A Tribute to Benjamin Franklin: Thirteen (Startup) Virtues
In honor of Independence Day, we offer a tribute to one of the original drafters of the Declaration of Independence, Benjamin Franklin. Not only is Franklin one of this country’s most legendary entrepreneurs, but he was an avid list maker too. In light of this, we’ve humbly interpreted for startups one of his most famous lists, “Thirteen Virtues.”
Thirteen (Startup) Virtues
1. “Temperance. Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.”
Compliments, praise, press – these will find their way into your arms with persistence. Indulge a little (it’s good for your confidence) but stay hungry.
2. “Silence. Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.”
Want to become a good listener? Stop talking. People will gladly share feedback – don’t get in their way. When you do open your mouth, choose your words carefully. Think about how you can respond in a way that will produce more feedback.
3. “Order. Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.”
When you’re building a startup, you’re so emotionally invested in your ideas that it’s sometimes difficult to prioritize. Have a good set of guiding questions to help place things in order. For example, “How many users will this actually affect?”
4. “Resolution. Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.”
Every day you’ll be presented with a challenge, a doubt, a new competitor – to be resolute means never letting up. Draw inspiration from film, music, and books – American culture worships the resolute.
5. “Frugality. Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing.”
Whether you’re bootstrapped or funded, be effective with your dollars. This doesn’t mean be cheap. Sometimes the more expensive options are far less costly in the long run.
6. “Industry. Lose no time; be always employ’d in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.”
Can you imagine Franklin checking Facebook as he invented bifocals? Take stock of distractions and minimize them. Hat tip to Clay Johnson for writing “How to Focus.”
7. “Sincerity. Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly.”
You’re going to need help as you build a startup, but lucky for you, most people are very willing to help out. Just be upfront about what you need and why you need it. If people can’t help you, they often know someone who can.
8. “Justice. Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.”
Maybe it’s a given, but you hold in your hands the trust of your users. Do right by them and avoid injuring their credit, their reputations and their mental well-being.
9. “Moderation. Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.”
Building a startup brings with it highs that make you feel invincible, but also lows that make you never want to get out of bed again. Don’t give in to either for too long.
10. “Cleanliness. Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, cloaths, or habitation.”
We’re pretty sure Benjamin Franklin was a UX guy. Always ask yourself if you’re making users’ lives easier or more complicated. Strive for simplicity in everything you do.
11. “Tranquility. Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.”
Building something from nothing is such an intensely personal experience. Finding mechanisms to step away from your emotions and into a place of calm will help you make more rational decisions.
12. “Chastity. Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation.”
Not sure what do to with this one!
13. “Humility. Imitate Jesus and Socrates.”
No job is beneath you as you build your startup. You are the janitor, you are the recruiter, you have no choice. The less room you leave for ego, the more room you leave for productivity, efficiency and most importantly, learning.
Brian and I are both very proud Americans. We’re forever grateful to individuals like Benjamin Franklin for the foundation and principles he put in place for this country. On this 4th of July, we toast Benjamin Franklin, the patron of American entrepreneurs.