Monthly Archives: May 2014

Life Lesson’s from Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography

Main learnings from this book:

    • Humbleness
      • Better to convince people by being the “humble inquirer” rather than being confrontational and “winning over” people which may win you the argument, but will not win you any friends, which is more important for success. Better to help people realize the truth for themselves, which makes them like you more and gives them the feeling that you are their mentor and want their best, rather than proving them wrong, which makes them feel like you are out to compete with them and make them feel foolish and makes them not trust you but instead hate and fear you.
      • Tell people stuff like “I believe…, it seems to me…, from my point of view it looks like…” instead of being dogmatic.
        • Own thoughts around this: It seems like this goes very much into the skill of getting people to come to a conclusion themselves, rather than telling them how it is.
    • Socratic dialogue
      • Good for proving people wrong
      • Humble inquirer
      • Aim not to “disprove” people, but to help them realize stuff
    • If you get help from someone else, that person is more likely to keep helping you, than if you had offered to help him. Thus: If you want to repair or establish a relationship, ask people for help! [I personally believe it should be help which does not cause them any grief or much effort, for example asking to borrow a book, and at the same time strokes their ego.]
    • Method of character development
      • Wrote down 13 traits of good character:
        • Humbleness
        • Temperance (don’t eat to dullness or drink until elevation – which contributed according to him to his energy and longevity)
        • Industry (showed how being industrious made people speak about him as being trustworthy, in the end leading them to give business to him)
        • Integrity
        • Sincerity
        • Order (everything has its time and place – plan accordingly and focus on one event at a time)
        • …?
      • Had 13 weeks (one for each character), and every week focused on getting no dots (breaking the character habit) on one character trait. If he succeeded, he went on to the next character trait and did the same. Thus, in 13 weeks, he focused on improving one character trait per week for 13 weeks. (But he had to repeat some when he did not succeed with it during that week.) And he went through this list again once every year. (This is something I should also try to achieve.)
        • Psychology about self-development: He realized that he couldn’t just read about what is good, because people are creatures of habit – so he had to habituate a set of character traits which would make him moral and good. And he says that all these traits made him good in different ways, and combined made him a great person to converse with and pleasant to be with.
    • That if one focuses on one singular goal, and strives with all his might to achieve it, without distractions, it will likely happen (if it is realistic)
    • Reading a LOT makes you smart
    • He woke up early, took 3 hours for breakfast, preparing, planning the goals of the day (5-8). Then work 4h (8-12). Then lunch 2h (12-14). Then work 4h (14-18). Then reading and leisure with friends and then to bed (18-22). The importance and contribution of not sleeping too long, the extra 2h he has (3h in the morning minus one hour in the evening which for me is not productive anyway) goes a long way, because during those 2h he can read a book in a couple of days, which is 4-5 books per month.
    • Hide that you’re the initiator or driver of projects, pretend you’re doing it for others to not open up their jealousy. Don’t let your prestige come in the way of your success – better to aim for success than for prestige. Lie low, initiate projects and things, let others take credit if they want because when people find out they did not actually initiate the projects they are claiming to, then they will get the punishment by being discredited.

Personal thoughts around the book:

  • He was a naturally talented person? He succeeded easily in stuff he went into, often winning and becoming the best at it. Is this because he was naturally talented? Or did it come from the fact that he read a lot so he developed his intelligence faster and broader? It seems like him reading a lot and really wanting to learn a lot was a great contributor to his success and abilities. It also seems like he may have had some innate talent – but I’m not sure. Perhaps it is worth looking into intelligence pills or something like that, because obviously high intelligence is of great benefit.
  • His network strength and benefits of that: It seems like the network he built (partly because of his character development, which made him very pleasant to be with and speak with), through his Junta, was a very strong influence on the success of his life. The network had a coherent philosophy, and a defined code of conduct which was focused on everybody’s development and about finding the truth and helping each other, rather than prestige and “winning”. This was of great benefit to Franklin because he used this to refine his oral skills, his philosophies, his character, and he also used this as his network to find people that would help him and support him with a strong network in various places in public life. Is it possible to create or be part of such a network in today’s world? Perhaps I should search to find such networks for myself to be part of.


