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Archive for September, 2012

Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin was America’s first self-made man. He taught himself almost everything he knew in science, philosophy, Latin, French, German, Spanish, and Italian. He had an intimate knowledge of the classics, yet he had little more than one year of formal education. He went to work for his brother as a printing apprentice at the age of 10. By 17, he was contributing anonymous articles to his brother’s newspaper. He then started his own newspaper and then magazine.

Benjamin Franklin became in his day perhaps the best-known writer of the English-speaking world. At 26, he wrote the first great success in American publishing, Poor Richard’s Almanac. He might also be considered the first modern motivational author. His autobiography is inspiration writing that’s still popular today. He was one of America’s greatest statesmen for over 40 years and of course a signatory to the Declaration of Independence.

In addition, he was the first to think in terms of a nation rather than separate colonies. He invented the dual system of state government, united under a federal authority. He was responsible for bringing France into the Revolutionary War, which turned the tide for America. As an aside, he was so loved in France that, upon his death, the French government went into mourning for three days.

Franklin was also a scientist and inventor. In addition to enticing electricity from a cloud along a kite string, which we’re all aware of, he wrote a book on electrical phenomena that was translated and sold successfully all throughout Europe as well as the U.S. We owe to him the words and concepts for battery, electric charge, condenser and conductor. His invention of the lightning rod removed a real terror from people’s lives.

Among many other inventions credited to Franklin are the stove which bears his name and bifocal glasses, which he invented out of necessity when he was in his 70s. Incredibly, both are still sold and in use today.

As if this weren’t enough, he also was a skilled musician, performing on the harp, guitar, and violin. He even invented a musical instrument. Finally, he also started the first police force, the first volunteer fire department, the first fire insurance company, a school that became the University of Pennsylvania, and the world-famous Pennsylvania Hospital. Believe it or not, these are just a few of his accomplishments. If you read up on the life of Ben Franklin, you’ll be astonished to discover even more.

It’s exhausting just to hear about this man’s diverse, extraordinary accomplishments, and yet at the same time it’s inspiring to hear what one individual can do. If he can do such things, maybe I can accomplish great things as well. How did he do it? And what can we learn from him that we can apply in our own lives?

Franklin was a great believer in being self-reliant. Early on, he learned great writing and communication skills. He negotiated for 25 years for the benefit of the United States with both the French and the English. He liked to argue, yet he wasn’t dogmatic. He used humor in his writing to get his point across, and he used questions to head off confrontations. He had the nerve to go out on his own and become an entrepreneur, and he had a gift for looking into the future. His mind perceived a problem, and then he came up with new and different solutions.

Here’s a key aspect: He believed that conscious self-discipline can improve one’s character. He used to say self-discipline is an art to be studied like painting and music. When he was still a young man, he made a list of admirable qualities, resolving to improve himself in each. A few of these were to be sensible in eating and drinking, avoid idle chatter, be systematic in business, fulfill every task he undertook, avoid extravagance, eliminate idleness and wasted motion, be sincere, treat others fairly, bear unfairness patiently, and not let trifles upset him.

He made a book of these virtues and allotted a page for each. He then gave a week’s strict attention to each of them successively. Later, he attributed whatever degree of success he achieved to this routine. That idea alone could be worth the price of admission. He preached the joy of work and practiced what he preached. As a young man, sometimes he worked all night to finish a promised job on time. Finally, he studied health and lived to be 84.

Resources: NapoleonHill.com

Stories like these are inspiring. Who inspires you? Take some time to reflect on this question. We are living in a day and age where we have countless resources to help us all live extraordinary lives, just a few of which I have mentioned here. Tap into those, get going, and make your life extraordinary!

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One Good Book

Ever wonder how desire begins for one’s mission in life? Perhaps it could be as simple as looking over someone’s shoulder. Recall as a young adult a person you admired. Perhaps it was a parent, a grandparent, a relative, a teacher, or even someone outside your immediate circle that the world labeled “famous”? Can you specifically recall the traits or characteristics in their personality that you found to be so admirable?

If we ascribe to the idea that values are caught not taught, wouldn’t it be good timing to put impressionable children in proximity to people who have something that would be worthwhile catching? Enthusiasm can be very contagious and given the right platform for controlled enthusiasm, people can become inspired and positively motivated to do what they see as valuable themselves. From the Peace Corps to politics to philanthropy, people are motivated to follow in the footsteps of a mission they deem worthy of emulating. And, it is never too early to start to position a young adult on the road to success one principle at a time.

Famous people often leave behind a legacy of books that detail the steps that can be taken to lead a rich and full life. Through reading the classics, individuals can begin to broaden their horizons and discover opportunities for personal advancement. By deciding on a topic of interest, your desire for knowledge in that area can be found in a library and on the internet. Amazingly, today there is no excuse for lack of information on anything. Information is free for the asking, but the application of acquired information is what makes the difference in our own life.

Drop some hints for the up and coming generation. Leave some books around that are inspirational and value-laden. Occasionally remark how a good book has changed your life. Suggest that it would be wise for others who are dedicated to their personal advancement to read it too. Before long you will have created your own lending library much as Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Carnegie did in the past. And, in doing so, you will continue their legacy in making the world a better place in which to live one good book at a time.

Resources: NapoleonHill.com

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