Insights from Ben Franklin’s Youth

I’m reading the autobiography of Benjamin Franklin and I’m really loving it. Once I got past his old fashioned way of writing I found the book to be funny, packed with insight and wisdom and an immersive read that transports me to another time and place where towns and cities were small, transport was by boat and the printing press was like the internet of the day.

At the moment I’m up to the section where he’s around 18 or 19 years old and living in London.

Some interesting things I’ve learnt about him so far have been:

  • From the ages of 12-17 he worked as an apprentice in his brothers printing shop, learning the trade and in the process became a very good printer. His skill as a printer made it easy for him to get a job wherever he went.
  • During this time he strove to become better at his communication skills, practicing how to write eloquently and persuasively as well as how to argue his ideas in person.
  • He had a lot of knowledge from being a prolific reader and attracted the attention of successful people who either wanted to give him a leg up in business or wanted to have business partnerships with him.

All in all, at ages of 18- 20 he had a marketable skill that brought in consistent income and had a great intellect and people skills that attracted the help and mentorship of people who recognised his talents. At the same time he had a few friends who had lots of potential and were fun to be with but dragged him down by borrowing money off him all the time so he wasn’t able to get ahead financially. Fortunately he was able to shake them off in time.

He was also pretty mobile, moving from his home town of Boston, to New York, to Pennsylvania then London, all before he was 18 which the people of his time thought was pretty amazing.

He was a (young) man of introspection, observation and action. He looked within to identify where his weaknesses and areas for improvement were. He also watched people, observed their character and mannerisms and used that to inform his decisions. He was also someone who took action and from what I’ve read so far didn’t spend too long in making decisions, instead going with the flow a lot and following his vibe.

Someone worth emulating I reckon.

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