We Can Still Learn Plenty From Benjamin Franklin

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I’m in the process of reading Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiography and I’m continually astonished by the mind of this man. He was a writer, publisher, scientist, library founder, diplomat, signer of the Declaration of Independence and the list goes on. And, his only formal schooling stopped when he was ten years old.

One of the fascinating discoveries I made while reading last night was that when he was 27 years old he began to study the French language. He then took up Italian and Spanish. Then one day he picked up a “Latin Testament” and realized that he understood a lot of it despite the fact the only Latin he had studied had been when he was very young.

He then suggested that the way Language was taught up to then (1733) was perhaps wrong. They taught Latin first with the idea that modern languages would then be easier to understand. He said if that were the case; why not study Greek before Latin.

He then offered for consideration to “those who superintend the Educating of our Youth, whether, since many of those who begin with Latin, quit the same after spending some Years, without having made any great Proficiency, and what they have learned becomes almost useless, so that their time has been lost, it would not have been better to have begun them with the French, proceeding to the Italian, etc. for tho’ after spending the same time they should quit the Study of Languages, and never arrived at the Latin, they would however have acquir’d another Tongue or two that being in modern Use might be serviceable to them in common Life.”

Apparently “those who superintend the Educating of our Youth” never agreed with Ben as the method of teaching Latin first went on for a couple hundred more years. There are plenty of Latin students (myself included) who would have rather studied less Latin and more languages we could use “in our common Life.”

Benjamin Franklin lived the American Dream and was a very successful entrepreneur. He definitely understood the importance of establishing a good relationship with his customers. And, he made a point of delivering better service than his competitors which helped to make him a wealthy man. More importantly, he lived a life true to himself, his values and principles.

If you’ve never read his autobiography, I think you might also find it fascinating. Even though I’m only halfway through reading it, I have been able to find a number of ideas I want to try in my own business and those of my clients. Here’s the edition I’m reading. It has lots of good footnotes. Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiography

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