Naga Chokkanathan

Why Not? — One at a time

Posted on: April 21, 2011

(Artist: David Martin (1767) / Image Courtesy: http://en.wikipedia.org/)

Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiography is one of the most famous and widely read memoirs of all time. It shows him as an excellent author, eager scientist / inventor, successful politician / diplomat and more. Really, he was a genuine allrounder in the game of life.

In this interesting autobiography, Benjamin Franklin talks about few virtues which he developed at the young age of twenty. These simple principles acted as guiding lights throughout his life:

· Temperance – Don’t eat / drink too much

· Silence – Don’t talk too much

· Order – Organize your things / thoughts / time

· Resolution – Resolve to perform what you have to, perform what you resolved

· Frugality – Don’t spend unnecessarily, Save, Don’t waste money

· Industry – Don’t waste time, always do something useful

· Sincerity – Don’t hurt anyone, Be sincere

· Justice – Don’t damage others’ interests

· Moderation – Avoid Extremes

· Cleanliness – Of body, clothes, your environment

· Tranquility – Remain Calm, Don’t be disturbed by common, unavoidable happenings

· Chastity – Be Pure

· Humility – Be Modest

When we do a quick scan, it seems some of these virtues overlap, some pull us in opposite directions. Hence it will be very difficult to maintain all of them at once.

So, Benjamin Franklin found a short cut. He started maintaining a chart in which all these virtues were listed, and every week, he only focused on one of these items, didn’t really worry about the others. It doesn’t mean he ignored the other virtues, but instead left them to chance, what he would do naturally, instead of worrying about doing them right.

For example, in one week, he would concentrate on “Temperance” only. Next week, he will pick “Silence” and practice it as much as possible. Like this, every week he used to select a different virtue and focused on it. This gave him a chance to practice all the virtues in the best possible manner.

But isn’t it cheating? When you have 10+ rules, you should follow all of them at once, not one at a time.

True. Benjamin Franklin agreed that it would’ve been better if he followed all the virtues together. But it wouldn’t be practical. Also, following them one after the other is better than living a life with no control. In his own words “this attempt made me a better man contributing greatly to my success and happiness.”

Interesting thought. May be, we should tackle our (long term) goals one per week, instead of attempting all at once and we will have a better chance of all-round success?

(061)

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N. Chokkan …

21 04 2011

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