Long before there were personal development gurus lurking in every corner of the Internet, we had the timeless wisdom and example of Benjamin Franklin.
Good ol Ben Franklin! What a major dude that guy was! Unlike the other founders of our nation, Franklin was self-made. He’s a remarkable example of the “enlightened entrepreneur” that we would all do well to study–especially in this hyper-connected digital, socially connected world we are currently living in.
Ol Ben’s approach to personal /professional development, innovation and service is a model we all might consider following. More so, if you are a creative entrepreneur or solo professional in the process of creating your next big thing!
My own appreciation of Ben Franklin as a mentor began early in my career when I was a struggling graphic designer. But not just for his writing, printing and publishing innovations, rather for his values and philosophy–which he masterfully embedded into his many astounding accomplishments as an entrepreneur. (His amazing feats as a statesman are a whole other discussion).
The enlightened, creative entrepreneur.
For me, Ben Franklin is the epitome of the enlightened, creative entrepreneur.
Almost two centuries ago, the great economist and philosopher Joseph Schumpeter, in his Theory of Economic Development, dismissed material gain as a driving force motivating entrepreneurs. He suggests two motivations far more important than money:
1) Entrepreneurs love creating, making something out of nothing, exercising their unique talents and ingenuity
2) Entrepreneurs want to succeed for its own sake, not for the fruits of success, but the experience of accomplishment itself.
Entrepreneurship, practiced by the likes of Ben Franklin, entails so much more than mere moneymaking. Ben practiced a philosophy of personal development rare in any age.
For Ben Franklin, the fruits of success (money-making) were the means, never the end. Most, if not all, of Franklin’s businesses (as well as his inventions) were designed for the good of his community, not for his personal profit. Franklin was purpose-driven! His version of 18th century enlightened entrepreneurship was way ahead of his time–and so desperately needed in our capitalist-consumer-driven culture today.
Virture, character and service.
Here’s another good idea on serving customers from ol Ben himself written in his autobiography:
“Knowledge is not for the personal property of its discoverer, but the common property of all. As we enjoy great advantages from the inventions of others, we should be glad of an opportunity to serve others by any invention of our own, and this we should do freely and generously”
Tell that to Apple and Samsung fighting over their patents to control markets.
Franklin is not suggesting innovation be free of charge. Heavens no! Franklin’s businesses were rolling in dough! That’s why he retired in his early forties. The big idea here says that serving others creates prosperity for all. This is why he had so much impact and influence in the world and will be forever remembered for his virtue, character and service.
Ben Franklin’s simple and elegant formula for success.
And finally, here’s the simple and elegant formula for personal growth and effectiveness that Franklin employed as a primary discipline throughout his entire life.
Franklin began every day with the “Morning Question”.
“What good shall I do this day?”
He ended every day with the “Evening Question”.
“What good have I done today?"
If you want a better future with more impact, influence and income, I can’t think of a better habit to form. There’s a reason they put ol Ben’s kisser on a C-note. And for all of you in my little Ojai coffee shop who wonder what I’m writing in my journal everyday, now you know.