What Ben Franklin Got Right About Living - Verily
There’s something quintessentially American about New Year’s resolutions. We are always vowing to reinvent ourselves, to cultivate better habits. But few of us take self-betterment more seriously than Benjamin Franklin, the founding father and polymath whose birthday we celebrate this month.
Franklin was constantly looking for ways to improve himself and his community. When he was 20 years old, he “conceived the bold and arduous project of arriving at moral perfection,” as he writes in his autobiography. “I wished to live without committing any fault at any time.” To do this, he created a list of thirteen virtues—from frugality and humility to justice and resolution—and set out to master one virtue a week.
Franklin soon learned just how difficult it is to lead a perfectly virtuous life. But he didn’t allow his failures to get the better of him. A year after embarking on his project, he set his sights on another self-improvement scheme—one that was more accessible than moral perfection. When he was 21 years old, he founded a club called the Junto, Latin for “to join.” Its twelve members—which included a mathematician, a mechanic, and a shoemaker—met every Friday evening at a tavern in Philadelphia. At each meeting, the Junto members discussed morality, philosophy, and politics, and they presented and debated essays they had written.