Being ignorant is not so much a shame, as being unwilling to learn. ― Benjamin Franklin
If there was a theme throughout Benjamin Franklin’s life, it was self-improvement.
He was born into a family of seventeen children as the son of a poor candle and soap maker. He had less than two years of formal education. He began his young adulthood entirely on his own in Philadelphia. Yet, he became a wealthy man by eighteenth century standards and one of the most respected intellects of the Western world.
His story, as published in “The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin”, is inspirational.
At the age of 10, Benjamin Franklin left formal schooling to become an apprentice to his brother. As a teenager, he showed no particular talent or aptitude except he loved to read.
Benjamin Franklin died as one of America’s most respected political leader, its most famous inventor, a prolific author, and a successful entrepreneur.
What happened between age 10 when he left school to his death at age 84 to cause such a successful rise.
In a word: self-improvement.
Benjamin Franklin seemed engaged with the business of self-improvement. At the age of 20, he decided to change the direction of his life by embarking on a course of what he called “moral perfection”.
He came up with a set of thirteen virtues, which he practiced methodically. He wrote each of the virtues down in a book and practiced one of the virtues for a week, trying to perfect it. At the end of the week, he would evaluate his performance. At the end of thirteen weeks, he would start back on the first virtue again.
At the same time, he decided to invest in deliberate learning; he decided to invest in his future, one day at a time, one hour a day.
Benjamin Franklin’s learning time consisted of:
1. Waking up early to read and write.
2. Setting personal growth goals (i.e. virtues list) and tracking the results.
3. Creating a club for “like-minded aspiring artisans and tradesmen who hoped to improve themselves while they improved their community”.
In modern terms, the learning time is better defined as 1. Self-improvement, one hour a day; 2. Write down your goals and track them; 3. Hang out with smart people, join service clubs, or volunteer.
Let’s focus on self-improvement.
Every time that Benjamin Franklin took time out of his busy day to follow one hour a day learning rule, he accomplished less on that day. However, in the end, it was arguably the best investment of his time he could have made.
Self-improvement reflects the very simple idea that, over time, the smartest and most successful people are the ones who are constant and deliberate learners.
Warren Buffett spends five to six hours per day reading 5 newspapers and 500 pages of corporate reports. Mark Zuckerberg reads at least one book every two weeks. Oprah Winfrey credits books with much of her success, “Books were my pass to personal freedom”. Dan Gilbert, self-made billionaire and owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers, reads 1-2 hours a day.
I am not suggesting that everyone must read a book every day.
I am suggesting that you do something to improve yourself. For example:
1. Practice. If you are in sales or customer service, practice your scripts. Master the material. Practice overcoming objections – professionals practice!
2. Review. Did you save the workbook from your last training program? Take time to review it in small “bite-size” pieces. Review and repeat.
3. Reflect. Walking is a great way to process insights, as shown by many greats who were walking fanatics, from Beethoven and Charles Darwin to Steve Jobs.
4. Take classes. A good place to start is MOOCs – massive open online courses. Try Coursera.org or Lynda.com. Both offer thousands of free online courses in every subject imaginable.
5. Internet. A favorite is TED.com. Even Youtube.com has a large library of information. Learn something new.
6. Read (or listen to a tape). Even though he is the richest man in the world and could afford to hire an army of teachers and consultants, Bill Gates still reads a book a week. In a 2016 New York Times interview, he said, “Reading is still the main way that I both learn new things and test my understanding.”
Plan the learning. This allows you to think carefully about what you want to learn. We shouldn’t just have goals for what we want to accomplish. We should also have goals for what we want to learn. The goals do not have to be work related. Learn to cook, research your family history, discover and learn about a specific type of wine. Learn something; learn anything!
For most of us, our day is measured by how much we get done. Numbers, numbers, numbers. As a result, we speed through the day and slow down any sort of chance of an improvement rate.
Self-improvement flips the equation by focusing on learning first.
Benjamin Franklin is an American legend. He single handily invented the idea of the “self-made man”. Despite being born into a poor family and only receiving two years of formal schooling, Benjamin Franklin became a successful printer, scientist, musician, and author. Oh, and in his spare time he helped found a country, and then serve as its diplomat.
Lance Sinclair had 17 years operational experience before joining Direct Energy/Success Academy in 2004. In his current role at Success Academy, he is responsible for the development, design, delivery, and evaluation of training and education for the franchise system consisting of Instructor Led Training, Web Based Training, and Online Self-directed Training. Direct Energy Services is one of North America’s largest home services providers and offers a wide range of services to homes including HVAC, plumbing and electrical services through our service brands of Benjamin Franklin Plumbing®, Mister Sparky® electric, and One Hour Heating and Air Conditioning®. © 2016 Direct Energy.