’d like to offer some of today’s characteristics of virtue and add to his list.
I’ll add a few words of definition to each, but more importantly, think about each of these virtues as it relates to you, your self-disciplines, your actions and your ethics. Maybe even rate yourself on each one as you read.
Were he alive today, Franklin’s virtues also might have included:
Truth. Your ability to be truthful to others and truthful to yourself.
Honesty. Take honest actions you can be proud of.
Trust. Be trustworthy and trusting. Trust others until proven otherwise. Be trustworthy by example.
Ethics. The right way you conduct yourself in business and life.
Speed. Response in today’s world is immediate. How immediate are you?
Reliable. People want to deal with reliable people. How reliable are you?
Loyal. Getting loyalty because you earned it. Giving loyalty because it’s your philosophy.
Responsible. Not just responsible to others, but to yourself and for yourself.
Observant. Having value-based peripheral vision of others and yourself.
Consistent. Making the highest and best decision — all the time.
Independent. Not a follower to be “safe,” but a self-ruler of your time and fate.
Faith. Not just religion — faith in people, faith in family and spirituality of self.
Self-belief. Belief in company, product, customer and, especially, in yourself.
Confidence. Confidence is evident often without saying a word. Radiate yours.
Enthusiasm. Generate the inner spark of self-induced energy that lights up a room and the people in it.
Study/Student. Learning more leads to earning more. Resolve to learn something new every day.
Respect. Things and people deserve initial respect. Give it to get it.
Kindness. Every ounce of kindness is worth a fortune to those on the receiving end of yours.
Forgive. Until you forgive the past — both actions and people — you are likely to repeat it.
Thoughtful. Express both thanks and feelings. Remember events and people.
Open-minded. Be willing to accept new things, to encounter a “change” and see it as “opportunity.”
Appreciate. Art and life. Look and see the beauty that abounds, the opportunity life affords, and appreciate your ability to choose the values you represent.
Grateful. For health and happiness. Saying grace. Counting blessings, daily.
Loving. Give love to get love. Give love to be loved.
Wow! Those are some values. How many are yours? Why not tackle one a week? I’ve given you a six-month supply.
Editor’s note: Jeffrey Gitomer is on sabbatical. This column originally appeared in the June 9, 2014, Business Journal.
Jeffrey Gitomer is the author of 12 books. His “21.5 Unbreakable Laws of Selling” is available as a book and an online course at gitomerVT.com. For public event dates and information about training and seminars, visit gitomer.com or email Jeffrey at firstname.lastname@example.org.