The purpose of life is self-esteem

According to Aristotle, the highest value is something which “makes life desirable and lacking in nothing”. I personally happen to agree with this – this is the ultimate thing that every person should strive for, this and nothing else. Anything particular thing we strive for should ultimately lead to this thing, because this is what life is actually about. The question is, what is this ultimate value?

Many have proposed that it is happiness. Aristotle himself defined this thing as what we today often translate as “happiness” (even if this translation is much debated and according to many didn’t have the meaning then as we attribute to it today).

I happen to not agree that happiness is this ultimate good. Happiness is not the ultimate end – because there are higher ends, which implicate happiness, but which are not always present although you are happy. Thus, these other ends are of higher value than happiness. I have found one such higher value, and I believe that it is the ultimate value in life – the purpose of life itself. This value is self esteem.

What is self esteem?

Self esteem pre-supposes many things, but it is an end in itself (something you want to achieve for its own sake) rather than an instrument to reach other ends. Some of the things that it pre-supposes are:

  • Ability to sustain yourself (not starving, not freezing) and the security that you will be able to do this in the foreseeable future regardless of circumstance, due to your own intellectual capability and skills. If you don’t have this, you will by definition lack self-esteem, since self esteem is a direct result of knowing that you can sustain yourself (and your loved ones?) now and in the future.
  • Ability to interact productively and well with other human beings – let’s call it “social IQ”. Having ability to interact well with other people is (I am assuming, to be fully correct) inherently tied to self-esteem. Social IQ is also a requirement to the ability to sustain oneself now and in the future, thus indirectly is a requirement for self-esteem.
  • Freedom (which in itself both requires and leads to some of the other values in this list). If you don’t have freedom, you are not living the life you want, you are not living your life but someone else’s, which reduces your self esteem in accordance with the degree of lack of freedom. (Conversely, if you do have freedom, it means you must also have ability to sustain yourself because you don’t have to answer to anyone, and both of these lead to self-esteem).

Thus, if you don’t have these, and probably other, values, you won’t have self-esteem. Conversely, self-esteem is the automatic result of having these (and probably other) values. Self-esteem, then, is the highest value we strive for, meaning it is the thing that ultimately “makes life desirable”, and because all other values lead to it, and it doesn’t lead to any other value, it is “lacking in nothing”.

But what about happiness?

Do you get self-esteem from the state of being happy, and the other way around? Let’s examine this.

It is intuitively evident that having self esteem does make you happy. But this is indirect: you are happy not because you have self esteem, but you have self esteem and you are happy because you have the other values discussed above and more (freedom, ability to support yourself, ability to interact well with people, and probably more). But then, is happiness and self esteem both self-sufficient ends?

One way to find the answer to that is to examine if there are some situations which give you one but not the other.

One such situation may be, in some cases (when you are insecure), being in comfort of (taken care of) a “master”. This gives you happiness (under the condition that you are insecure) but not self esteem (it does not give you security that you own – just security as long as the master doesn’t abandon you, not fully within your control, thus robbing you of freedom at the discretion of this master). So there are situations in which you can have one or the other (happiness/self-esteem) while not having both simultaneously.

This also means that one of these is not “…lacking in nothing” because it means you can have happiness but still lack self-esteem. But from the other end, this is not true: If you have self-esteem, it means that you must have security, in which case having a master will not provide you any more happiness than that which you already possess. Thus, self-esteem pre-supposes (meaning it doesn’t lack) happiness (at least in this example, but I will assume it is equally true for any other example we can find), but happiness can lack self-esteem. This means that self-esteem is a higher value than happiness, and the value we are seeking (rather than happiness).

Our conclusion, then, is that anything (you own, think, do, become, or other) in life which raises your self esteem is good, and anything which lowers it is bad.