Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues: Week Eight, Q1

Justice: “Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.

Personal notes:

  • Put others ahead of yourself;
  • Empathy;
  • Give how you would hope to receive, the “Golden Rule”;
  • What does “Justice” mean?

A friend of mine is destroying himself through addiction. We confronted him last week. The confrontation released a storm of pain, denial, anger, betrayal, sadness, honesty. I told my friend he was killing himself. How do you do that and then go about the rest of your day?

You don’t really. Days are ruined, and being honest with you, there was a big part of me that didn’t want to be there. Why burden myself? Why expose myself to the darkness? I am not family. He has to make choices for himself. This is someone else’s problem…

But there is no one else.

It was after the intervention that I had a moment to reflect and understand the second half of Ben’s phrase, “omitting the benefits that are your duty.” As friends, we have a duty to act on his behalf. Failure to do so is more than an omission, it’s a betrayal; a betrayal risking his life. So we acted.

I understand Justice better now. Said simply, do what is right. Do it despite the pain or discomfort it may cause you. Act with honor in your interactions, both large and small.


Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues: Week Seven, Q1

Sincerity: “Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly.”

Personal notes:

  • Stop being short;
  • Stop using wise ass comments;
  • Express what you’re thinking rather than hiding it (leads to personal frustration when people don’t “figure out” what I’m thinking; How could they? Aren’t they psychic?);
  • Share your emotions rather than using stupid phrase as cover;
  • Give more to Caryn (my wife); talk like you would to Clara (my daughter).

My goal this week was to be more honest and sincere with my wife. When I had a feeling or thought, I tried my best to share it; without being glib or vague. Sometimes it was a simple text “I love you.” Other times I asked where she thought we were as a family, parent, and couple.

In our talks we agreed that Sincerity is very much tied to Silence. Practicing the two has led to a lot of improvement in our relationship. We’re not really experiencing highs or lows (no epic poetry, no teenage angst), just a steady, pleasant modicum of happiness. When before too many thoughts were blocked by noise or too many virtues atrophied from lack of care, there’s now a sense of mature calm.

For Sincerity I had to learn to drop my guard and share. Being open had the unintended effect of building a sturdier, happier relationship. Even more, by focusing on one person, my quality of interaction changed and that had the unintended effect of including others in my life. It’s been quite interesting these last few weeks; they have decidedly made an impact. All I can say at close is this, my wife went away this weekend for a conference and when I said goodbye, I was genuinely sad to see her go.


Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues: Week Six, Q1

Industry: “Lose no time, be always employed in something useful; cutoff unnecessary actions.”

Personal notes:

  • Fully engage with what you’re doing; immerse yourself;
  • There’s not much time left; we’re getting old. Use time wisely;
  • Shut off distractions!

I’m exhausted. With sleep still in my eyes, I’m looking at a glaring screen this morning. Only one eye open. Hope this counts for Industry.

Industry: hard work; energetic, devoted activity at any work or task.

Simple definition, right? But does industry deal with “work” or the love of being engaged in a task? Regardless, “industry” had its intended effect this week. Whenever I started to drift, and that was often, I would catch myself. An encouraging mantra “Focus. Force the task finished. Start the next one.”

Drift happened most when I was at the computer tackling tasks. There were 2 points this week when I didn’t have to worry about drift: writing a short story and removing a tree stump from the backyard. It’s hard to argue “love of task” for the latter, but the hours melted away. Industry was on auto-pilot. I enjoyed the physical labor. If writing doesn’t work out, it appears I would be happy digging ditches.

Most days in the journal were listed as failures this week. That was unduly harsh. The week was more successful than I gave it credit for. The intended purpose was achieved: being aware of when drift occurred and righting the ship. There were noticeable periods when I didn’t have to “right the ship,” when everything proceeded smoothly. If the task was enjoyable or felt good, Industry took care of itself. I fell into work and gave over to it. I wish I could find that more often.

Anyway, since industry is over, I’m heading back to bed.


Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues: Week Five, Q1

Frugality: “Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; waste nothing.

Personal notes:

  • Burn our credit cards! (or just don’t use them this week);
  • Our family bleeds money on one off purchases;
  • Make a donation;
  • Go monk for the week;
  • The best way to pursue affluence and independence is to pay down debts.

By the Chase on the corner there is an old man. His age is indecipherable but his look is tired. Deep bags hang under his eyes. A spaghetti lip falls from his face. Green, oversized fatigues swallow his battered body. Hunched forward he brokenly whispers “socks” as one calloused hand holds out a package of tube-socks. His face carries no expression. I’m scared of this man.

The man on the corner overwhelms me because he is discarded: no future, all alone, broken. I dread that fate. It’s a sad, dreary image. All week I couldn’t shake the notion that we’re worried about buying too much stuff while he’s worried about living.

Did my family buy too much stuff? Were we successfully frugal? That depends. We sat down, walked through our spending habits and realized it’s just too easy to spend. Everything is available at the click of a button. To fight impulse, we created a “spend” day. All one-off purchases waited until Saturday. Forced to mull it over, we found success: no take-out, no Amazon, no “stuff.” That was the easy part.

Could we reign in all purchases? No. The two small girls in our house eat like a varsity football team. At the grocery store I winced as small numbers added up to an ever-larger total. All that eating led to a $500 pediatric dental visit this week. Oh, and another unforeseen expense, my wife had to pay for a mandatory $800 exam. Talk about poor timing.

While the timing was poor, I have to remember that we are not. We are in a position where we save to build a better life, not to stave off disaster. When I hand that man on the corner a few dollars, it’s a powerful reminder. Yes, life is expensive and sometimes overwhelming but sitting here in a warm house listening to the girls laughing and playing downstairs, I know that I am a rich man.